Reflections on the Learning from Hollywood Forum: Storytelling and Collaboration

by Makeda Mays Green
June 22, 2011

Makeda Mays Green is the Director of Education and Research for Digital Media at Sesame Workshop. We were lucky to have her join us in LA for the Leadership Forum in May. She shares her thoughts on the event and some of her favorite takeaways.

 

The “Learning from Hollywood” forum was nothing short of amazing! It presented a rare opportunity to connect leaders from the entertainment industry with educational experts from around the country. Over the course of two days, rich ideas were born from thought-provoking conversation about ways to stimulate children’s learning. From the outset, there were challenges to be addressed and questions to be answered. The need for an education revolution was clear, and the potential for using storytelling to prompt critical thinking, convey information and encourage learning could not have been more evident.

As acknowledged in the forum’s opening remarks, children are frequently engaging with technology but their “diet” of media consumption can be enhanced by leveraging opportunities to educate while entertaining. To that end, participants were encouraged to create media that matters. As I listened to panel discussions by notables such as Henry Jenkins, Marcy Carsey and Don Hahn, I was reminded of the acute importance of developing quality content that has a lasting impact. Making good content involves telling great stories. And, telling great stories involves a sustained, concerted and collaborative effort between content and production teams.

This integrated approach has long been the philosophy of Joan Ganz Cooney and, thus, Sesame Workshop. The “Sesame Workshop Model” involves a collaborative effort between various teams — research, content, and production. While each team brings a different type of expertise to the table, no single department reaches its highest level of success without input from the other stakeholders. Everyone plays a critical role in stimulating the audience. If one piece of the puzzle is missing, then the final story is incomplete.

As a result of this conference, I began to think more critically about the types of stories my colleagues and I have the power to tell. Every day, through our work in digital media, linear television, home videos, outreach, and book publishing, we have the ability to tell stories that will positively impact the lives of children around the world. If we do our jobs and do them well, then we can continue to educate and inspire an entire generation of children. In turn, those children will be motivated to reach their highest potential and be empowered to tell their own stories – stories that highlight what they know, in addition to celebrating who they are.

 

Makeda Mays Green is the Director of Education and Research for Digital Media at Sesame Workshop. Makeda is responsible for developing content for various interactive platforms at Sesame Workshop including online, mobile devices, and video game consoles.  She supports the Workshop’s mission by  focusing and examining the potential of current and emerging digital media platforms to deliver quality educational material to children and families.