Understanding the past

Abba Naor_s

Virtualized testimonials interviewing yourself: That is the goal of the project "Learning with digital testimonials" (LediZ) of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (LMU), which is currently undergoing practical testing. The Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) has put together a technology package consisting of laptop, external hard drive, 3D glasses and beamer for the team led by Professor Dr. Anja Ballis from the Department of Didactics of German Language and Literature and Professor Markus Gloe from the Geschwister Scholl Institute for Political Science, so that the virtual alter egos of Abba Naor and Eva Umlauf can go on a journey. After a one-week stay at the concentration camp memorial site in Dachau, LediZ was used during the days of reflection at an Allgäu grammar school and will soon be used in even more schools: "I am impressed that it is possible to keep Holocaust testimony alive through virtual reality," says Stefan Dieter, who holds a doctorate in history and teaches Protestant religion, history and German at the Carl von Linde grammar school in Kempten. "This offers pupils the chance to speak and interact with a person who has experienced the past".

In early 2020, LediZ was presented to politics and the public. Naor and Umlauf were interviewed and filmed stereoscopically so that pupils and other interested people can question them virtually about the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews during the Nazi era. These recordings are now played back using a voice control system for which the original questions were semantically and linguistically varied. If students ask questions, the control system searches for the appropriate answers from the filmed personalities who appear to be in the room. This appears lively and natural. "Pupils are more media-affine today," adds Dieter. "That makes the additional attraction of learning with virtual contemporary witnesses.

LediZ is still a demonstration object: the team operates the technology on site. "It would be desirable that teachers can handle virtual witnesses as a matter of course", says Daniel Kolb from the Centre for Virtual Reality and Visualization (V2C) at the LRZ. "But currently we are all still learning ourselves, improving technology and equipment and observing reactions. Nevertheless, LediZ has already been expanded. The project "Learning Paths - Didactic Innovation for the Classroom" integrates the digital dialogues into the learning platform Moodle, also develops teaching materials to deepen the conversations. Future teachers: with LediZ, they are preparing for lessons with digital media.