A Note from Joan Ganz Cooney

by Administrator
March 31, 2011

Joan Ganz CooneyKudos to the Center for the exciting and impressive line-up for the “Learning from Hollywood” Forum this coming May at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

I cannot imagine a more influential group in shaping our nation’s future than the media producers who are reaching our youngest children every day during the hours they are spending outside of school. The Forum’s dual focus on learning from Hollywood’s creative genius and challenging producers to help children learn key literacy skills could really move the needle.

Learning, literacy and media are keen passions of mine. And I think that we have proven that the consumption of media does not have to be at cross-purposes with the pursuit of educational value. If Sesame Street has proven anything in the over four decades we have been producing programming, it is that informal education can create measurable impact of enduring value.

Almost fifty years ago, then FCC Commissioner Newt Minow famously characterized television as a “vast wasteland.” Public and private sectors were not aligned and funding for innovation was sparse. Of course, Sesame Street and the shows that followed in its footsteps changed that, and today there more than 70 preschool programs in the US alone aimed at educating and entertaining young children.

But now children are facing a new vast wasteland in their digital offerings—a wasteland, frankly, that’s scaring many parents and educators. In a world where videogames, virtual worlds, and mobile media are ubiquitous, shouldn’t we expect that some of them will meet children’s educational needs?

This Forum will bring together the right partners so that we can find new ways to innovate, engage, and educate. A new vision for digital media is sure to emerge from the collaboration of Hollywood, educators, researchers, and policy makers who will be represented at the Forum.

Collaboration has always been a key to effecting meaningful change. The Cooney Center has already begun to unite the field in common cause through its research, its new game and mobile learning models, and leadership convenings like the Forum.

No matter how media continue to evolve, the key issue for the center and the field comes back to one key question that hasn’t changed: How can we use emerging media to help children learn? I look forward to exploring these issues in Los Angeles next month!

Joan Ganz Cooney co-founded the Children’s Television Workshop (since renamed Sesame Workshop) in 1968 and has created children’s programming, including Sesame Street, The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, and Dragon Tales, for more than three decades. She served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Sesame Workshop until 1990 and is currently Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Workshop’s board.