A Blueprint for the Future

Michael Levine and Michael Preston

The Potential Uses of Television in Preschool Education provided a rationale, initial research base, and blueprint for the Children’s Television Workshop, now known as Sesame Workshop. Joan Ganz Cooney envisioned a program with such broad appeal that it would reach all children, especially those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Sesame Street has inspired children worldwide with an approach to early learning that has left an indelible imprint on generations. Its academic effectiveness has been documented in hundreds of research studies, in business case studies, and in the enduring popularity of the show’s characters, stories, and songs. Sesame Street was groundbreaking because its creators understood children and were committed to achieving specific learning outcomes.

In 1966, Mrs. Cooney set out to explore the potential of television to teach young children. While the media landscape has evolved considerably since then, Joan’s report still resonates with today’s educational and socio-economic challenges, and many of its central tenets still apply in today’s interactive and connected world. How can we tap the appeal of digital media to support and accelerate the learning and development of all children, wherever they are?

In 2007, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center was founded at Sesame Workshop to explore these questions. Led by Michael Levine for its first 10 years, we have produced a series of multidisciplinary studies, launched field-building design experiments, brought attention to emerging best practices and standards, and led a national conversation about the ways in which industry, policymakers and educators could make sense of how new media have transformed everyone’s lives.

Today, we see ourselves at a media and education crossroads of potentially transformative significance. With Michael Preston at the helm of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, we continue to explore the possible benefits of the media that children consume today. Can we promote a balanced and practical approach to address the educational inequalities that continue to compromise our nation’s potential? How can we leverage what we know about child development and media to develop interdisciplinary partnerships to create great content that helps kids learn?

We are honored to reissue this blueprint to confirm the enduring, highly relevant vision of the Workshop’s Founder, and to energize the debate over the role that media can and should play in promoting opportunity for all children. Our greatest hope is that, following in the footsteps of Joan Ganz Cooney, we will inspire leaders across sectors and disciplines to better harness the power of media to educate and delight the next generation, starting now!


Michael D. Preston, PhD
Executive Director
Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 2019-

Michael H. Levine, PhD
Executive Director
Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 2007-2018