International conference on new technologies in education on the history of Auschwitz and the Holocaust
New technologies in education about the history of Auschwitz and the Holocaust was the subject of an international conference held on June 27-29 at the Auschwitz Memorial.
The meeting entitled “Tools from ‘here and now’ in teaching about ‘then’ - new technologies in education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust” is part of a biennial series of meetings devoted to reflection on teaching methodology organized by the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. The conference was attended by almost 130 people from many European countries, as well as the United States, Israel, Canada and Australia. These are primarily people professionally involved in education at Memorial Sites and other similar museums and institutions.
“Auschwitz neither began in 1940 nor ended in 1945. We try to emphasize to all participants of our projects how many different factors from the pre-war period made Auschwitz possible at all, and that we can observe its terrible consequences until now. It resonates particularly strongly during our cyclical international conferences,” said ICEAH Director Andrzej Kacorzyk during the opening of the conference.
Three discussion panels constituted the main part of the conference. In the first one, Orit Margaliot, educator from Ed-Tech, and Anna Osiadacz from the Koncept Kultura Foundation talked about the reception of new technologies from a psychological and sociological perspective. The discussion, moderated by Adelina Hetnar-Michaldo, head of ICEAH’s Educational Projects, focused on the change that new technologies bring to the education process, especially of young people. We were wondering how the young generation today acquires knowledge and which tools to use to communicate the message more effectively.
The second panel, moderated by Professor Adam Szpaderski, was devoted to the presence of museums and memorial sites in social media. The discussion was attended by Dr. Yael Richler-Friedman from Yad Vashem, Alison Kitchens from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and Paweł Sawicki from the Auschwitz Museum. Social media is an integral part of everyday life for many people today. The panellists talked about the strategy of running social media profiles by the institutions they represent and how they see the future of their institutions in this area.
The third panel discussed the opportunities and threats related to the use of new technologies in education about the crimes of World War II. Its participants were Dr. Maria Zalewska from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation, Dr. Jennifer Rich from the Rowan University and Dr. Matthew Boswell from the University of Cardiff. It was moderated by the director of the Auschwitz Museum, Dr Piotr M. A. Cywiński. The panelists tried to find answers to questions such as: Is it possible to say that there are tools that will work better in historical sites and less in traditional museums and vice versa? Do the site and topic we deal with somehow limit the choice of new technologies that we could use in education? Will the use of new technologies not pose a threat leading to the blurring of awareness that something that can be seen today in virtual reality, for example, happened at a specific time, in a specific place and to specific people? On the other hand, will we be able to teach without new technologies at all?
During the conference, the innovative application “Auschwitz in Front of Your Eyes” was also presented, through which millions of people will gain access to education from an authentic Memorial. The platform will be used by people from all over the world to visit the former camp with an online guide. The narration will be conducted live, but the educator will also use multimedia materials, archival photographs, artistic works, documents and testimonies of survivors.
The project was created in cooperation with the Museum, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, Israeli companies AppsFlyer and Diskin, thanks to the support of specialist companies such as Orange, as well as thanks to the involvement of many private donors and foundations. The discussion of the creators of the project was moderated by Wojciech Soczewica, director general of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, who emphasized that “this project is a great opportunity, but also a great responsibility, because we enter a completely different space with education about Auschwitz. The authenticity of the site will still play a huge role, but it will be a completely new dimension of education.”
The presentation of the application was also associated with a special ceremony. At the headquarters of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, a plaque honouring AppsFlyer as a donor supporting the educational mission of the Memorial was unveiled.
“As time passes, the number of living survivors is rapidly decreasing, and we are losing the privilege of hearing their stories firsthand. We are a very lucky generation that happened to live among Holocaust survivors. Therefore, we all have a great responsibility for future generations to make sure that the Holocaust is remembered and never forgotten,” emphasized Oren Kaniel, AppsFlyer CEO.
At the conference, representatives of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site, the Anne Frank House, the USC Shoah Foundation, Beit Haedut, the Siberian Memorial Museum and the Falstad Centre presented their projects related to new technologies.
Summing up the conference, the director of the Auschwitz Museum, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, emphasized: “While four years ago we could still negate reality, today we know that we cannot. We tried to include in this program some elements of the analysis of the development of the situation in terms of new technologies, as well as to undertake some methodical reflection, or even more than methodical - reflection on the philosophy of the development of this memory, which we consider our commitment. This is a very difficult and extremely responsible task.”
“Difficult, because we live in the current time and technological acceleration does not make it easier for us to analyse long-term or observe, for example, what has worked in the last decade and what has not. Things that existed decades ago do not exist anymore, there are new things, and there is no point in checking it out. You have to act more intuitively or analytically, and it is not easy at all, especially in museums that like to think about themselves in a longer perspective. On the other hand, we are aware of our responsibility. If we spoil the message of various institutions, museums, education centers about the Holocaust and World War II, they will remain corrupt, and we have no right to do that,” said Piotr Cywiński.
“The train is running faster and faster, and what is more - this train will slowly become a rocket that is difficult to control, because if there is one topic that we have not discussed much here, perhaps because we are just observing it or getting used to it, it is certainly artificial intelligence,” he added.
At the end of the conference, the “If only ten…” awards were presented to volunteers and representatives of institutions supporting volunteering at the Memorial.