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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Peter Copen

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

The purpose of the work that I am currently doing, that I consider the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance, is focused upon humanizing communications technologies for children K-12 around the world, in order to create a paradigm shift for the health and welfare of people and the planet. The goal of the work is to ultimately impact billions of youth and teachers globally, mostly through K-12 schools as part of their educational process. The objectives are to create a reality of the "global village" so that children and teachers experience their common humanity, interdependence, and, most importantly, learn to work collaboratively for "good" projects, across national, religious and racial boundaries before they graduate from high school. Thus, we can hopefully have citizens in the future that are educated, not only in the academic "basics", but also in the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to work together -- in this age of globalization -- for world peace and environmental sanity.

The methodology for achieving these goals is to integrate three forms of interpersonal communication: text messages, audio and visual communications, and face-to-face meetings in a unique context for educational learning. That context is "that one person can make a meaningful difference in the world, and they can do it exponentially by harnessing the power of the Internet".

This is achieved by having students participate together in social and environmental action projects. Why? Because action projects are highly experiential: and the research indicates that a learner retains (learns) 10% of what they read, 15% of what they hearů but 80% of what they experience.

I had the privilege of being the founder of this seminal work in 1988 by creating the first interactions between K-12 schools in the Former Soviet Union and the United States using the philosophy and methodologies mentioned above. It was started as a pilot project to test the innovative educational assumptions that youth can indeed be trained to effectively deal with the challenges of the 21st Century. That project was very successful and has expanded in the last 16 years to include over 105 countries and an estimated one million students. The vehicle for this work is iEARN (The International Education and Resource Network -- www.iearn.org).

Although there have been hundreds of projects in the last 16 years, this humanistic application of communications has recently been brought to bear on one of the most pressing issues of our time: terrorism. It has been actualized in The BRIDGE Project (http://thebridgeproject.org/). The purpose of this project is to bridge understanding between youth and teachers in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. On a seed money investment of $60K, which we provided, iEARN has raised over $1.4 million in matching funds for this effort. As you read this, about 150 educators from 15 countries are coming together in Jordan to be trained in iEARN and the applications of its technologies for peace and understanding.

IEARN is the largest network of its kind in the world. Yet it is still visionary work. In order for this work to last and make the profound difference that we envision, it will most likely need to be integrated into the public education system. That is no easy task. Yet, if it is (and it has been in some schools), then the potential is infinite. It would be quite conceivable to have millions of children coming together to make their voices heard. And in that process of synergy, thanks to the communications technologies, they will learn something that was never available to them before: that since they are our future, they can help shape it.

Brief Biography

1987-Current: Founder and President of The Copen Family Fund which launched The first telecommunications connections (and exchanges) between schools in the Former USSR, China, and the U.S. The project is called I*EARN - The International Education and Resource Network and spun off from the Copen Family Fund.

Purpose of the work: To empower youth globally to know that they *can* make a difference in the health and welfare of people and the planet by working together on meaningful social and environmental projects using innovative technologies.

Why? Because there is an exponential rise of problems on the planet that we are facing for the 21st Century which can be addressed exponentially through the effective use of the Internet and other technologies.

1996 - Current: Member of Board of Directors of I*EARN U.S.; Member of International Assembly of I*EARN Global.

1988-95: Founder and Director of I*EARN (The International Education and Resource -Network) which now links youth and schools by telecommunications in over 105 countries.

1980-84: President of The Project For School Improvement, an educational consulting organization helping school/communities to collaboratively vision and plan for a more humanistic future for their schools. A process designed by the Kettering Foundation. Also designed and led parent-effectiveness training and leadership training seminars.

1975 - 1987: Founder, Director and Teacher of The Walkabout Program - a transition from adolescence to adulthood - an alternative High School for Juniors and Seniors focusing on building self esteem and making a difference in the world. Curriculum included community service, internships, academics, backpacking, etc. Walkabout was acknowledged as one of the top 40 programs of its kind in the U.S. by the National Institute of Education. It is now in its 27th year.

1962-1975: Textile Business, President of VIP Pockets, Inc., an international textile corporation based in New York City.


Board of Directors: I*EARN U.S., 1996 - current Board of Directors, Scripps Hospital, Integrative Center Member of Assembly: I*EARN Global Network, 1990 - current Yorktown Heights, NY, School Board Trustee 1987-90 Board of Directors of Yorktown Student Mentor Program, 1987-95 President, Board of Directors of The George Candreva Environmental Center 1972-90 Board of Directors, The George Junior Republic 1984-88 Member of National Advisory Board for Indiana Education Dept. on School Improvement,1980-85 The Youth At Risk Program, 1978-88 The Hunger Project,1978-88 Served as a big brother to 4 different boys,1970-1992 Board of Directors of Big Brothers in New York (Div. of Jewish Board of Guardians),1970-1976


Educational Leadership, October 1995: Connecting Classrooms Through Telecommunications Global Education, January 1993: Telecommunications: Enhancing the Goals of Global Education Phi Delta Kappan, June 1980: Walkabout Lives Phi Delta Kappan, May 1984: The Rite of Passage for Walkabout N.Y. State School Boards Journal: Walkabout - An educational rite of passage Books (unpublished but used in The Walkabout Program): How To Win At Adolescence; The Handbook For Effective Parenting


Educational Technology Innovator Award, 1999, from Think Quest Excellence/International Telecommunications by SIG Tel/ISTE, 1995 WALKABOUT acknowledged as one of the top 40 experiential programs in the U.S. by the National Institute of Education. in 1980 WALKABOUT validated as model program by NYS Dept. of Ed. (Title IV-C), 1980 Dean's Award For Excellence In Teaching, by Putnam, Northern Westchester BOCES Nominated for teacher of the year in N.Y. State, 1982, by Putnam, Northern Westchester BOCES Pi Lamda Theta Award for excellence in curriculum development, 1982


Spiritual practice and the evolution of consciousness; helping others and the planet; gardening; basketball; health and exercise; hiking; art collecting; humor; quiet time with my wife and animals; watching my children evolve.