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Alan Arkatov installation follows education panel

Policymakers discuss leverage of entertainment and new technologies in the classroom

Alan Arkatov
Alan Arkatov holds the Katzman/Ernst Chair in Educational Entrepreneurship. (Photo/Brian Morri)

Education leader Alan Arkatov was formally installed at Town & Gown on Feb. 24 as the new holder of the Katzman/Ernst Chair in Educational Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation at the USC Rossier School of Education.

In this post, Arkatov will leverage research from across USC — from medicine and engineering to public policy and communications — with the goal of improving K-12 and higher education in the United States.

The chair was endowed in 2008 by John Katzman, founder of The Princeton Review, 2U and Noodle, and his wife, Alicia Ernst, former vice president of research at the Princeton Review.

“We are at a unique inflection point in human history: Today’s students are more technology literate than the majority of their teachers, and at the same time, they are more entertainment literate than they are reading literate,” Arkatov said.

“Pick up any urban newspaper and you’ll likely see a story about school reform wars, Common Core wars, standardized test wars and teacher wars. The time is right for a third way, an environment and ecosystem where entertainment literacies can truly drive educational engagement and learning outcomes.”

Arkatov — whose resume as an entrepreneur includes founding OnlineLearning.net, serving as CEO of the Teaching Channel and helping create 2U, which pioneered USC Rossier’s online Master of Arts in Teaching program — didn’t wait to begin his work.

Earlier in the day at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, Arkatov gathered a panel of experts and policymakers to discuss leveraging entertainment and new technologies in the classroom.

Here are some of the insights revealed at the panel, which was titled “Engaging the Brain: Entertainment Literacies and the Future of Learning.”

On putting brain science to use in education:

“We first started studying emotions like compassion, emotions like admiration, inspiration … the kinds of emotions that are the ‘holy grail’ in an educational context. If you can inspire teachers, if you can inspire kids and if you can design technologies and ways of teaching that engage kids in ways that actually help them make the information part of who they are or who they want to be in the future, you have the power to change the world.”

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, associate professor of education, psychology and neuroscience with USC Rossier and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

“We know that deeper engagement with material that accesses parts of students’ brains in different ways through different vectors is more comprehensive and makes those neural connections at just a higher volume, so the likelihood of stuff staying in place and shaping the deep brain is more possible more of the time. So we can teach things like algebra in different ways that are really engaging and help kids develop those pathways that stick with them, and not just stick with them until the next exam.”

Ted Mitchell, undersecretary, U.S. Department of Education



On the power of music, film and gaming to teach:

“We stress that you are impacted by the music that you listen to. We try to explain to [students] that music in our history has acted as an agent for cultural and political change in this country. The civil rights movement would not have happened or been successful without music. Anyone who was on the frontlines will tell you — it was music that gave them the courage to move forward as they were going against fire hoses and dogs.”

Bob Santelli, executive director of The Grammy Museum, which partners with USC to provide educational opportunities



“Sixty-five percent of people are visual learners — add to that the increasing amount of visual communications among all our students as they share photos with Instagram or Snapchat, or videos with Vine. Film is not a passive activity. We know there is no power like storytelling, and film can be the basis for engaging hands on in formative activities. And, yet, we still lack a comprehensive and deliberate plan for film education in the United States.”

Amy Shea, director of Research, Journeys in Film — A Project of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center

“From role play to simulation to full immersion to game-based architectures to kids building, making, designing and interacting in highly social, highly individual and in large scale community environments … the one thing that all of these experiences share is that they focus on creating a connection and an experience that is fundamentally interactive and connected to something that activates, opens the person.”

Lucien Vattel, CEO/founder of GameDesk


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