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Milton Chen

Education Innovation Expert & Former Executive Director of Edutopia
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Biography

Dr. Milton Chen is senior fellow and executive director, emeritus at The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), a non-profit operating foundation in the San Francisco Bay Area that produces the award-winning Edutopia.org website on innovative K-12 learning. He served as executive director of GLEF for 12 years from 1998 to 2010.

Prior to joining GLEF, he served for 10 years as the founding director of the KQED Center for Education (PBS) in San Francisco. In the 1970s, he was a director of research at Sesame Workshop in New York, helping develop Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and 3-2-1 Contact. Dr. Chen has been an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and, during 2007-08, was one of 35 Fulbright New Century Scholars.

Dr. Chen serves as chairman of the Panasonic Foundation in New Jersey, which supports superintendent leadership and district improvement, and is a member of the board of directors for Sesame Workshop and the California Emerging Technology Fund. He is also a member of the National Park System Advisory Board, appointed by Interior Secretary Jewell to advance the agency’s work in STEM and history/multicultural education. He was also given the President of NHK Award from Japan's public broadcaster for service to the field of educational media.

Dr. Chen’s career has been honored by the Elmo Award from Sesame Workshop, Fred Rogers Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Congressional Black Caucus, Association of Educational Service Agencies, National Parks Conservation Association, and two science centers in the Bay Area, The Exploratorium and the Lawrence Hall of Science. His 2010 book, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools, was named as one of the year’s 10 best education books by the American School Board Journal.

Perhaps most importantly, on his 50th birthday, Dr. Chen was named a Jedi Master by George Lucas!

Topics

National Parks: America's Best Outdoor Classrooms

As the U. S. grapples with educating its diverse students to higher levels, creative educators are taking them beyond the four walls of their classrooms. The “achievement gap” can be traced to an “experience gap.” Many of today’s students are growing up without the broad range of experiences to connect school life to real life and to propel their educations forward with purpose and passion.

In the title of filmmaker Ken Burns’s PBS series, the more than 400 National Park sites can be “America’s Best Idea” for education. These sites include the well known, from Gettysburg to Yosemite to the Grand Canyon, as well as smaller parks, such as Manzanar, a Japanese-American internment camp and Frederick Douglass’s home outside of Washington, D. C.

Celebrating their Centennial Year in 2016, the National Parks emphasize place-based learning, where students can gain authentic experiences in restoring habitats, studying animal and plant behavior, and understanding how history connects to today’s events. The NPS website includes lesson plans as well as opportunities for virtual field trips and Ranger chats.

Milton Chen has been an education advisor to the Golden Gate National Parks in the Bay Area and the National Park Service. He will describe how National Parks are becoming an integral part of our nation’s new learning landscape and present examples of inspiring programs linking students to America’s most important places.

Edges of Innovation in Our Schools

This presentation looks at how school systems are reinventing themselves, focusing on their growing edges of innovation. Dr. Chen explains that these Edges are moving to the center and redefining the nature of “school” as it was known in the 20th Century and include 1) the Thinking Edge, 2) the Curriculum Edge, 3) the Technology Edge, 4) the Time/Place Edge, 5) the Co-Teaching Edge and 6) the Youth Edge. The Edges address fundamental shifts to our thinking about schooling; ways in which technology is transforming when, where and how students learn; and roles of teachers and students as teachers form teaching teams with other experts and students take on more responsibility for their own learning.

Digital Tools

The astonishing array of digital tools is bringing a new world of learning into focus, where information is available 24/7/365 on tablets, laptops and smart phones. The Internet is now maturing as an educational platform, where subjects, from chemistry to Mandarin to art history, are now making curricula more engaging and affordable for learners at increasingly younger ages. Online learning platforms now enable students and teachers to track and reflect upon progress on a daily basis. We know that digital learning can occur any time and any place, but can it migrate through any path, any pace?

This speech explores how digital learning should change everything about how we think about the learner, the teacher and the school. Dr. Chen will show examples of these innovative practices from Edutopia.org, the Lucas Foundation’s multimedia Web site and its archive of documentaries, available for free download and embedding, with foreign language captions from Google Translate.

Afterschool: Eliminating the Final Bell for Learning

The nation’s steady progress as an economy and as a society will end unless we profoundly change our thinking and policies about when, where, and how children learn and develop. In this presentation, Chen explores the importance of afterschool as a creative learning time that should be implemented into a larger, comprehensive year-round learning system.

Advocating the benefits of providing students with a seamless learning experience, Chen believes we need to avoid placing all responsibility for teaching on a short school day. Without a broader view of learning, all American school-age children will be denied access to experiences that will help them be successful lifelong learners.

Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools

Dr. Milton Chen, senior fellow and executive director, emeritus at The George Lucas Educational Foundation (Edutopia), will discuss how school systems are reinventing themselves, focusing on their growing edges of innovation in districts, states, and nations. These Edges are redefining the nature of “school” as it was known in the 20th Century and include 1) the Thinking Edge, 2) the Curriculum Edge, 3) the Technology Edge, 4) the Time/Place Edge, 5) the Co-Teaching Edge, and 6) the Youth Edge. The Six Edges form the framework of his 2010 book, Education Nation, selected as one of the 10 best books of 2010 by the American School Board Journal.

The Edges address fundamental shifts to our thinking about schooling; ways in which technology is transforming when, where, and how students learn; and roles of teachers and students with teachers forming teaching teams with other experts and students taking on more responsibility for their own learning. Dr. Chen will show examples of these innovative practices from Edutopia.org, the Lucas Foundation’s multimedia website and its archive of documentaries, available for free download and embedding.

Educating the Whole Child: The Role of the Arts, Nature & Place-Based Learning

To educate all learners to higher levels, education must now shift away from a narrow conception of curricula focused on language arts and mathematics. Experiences with the arts and in nature enable schools and other learning centers to expand engagement and success for students, building on their strengths and "multiple intelligences." Instead of an "achievement gap," we should address the "experience gap" and provide students with authentic, place-based learning in, for instance, school gardens and National Parks. These experiences enable them to learn not only about STEM, histories, and cultures in powerful ways, but also about themselves, their abilities, and their aspirations.

Weapons of Mass Instruction: Providing Every Child with Digital Tools for Modern Learning

Powerful digital devices are now affordable "weapons of mass instruction" for all learners. Providing them to every student, as well as teachers who know how to harness their power for learning, has become the civil rights–indeed, the human rights–issue of our time, since education is the key to violence reduction, health care, employment, and community-building. The next generation of digital tools will include wearable devices that enable students to track and improve their own behaviors. Dr. Milton Chen will present examples of projects that enable students to learn more, faster than in previous generations, enabled by hardware, software, rich Internet resources, and networks of mentors. He will show examples of these innovative practices from Edutopia.org, the Lucas Foundation’s multimedia Web site and its archive of documentaries, available for free download and embedding.

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