Google Tech Talks

Sesame Innovations: Four Decades of Helping Kids Know and Grow Around the Globe
Presented by Gary Knell

Sesame Street was founded in 1969 on the simple and then novel premise that if children could remember the “jingle plop, plop, fizz, fizz,” then they could learn letters, numbers and vital social skills from television viewing, when presented in an engaging way. Forty years after the Muppets were tapped to build young children’s school readiness skills in the US, Sesame Street programs are now in over 140 countries, spanning six continents, reaching nearly 100 million children and families. As media’s ubiquity in children’s lives has taken hold during the digital revolution, the Workshop has pioneered innovative educational campaigns and research-based content on new platforms using breakthrough technologies like mobile phones, virtual worlds and video games. In addition, the Workshop has launched a new multimedia production of the iconic children’s literacy program The Electric Company. Gary E. Knell, President and CEO, will the share insights on how Sesame Street is educating children around the globe and provide an inside look at the Workshops newest campaign to help struggling readers.

Gary Knell is President and Chief Executive Officer of Sesame Workshop. Mr. Knell leads the nonprofit educational organization in its mission to create innovative, engaging content that maximizes the educational power of all media to help children reach their highest potential. He has been instrumental in focusing the organization on Sesame Street’s global mission, including groundbreaking co-productions in South Africa, India, Northern Ireland, and Egypt. He also helped found PBS Kids Sprout, a 24-hour domestic cable channel in the U.S.

Previously, Mr. Knell was Managing Director of Manager Media International, a print and multimedia publishing company based in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore. In this capacity, he oversaw the development of the monthly business magazine Asia Inc., the daily Asian-based newspaper Asia Times, and several trade publications.

He also has served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel at WNET/Channel 13 in New York, was Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary and Governmental Affairs Committees, and worked in the California State Legislature and Governor’s Office.

Mr. Knell is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, serves as a Director of executive search firm, Heidrick and Struggles, is on the Board of Governors of the National Geographic Education Foundation and is a Board Member of AARP Services, Inc.; Save the Children; Business for Diplomatic Action; and American Public Television. He is also an advisor to WFUV, public radio at Fordham University, the Annenberg School of Communications at USC, and Common Sense Media. He is a frequent spokesperson in the media, appearing in numerous venues, including CNN, Fox News, NBC’s Today Show, NPR, and CNBC.

Mr. Knell has been a Gordon Grand Fellow at Yale University, and a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Boston College, and Southern Methodist University. He has served as the commencement speaker at UCLA and the University of Texas at Austin.

Mr. Knell holds a BA in Political Science and Journalism from the University of California at Los Angeles and a JD from Loyola University School of Law.