As many families prepare for distance learning during this unprecedented back-to-school season, concerns around the efficacy of virtual education and increased screen time are coming to the forefront. Parents are now facing the challenge of schooling at home, striving to shift kids' summer routines to a more structured academic digital environment, while also adapting their own lives to reflect the impacts of COVID-19. This process raises important questions for the industry experts, educators, and content creators who are working to support families in their new in-home virtual classrooms, such as:
- How can we shape kids' online experiences to include meaningful, enriching material that supports their academic success?
- Where can parents easily find entertaining and educational ways to play and learn online with their children?
- How do parents know their child is interacting with safe, appropriate online, that are positive for their digital wellbeing and protective of their rights online?
On Thursday, September 10th, we covered these questions and more with a panel discussion featuring these leading experts:
- Alicia Blum-Ross, Google
- James Filippatos, The Walt Disney Company
- Josianne Galea Baron, UNICEF
- Dr. Leanna Prater, LEGO Education
- Deirdre Quarnstrom, Minecraft Education
- Stephen Balkam, Family Online Safety Institute, Moderator
Deirdre Quarnstrom started the program at Mojang Studios to bring Minecraft to mainstream education which now reaches millions of students and educators around the world. She currently leads the teams responsible for Minecraft Education, Minecraft Hour of Code, Minecraft’s China business and the work to make Minecraft more accessible for players of all abilities. She also serves as a Director on the board of Block by Block, a non-profit partnership between Mojang and UN-Habitat, and is a Trustee on the Board for the French American School of Puget Sound.
Josianne Galea Baron
Children's Rights and Business Specialist
Josianne Galea Baron is a children’s rights and business specialist at UNICEF in Geneva, focusing on how companies in the ICT sector can best respect and support children’s rights throughout their business activities. Josianne leads on the creation and dissemination of tools and guidance for the sector related to children’s rights in a digital world, and coordinates a network of national and regional UNICEF colleagues active on these issues. Prior to joining the team, Josianne led the digital agenda within the child rights and business unit at Unicef UK. She has a master’s in development management from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Josianne Galea Baron
Leanna is a Solution Architect at LEGO® Education. In this role she helps provide content area-expertise, thought leadership and strategic solutioning to support activities specific to the instructional goals and program needs of LEGO Education customers. Prior to joining LEGO® Education, she taught in the elementary grades and served as a District Technology Resource Teacher for Fayette County Public Schools in Lexington, KY. She occasionally serves as an adjunct professor teaching a graduate class on coding for teachers. Leanna holds a Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Charleston, a Masters of Arts in Education/Gifted Education from Georgetown College, and a Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Administration with a focus on Instructional Systems Design from the University of Kentucky. As an advocate for STEM and computer science for all, she supports classroom teachers and students in areas such as robotics and creative computing and helps organize Scratch Educator meetups in her area.
Vice President for Global Public Policy
The Walt Disney Company
Jim is Vice President for Global Public Policy at The Walt Disney Company where he is responsible for developing and directing strategic international public policy initiatives across the company. He focuses on media and Internet policy, human rights, children’s issues and business entry and expansion in developing markets, among other areas. Before joining Disney, Jim served as senior counsel at the US State Department and Assistant Administrator for International Affairs at the Federal Aviation Administration. Prior to that, he practiced law with Cleary Gottlieb in Washington, DC, London and New York.
Jim serves on the Board of Disney Cruise Line. He is also a member of the Board of Overseers of Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations and a Trustee for the Baker Scholars at Georgetown University. He has developed and taught an International Business, Human Rights and Social Responsibility course at Jilin and Northeast Normal Universities in Changchun, China, the first such course taught at a Chinese law school.
Jim is a graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. He speaks Greek, Spanish and conversational Italian. He and his wife have a son and a daughter and live in London.
Global Public Policy Lead for Kids & Family
Alicia is the Global Public Policy Lead for Kids & Families at Google where she helps develop products, policies and outreach for children and their families, and communicate Google’s efforts to external stakeholders. Her work within and outside of industry has long focused on helping children and young people safely connect, create and learn online.
Alicia joined Google from the London School of Economics and Political Science where she worked on a MacArthur Foundation funded project to study families and technology. She is the co-author (with Sonia Livingstone) of Parenting for a Digital Future: How Hopes and Fears about Technology Shape Our Children’s Lives (Oxford University Press, forthcoming) and the co-editor of a forthcoming book on digital literacy, makerspaces and young children. She has worked with a range of organizations - from the British Film Institute to the ICT Coalition for Children Online - to build programs that foster children and young people’s digital literacy and resilience online, and understand the risks and opportunities for children as they navigate life in the digital age. She has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MPhil and PhD from the University of Oxford, where she studied youth media creators.
Founder & CEO
Family Online Safety Institute
For the past 30 years, Stephen Balkam has had a wide range of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector in both the US and UK. He is currently the Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. FOSI’s mission is to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes the top thinkers and practitioners in government, industry and the nonprofit sectors to collaborate and innovate and to create a “culture of responsibility” in the online world.
Prior to FOSI, Stephen was the Founder and CEO of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) and led a team which developed the world’s leading content labeling system on the web. While with ICRA, Stephen served on the US Child Online Protection Commission (COPA) in 2000 and was named one of the Top 50 UK Movers and Shakers, Internet Magazine, 2001.
In 1994, Stephen was named the first Executive Director of the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) which created a unique self-labeling system for computer games and then, in 1996, Stephen launched RSACi – a forerunner to the ICRA website labeling system. For his efforts in online safety, Stephen was given the 1998 Carl Bertelsmann Prize in Gutersloh, Germany, for innovation and responsibility in the Information Society and was invited to the first and subsequent White House Internet Summits during the Clinton Administration.
Stephen’s other positions include the Executive Director of the National Stepfamily Association (UK); General Secretary of the Islington Voluntary Action Council; Executive Director of Camden Community Transport as well as management positions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) and Inter-Action. Stephen’s first job was with Burroughs Machines (now Unisys) and he had a spell working for West Nally Ltd – a sports sponsorship PR company.
Stephen received a BA, magna cum laude, in Psychology from University College, Cardiff, Wales in 1977. A native of Washington, DC, Stephen spent many years in the UK and is now has dual citizenship. He writes regularly for the Huffington Post, appears often on TV and has appeared on nationally syndicated TV and radio programs such as MSNBC, CNN, NPR and the BBC and has been interviewed by leading newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, radio and in the mainstream press. He has given presentations and spoken in 15 countries on 4 continents.