Learning from Hollywood: Voices from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center Conference

I spent the first part of the week participating in a conference, hosted by the USC Cinema School and organized by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, “Learning from Hollywood: Can Entertainment Media Ignite an Education Revolution?” This was the kind of event that warms my radically undisciplined heart and mind — a gathering of people from many different backgrounds (educators and academics, media industry people from both the commercial and public media worlds, activists and nonprofits, foundations, librarians and curators) to talk about the potential intersection between education and entertainment. In the course of the two days, we heard a lot about the value of stories and storytelling to incite the imagination, to provoke curiosity, to convey our collective memories and wisdom, and to inspire more acts of creativity.

This was perhaps best brought alive for me through a performance by The Story Pirates — a group of actors, improv comedians, and otherwise kooky and creative people, who go into schools around the country, help young people construct their own stories, and then incorporate them into their performances. In this case, they brought a class of Latino/a elementary schools with them, both performing one young man’s previously written stories, and soliciting elements from the kids for a story performed live on the spot.

My own remarks at the conference centered on what the practices and logics of participatory culture might bring to the paradigm of “entertainment education” which I have been learning a lot about since coming to USC. Under the classic version of this model, experts consult with script writers to get information about health or social concerns integrated into the fictional programs and sometimes to get tags or bumpers which help link viewers to the groups working on these issues. I really respect the commitment behind such work and know that it does make a difference for many people. But increasingly, I’ve wondered what would happen if these same projects got taken up by the fan communities around the show, if the messages were not simply embedded in the program but designed to be acted upon in more creative and public ways. I used the example of what’s happened around Harry Potter to describe a movement from inspiring reading to inspiring writing to inspiring activism, remarks which build upon the work my Civicpaths research group has been doing for the MacArthur and Spencer Foundations.

Scott Traylor from 360KID, who I knew from back at MIT, was nice enough to capture my remarks and those of several other speakers via his cellphone camera and has given me permission to share some of these segments with you through this blog. Thanks, Scott. So, this first bit is my talk on Harry Potter and the potential of a more participatory model of entertainment education.

Scott also captured some of the highlights from a panel on Monday night on “Storytelling and the Art of Engagement,” hosted by Betty Cohen, the former President of the Cartoon Network and the Lifetime Network, and including film producers Don Hahn (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) and Doug Wick (Gladiator, Memoirs of a Gesha) and television producer Marcy Carsey (The Cosby Show, Roseanne, Third Rock from the Sun), sharing their insights on Hollywood’s craft and speaking about their desire to see the work that they do more fully incorporated into both formal and informal education. Getting these kinds of glimpses into the behind the scenes production processes is one of the great joys of living so close to Hollywood.

Here are two highlights Scott captured — showing Carsey talking about the need to “respect the audience”…

And Wick talking about how he draws inspiration from the work of Bruno Bettelheim:

The event was also a place for demonstrations by some top digital designers and developers, including this segment on Sifteos by a Media Lab alum Jeevan Kalanithi.

On Tuesday morning, we heard from Linda Burch from Common Sense Media and Frank Gilliam, Dean of the UCLA School of Public Affairs, talking about the challenges of overcoming existing frames parents and teachers have for thinking about the relations between digital media and schooling. Scott captured Gilliam’s remarks, which offer some real insights into how and why some of the messaging around digital media and learning may be falling on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, Scott had to fly back to Boston so we do not have some of the other highpoints of the conference, such as a presentation by Participant Media’s John Schreiber on their Waiting for Superman documentary;

an interview with Kari Byron, the charming host of Mythbusters, about their new Headrush initiative, to help inspire girls to think about STEM; and closing remarks by media mogul Peter Gruber.

All told, my head is exploding from new insights and beyond that, new connections, many of which I hope to build upon through this blog in the weeks ahead.

Special thanks to Cooney Center Director Michael Levine who has helped pull together this phenomenal event.


  1. Thanks for uploading these great videos.
    buy twitter followers
    twitter followers

  2. francislee0614@yahoo.com says:

    Many thanks for the videos.
    villas Mykonos

  3. Women are born to beautiful, born of shopping,.Go shopping in people's eyes is women's patent as if .Now a new choice for women is going to Coach Factory Online.If you want to buy Coach Poppy Bag or Coach Wallet, but don't want to go out, Coach Factory Outlet must be your best choice, why buy Coach from us? Because we have all kinds of Coach products,and these products are high quality and low price.Coach Factory provide the most perfect service, your order will arrive about 5~7days.Free shipping any order of $99+. Coach bags sell 75% off which in Coach Factory Online Are you still hesitate? To click on your mouse to choose your like.Welcome to Coach Factory Outlet!

    Coach Outlet Online is coming this world now!Coach bags,most famous brand in usa,also the world,why are coach spread so wide,that is because cheap with fashion,the reason why is so cheap because coach always have Coach Outlet,Coach Outlet Online is the Online shop of Coach Bags,and they take their product all is from Coach Outlet Online Store,no tax no room rent is the advance of Coach Outlet Online Store,so come and shopping us now,beautiful bag are waitting for you.

    Everybody should have a beautiful Coach Bag.Where can we buy Coach Outlet bags? A lot of people choose to go to Coach Outlet Store Online.All products what sale in Coach Outlet Online are top quality and low price.We promise you to recieve your buy about 5~7days. Coach Outlet Store Online directly sell for customers.Do you want to free to buy Coach Bags in your home?Please click Coach Outlet Online.

    Coach Outlet Store Online is cheapest mall to bought Coach bags,as a famous brand in the world,have discount is a incredible thing.Find Coach Outlet Online is a new way to get Coach Bags,Coach Outlet Online obviously is a perfect way to get it,in this winter are you really ready to be a fashion women,Coach Outlet will help you,so join us now! Coach Outlet Store Online wating for you comeing!

    Hermes Handbags is the most valuable bag in fashion world, as the world’s most expensive brand, if you have one, that must stand that you are a good station person in your country, Hermes is famous of it’s Hermes Handbags , as the hermes handbag’s high qulity and best design, maybe the price is the best in the world.Two series of hermes is popular, that is Hermes Kelly Bags , and Hermes Birkin Bags , this two series make Hermes more popular, so visit our site to get elegant Hermes Bags.

    Louis Vuitton Online Store are amazing shopping site in this world, because through it, you can bought the Louis Vuitton Outlet handbag in an incredible price, maybe a new way to get Louis Vuitton Outlet Handbag, that is Louis Vuitton Online Store, as I understand they take the bag from Louis vuitton factory, no tax, no house rent, no compete, these make the price lower then louis vuitton shop, so why not shop the Louis Vuitton Online, amazing Louis Vuitton handbag are belong to you.

    Belstaff Jackets is the most popular winter brand in the world,if you don't know,that means you out.Belstaff Coat is famous of its high-level material and fahisonable design,so that's why so many people choose Belstaff to though the cold winter.Nowaday surffing the internet is the lifestyle of most people,but have you bought things on the internet,I introduce you to try to buy things in the internet,because you can buy Belstaff Sale on the internet,that way you can get big discount than in reality world,in the brand Belstaff Jacket series is the hottest,this series suit for all kinds of people,whatever you like,whatever you are,you suit it,so buy Belstaff Jackets on internet now,you will shocked for it.

    The winter is comming,have you prepared to pass the winter,I think a Moncler Jackets is necessaery,Online Moncler is a good way to get a perfect Moncler Jackets way,Moncler is famous of it amazing qulity and it's consummate manual work,when you ware it,you will feel warm,whatere how cold the winter is,Moncler can take care of your body.Our Online Monclerafford latest Moncler Coat,so in the cold winter you can also fashion and attractive,so visit our Moncler Online Shop,it will take you a warm winter.

    The chrishmas is comming,do you want to make your holiday colourful and unexpensive,yes,Hermes Handbags is waiting for you.maybe Hermes Handbags is very expensive,but you will be interisted in our Replica Hermes Handbags,we have Hermes Birkin Bags,Hermes Kelly Bags and so on,all of them is quality assured and beautiful,so buy Hermes Replica Handbag on our site,amazing surprise is waiting for you.

  4. baby don't cry