Thursday, April 1, 2010

Learning through Voices [Education Project]

The way that the internet has enabled the sharing of individual stories has potential to make any subject matter compelling, emotional and relevant.  Today I found Voices [Education Project], shared through the Global Education Collaborative (check out their group on Facebook, their Ning or follow them on Twitter) which is a well crafted, subtle site that is designed to be a repository of sorts of stories of individuals from around the world who have been the victims of violence or war.

The concept here is simple -- we learn through listening to the actual, personal narratives told by survivors.  I love this.  The About page of Voices explains,
"Discovering solutions to conflict is a task that can galvanize young people especially. Through the Voices Education Project, we provide films, curricula, books, photo exhibits, web-based self-publishing and information resources, hands-on training for teachers – and a methodology of conflict resolution – that will help young people understand the roots of conflict, confront the pain and fear at the heart of conflict, and help to rebuild healthy human communities." 
 But, for me, I am struck by a painful absence on the Voices site.  I found myself seeking for the area of the site where I could actually hear the voices of the survivors.  I couldn't help but imagine these textual narratives coinciding with a VoiceThread in which the survivor tells his/her story.  The human voice is such a powerful educator.

For example, the site holds a heart wrenching, yet empowering, story of Andree Marthe Virot Peel, a beauty salon owner in France who was aligned with the Resistance after the Nazi invasion in 1940.  Her story is complete with acts of heroism and defiance against the Nazis and then a brutal capture followed by torture at Gestapo headquarters.  Following this horrific event she was transferred to a concentration camp and escaped her own death when the firing squad received news of invading Americans. 

I read the following quote with tears in my eyes and could only imagine its impact and power to educate if I had the opportunity to hear Mrs. Peel speak these words on her own:
"The war is a time I will never forget.  I don't think anybody who lived during that period ever really can, but I lived a different life to many woman as I fought like a man. There weren't many women in the sort of role which I had. In my house in Brest I used to hide the British and help them with their orders. I'd also tell them what they should be doing next and passed on information. This was extremely dangerous as the Germans had occupied France during this time. Under the Germans everyone had to be at home and have their curtains closed by 6pm and it used to terrify me that the comings and goings at my house would be discovered."
My applause to Voices [Education Project] for a worthy project that will hopefully be leveraged more and more by educators who see the potential to teach through storytelling.  I am hopeful there will be some real voices to hear on the site soon.  (Maybe a VoiceThread collaboration is in order?)

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