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Grover Visits Google: Breakthrough Learning Forum Begins Today


Forum Convened by The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Common Sense Media, MacArthur Foundation and Google to Explore the Future of Digital Technology in Education

National leaders in education, science, technology and philanthropy will assemble today for the Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age Forum to develop recommendations for using digital media for education reform. The forum will also feature an exhibition of some of the newest innovations in education technology presently available. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Common Sense Media, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Google, have convened the meeting at the Google campus in Mountain View.

Building on the renewed federal investment in education, the participants will develop an action plan to use breakthrough technologies to help revitalize a school system that has fallen behind. Emphasis will be placed on key areas where technology can make a significant difference including addressing America’s early literacy crisis, preparing teachers to integrate technology into classrooms, and opening new learning opportunities for youth through mobile and games-based learning.

Presenters over the two day event represent a wide range of education and technology fields including: Martha J. Kanter, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix, former Chairman of the California State School Board, Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Geoff Canada, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products and User Experience, Google Inc. and Jonathan Miller, Chief Digital Officer for News Corporation. Joan Ganz Cooney, Sesame Street co-founder, and Sesame Street Muppet Grover will also make special appearances.

The full agenda, speaker biographies, forum details and instructions on how to join in and watch the live webcast are available on the forum website at

“We’re very excited to host this dynamic group of thinkers and innovators at Google. Breakthrough Learning can make a tangible difference in building a new future for our children, and will address some of the most critical issues facing our education system,” said Maggie Johnson, Director of Education and University Relations, Google Inc. "Solving the crisis in American education requires the sort of multi-sector thinking Breakthrough Learning entails, and the group assembling here truly has the leadership and wisdom to galvanize the creation of a new model for teaching and learning, leveraging the power of technology.”

In addition to the action plan which will be presented to the Obama administration and key leaders in business, education, and research in follow-up meetings beginning in late 2009, several strategic initiatives were announced:

* The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop unveiled the Cooney Prizes for Innovation, a national competition intended to generate digital educational innovations for children. The program will annually award cash prizes and provide ongoing business planning support and mentorship to children’s media entrepreneurs and visionaries. The Center is challenging innovators in two categories: Breakthroughs in Mobile Learning and Breakthroughs in Literacy Learning. This year’s prizes include $50,000 towards prototype development in Mobile Learning category and a $10,000 prize and the opportunity to work with Sesame Workshop to turn a literacy idea into a real product for national dissemination via The Electric Company. Applications will be accepted starting in January 2010. Details are available at

* Common Sense Media announced a new, three-part Digital Literacy and Citizenship initiative. Key elements include the creation of a K-12 digital citizenship curriculum aligned with national and state standards, the formation of a policy coalition with the goal of making every child in America digitally literate by the 8th grade, and the launch of a broad public awareness campaign in partnership with leading media and technology partners to educate parents, teachers, and young people about how to be responsible digital citizens. The digital citizenship curriculum is being developed with generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Sherwood Foundation.

* The University of California, Irvine, today launched a new Digital Media and Learning Research Hub to nurture exploration of and build evidence around the impact of digital media on young people’s learning and implications for the future of education. Funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Center – which has physical space at the university campus and will be available virtually at – will support emerging research on digital media and learning by hosting international conferences, facilitating workshops and working groups, and bringing together researchers, practitioners, policymakers, industry leaders and others working on related projects. It will also house related research initiatives of the MacArthur Foundation, the first two of which will focus on 1) the transformation of learning and assessment in the 21st century and 2) examining the ways in which technology is enabling youth to participate in the political and public sphere.

The forum will also feature a technology playground showcasing cutting-edge digital innovations from academia and industry including: Siftables, cookie-sized computers with motion sensing, neighbor detection, graphical display, and wireless communication, SMALLab (Situated Multimedia Arts Learning Lab), a mixed-reality learning environment where students interact in real time with visual, robotic, and sonic media via 3D movements and gestures, LittleBigPlanet, a video game that allows players to create and modify their own games, and StoryKit for iPhone, an electronic storybook App where children can add their own text, drawings, photos, sounds, and creative layout to storybooks.

Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age was made possible by lead sponsor and co-convener Google along with event sponsors: the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Pearson Foundation, Apple Professional Development, Intel, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Comcast, Cisco and Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Learn more on the forum website at


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