Review by Stephanie Trautman, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2015

IWitness

Explore survivor testimony with lessons, video on teacher-geared site

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication & Collaboration

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
7-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Well-conceived videos and text empower students and fuse history and English lessons.

Cons: While the site's a great resource for teachers, kids browsing solo might find its layout and content underwhelming.

Bottom Line: IWitness allows students to reflect upon the past, looking toward today’s values and society. Students build knowledge about the past using a dynamic, specific tool.

Educators from multiple disciplines, particularly English and history, can assign activities to students or custom-build their own activities in IWitness using the activity builder. Teachers can connect students with the past through eyewitness testimonies and learning activities, allowing students to identify with people who are different than them. All of this is done in a password-protected online space that allows for privacy. Teachers can create classes using the dashboard and assign activities for students to complete. Teachers can also use this site flexibly, choosing to share short clips in their lessons or even use IWitness as a semester-long experience through assigned activities. Using the teacher dashboard, teachers can see all of their students’ created videos and view comments by other students.

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Want your students to engage with survivors of the Holocaust? IWitness delivers eyewitness testimonies of Holocaust survivors and allows students to participate in activities that help build empathy and knowledge on these topics, asking them to focus on how historical events impact society in general and their lives specifically.

Teachers use a dashboard to assign activities, and students must sign up to participate in each assigned task. The activities include testimonies, archives, and a video editing project where students focus on communicating what they learned throughout the activity. Students can search, watch, listen, learn, and build word clouds while working through multimedia activities. Students can collaborate on these activities, too.

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IWitness is ideal for teaching the humanities, and its content easily crosses disciplinary boundaries; activities relate to English language arts, civics & government, character education, foreign language, Earth sciences, sociology, and media & digital literacy. The only challenge is the site's design: It's a great resource for teachers, but kids may find it a little boring to navigate on their own. With great built-in tools for teachers to curate and manage their students' online experience, that may be okay, but some teachers may find that using this tool requires more effort and teacher direction than some other tools out there.

That being said, IWitness offers engaging, thought-provoking, and empathetic activities that allow students to sort through genocide-related history topics. There's a particular focus on the Holocaust, and other videos share the eyewitness testimony of other tragedies' survivors. Students dive into activities, making connections between videos and saving clips they’ve watched. Each activity includes a place for students to take their own notes. Students can also save encyclopedia entries and photos, which will allow them to make their own video projects in a built-in video editor. Students can also interact socially with each other and comment on other videos.Overall, this is a great tool for a classroom where the teacher is willing to curate and monitor content. Teachers seeking less legwork might look elsewhere.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The site is visually appealing, clean, and simple, but it's geared more toward teachers than students. Students can explore survivor testimonies and sort through a variety of text and video resources.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Activities cover a wealth of information on the Holocaust and genocide. Students think critically by researching, watching eyewitness accounts of genocide survivors, and then creating their own videos displaying their knowledge.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

A few videos serve as a tutorial, but more specific videos geared toward students and teachers on how to use the site would help. It is helpful for students to see progress during an activity and save information along the way.


Common Sense Reviewer
Stephanie Trautman Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Leah K. , Other
Other
Cobb County School District
Marietta, GA
Wow! This makes history come alive for students

Overall, I wish that I had known more about IWitness when I was actually in the classroom. However, I am definitely sharing it with teachers I work with so that their students can utilize it. The depth of knowledge that this provides students is beyond compare. As we progress through time, we are losing many eyewitnesses to historical events. This resource provides a way of maintaining those resources and allowing students to actually interact with the past in a concrete way.

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