Idit Harel Caperton

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Idit Harel
Born Idit Ron
(1958-09-18) September 18, 1958 (age 55)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Residence United States
Fields Edtech
Social Entrepreneurship
Learning Sciences
Human Development
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Harvard University
Tel Aviv University
Known for MaMaMedia, Inc.
World Wide Workshop

Idit Harel, PhD (born September 18, 1958) is an Israeli-American entrepreneur known for her EdTech innovations. She is an award-winning author, and futurist of global learning systems.


In her academic career, Idit Harel studied and published on the impact of computational new media technology on the social and academic development of children and their epistemology (knowledge development). Her MIT research, along with that of Seymour Papert, has contributed to the development of constructionist learning theory. She blogs monthly on Huffington Post Impact and Technology verticals,[1] as well as on Edutopia,[2] EdSurge,[3] Getting Smart,[4] U.S. News & World Report,[5] and Stanford Social Innovation Review.[6]

Harel was the founder and CEO of MaMaMedia Inc., the executive director of the MaMaMedia Consulting Group (MCG), and is currently the founder, President, and Chair of the World Wide Workshop, and is now known for Globaloria.[7] Harel serves on advisory boards for several universities and non-profit organizations, and is a regular featured speaker at universities and conferences worldwide.

Personal life[edit]

Idit Harel was born Idit Ron in Tel Aviv, Israel. Her parents and their families are Holocaust survivors from Poland and Czechoslovakia and were both educators, principals, academics and published authors. She married first husband, David Harel, in 1979 (divorced in 1995). They have three children together. She married her second husband, Gaston Caperton, in 2003 (divorced 2012).


Idit moved to the United States in 1982 for graduate study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts after having previously received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Philosophy from Tel-Aviv University. She earned two graduate degrees from Harvard: an EdM in Technology in Education (1984) and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAS) in Human Development (1985) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In 1988, she was one of the first students to receive a Ph.D. in Epistemology and Learning Research from the new MIT Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after helping to formulate a new Constructionist educational model called "Instructional Software Design Learning Paradigm." Her early work focused on investigating the role and meaning of computational technology for learning, education, and society, and in 1985, she and her colleagues at MIT built the first model school of the future, where every student had a PC and worked on creative programming projects, with a goal to construct knowledge through a project-based learning and social interaction.


During her time at MIT, Idit co-wrote and published several articles with Seymour Papert (creator of the Logo programming language), and in 1991 they co-edited and published Constructionism, the first book about Constructionist learning. This book includes chapters by Harel and Papert, along with several written by the first generation of MIT Media Lab researchers in the (then emerging) fields of Media Technology Arts and Sciences, and Epistemology and Learning. She continued to work as a Research Scientist and Lecturer at the Media Lab with Papert and Nicholas Negroponte until 1994, when she left to found her first start-up, MaMaMedia.

Children Designers[edit]

In 1991, she published a book, Children Designers, which won the 1991 Outstanding Book Award from the American Education Research Association. Seymour Papert composed the book's Introduction. In her research, she introduced disadvantaged fourth-grade children from the Boston area to the Logo programming language, and facilitated their creation of mathematical software applications that would help third-grade peers learn fractions.[8] The students, who included children with different levels of mathematical prowess, worked on their own pieces of software for four to eight hours per week for fifteen weeks.

Harel observed, studied and quantified the effect of the experience on their mathematical understanding, computational fluency and overall learning behavior. Findings indicated that children who learn fractions using a combination of Logo programming and the techniques of Constructionist learning scored on average eight to eighteen percentage points higher on standardized post-test examinations than those taught using traditional techniques.[9] Children Designers discusses ways in which Logo-based programming allows for individual variations in children's "learning, mastery, and self-expression." The book proposes an expansion of research into the nature of these differences by education scholars.[10] These results were later expanded upon by Yasmin Kafai who found, in a similar project with inner-city fourth graders, that learning through software design resulted in statistically significant improvements in mathematical development.[11]



In 1995, Harel moved to New York City, where she founded, an Internet dot-com that offered web services focused on inculcating digital literacy and creative learning skills among children and their parents who used the web games and activities offered.[12] Basing itself on the educational principles of Constructionism, the site provided web users with a range of "playful learning" activities and projects.[13] is the first web service to explicitly incorporate the concepts of educational theorists such as John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Seymour Papert in its design. Informally and at their own pace, children using the site can create, save, and share their own animations, cartoons, stories, digital art and games with dynamic tools provided, to engage in experiential education.

Development and expansion[edit]

Between 1996 and 2000, the company developed and grew in the emerging Internet and print marketplaces, publishing the first print magazine for children about the Internet, MaMaMedia: A Kid's Guide to the Net.[14] Additionally, the company formed content distribution partnerships for both its magazine and its website with companies such as Time Warner (specifically AOL and Road Runner), Microsoft's Web TV, WGBH-TV, Netscape, Intel, and Scholastic; as well as advertising business with Minute Maid, Nintendo, Disney, and General Mills. The deal with AOL was announced on December 29, 1997,[15] and led to a significant jump in traffic for the main website of[16] At the end of 1999, had about 300,000 registered members, and by early 2006 the figure had grown to over 5.7 million registered members.

In April 2000, the company prepared for an initial public offering, however when the dotcom bubble popped, the company remained in private hands. By 2002, MaMaMedia, which had previously generated its revenue through advertising, became profitable after downsizing and restructuring. It transformed into the MaMaMedia Consulting Group (MCG); this firm has since that time been hired for consulting, along with research and development, on educational technology and global learning projects in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

World Wide Workshop[edit]

Harel is also founder and president of the World Wide Workshop, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that develops applications for learning with technology that combine game design and online social media experiences for youth to empower them to be inventors and leaders in the global knowledge economy. The foundation's programs aim to transform education by connecting youth to technology learning opportunities in schools and community centers, facilitating children's localized community engagement, and fostering the potential for economic development through game production experiences.[17]


Globaloria is a social learning system and educational program of the World Wide Workshop, in which participating students engage in a range of digital activities, to develop digital literacies, STEM and Computing knowledge.[18] The program was established in 2006 to advance technology-based educational opportunities for students in technologically under-served regions and communities. The program is designed to cultivate students' and educators' 21st century skills and digital literacy, facilitating mastery of social media technology tools, and students' deeper understanding of curricular areas, such as science, mathematics and health.[19] The activities students engage in aim to help them sharpen their communication and critical-thinking skills for leadership online and offline bringing them closer to the participatory and collaborative nature of work in the 21st century.[20]

Social science and evaluation research on Globaloria finds that four primary spheres of engagement are occurring in Globaloria—inquiry, collaboration, digital content construction and knowledge-sharing—to inculcate student expertise and mastery within six key domains of digital learning (called the 6 Contemporary Learning Abilities).[21] These abilities are depicted in the figure that follows, which also identifies instructional design conditions and characteristics in Globaloria, in which students design games individually and in teams, within a workshop-based blended e-learning environment comprising face-to-face and online engagement, using a range of digital tools and human supports (such as teachers and game design experts).


These learning domains have been found to inter-operate in the context of the program implementation in schools, to bring about student self-efficacy gains, motivational shifts & interest development towards a range of digital practices. [22] [23] [24] [25] Further, match-case quasi-experimental research with control groups conducted by a third party evaluator in the state of West Virginia indicates that student participation in the Globaloria program is associated with higher WESTEST standardized test scores in science and social studies. [26][27][28]

Independent scholarly research in the learning sciences and information sciences continues to investigate the ways in which student and educator participation in this program influence learning and other related outcomes.[29] [30]

Next Billion Learners[edit]

The Next Billion Learners initiative of the World Wide Workshop focuses on the development of creative learning software for low cost laptops, in order to support 1:1 computing worldwide. The program's goal is to give educational opportunities to the next billion learners so that they will become creative thinkers, learners and leaders with technology. As the first project in its "Next Billion Learners" initiative, the World Wide Workshop partnered with One Laptop Per Child to create the MaMaMedia Creative Center, a set of original Constructionist learning activities for young children in developing countries, provided on the XO Laptop. Activities include "hard-fun" puzzles, digital toys, and creativity tools from, which leverage the XO laptop's built-in camera, drawing and writing tools and mesh network. Lesson plans and tutorials are also offered for teachers and parents who have little or no previous experiences with computers, the Internet, and programmable media technology.

Global Innovation Consulting[edit]

In 2001, Harel became the executive director of a small consulting division under MaMaMedia that was incorporated into the World Wide Workshop. Her global consulting services encompass children's learning websites, educational publishing, Internet media, and online kid's channel programming. In addition to developing online activities to teach science to students in developing countries, the consulting group also created a model website for Childhood [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder]. They have built consulting and advisory relationships with MSN-TV, AOL, Schlumberger Corporation SEED, in2books, National Telemedia Council, PBSkids, GoKNow, European Union School Networks, Czech Ministry of Education, MIT Media Lab, OLPC, as well as the Hanban-MOE, East China Normal University (ECNU), and Beijing Normal University (BNU) in China.

Scholastic pursuits[edit]

Children Designers[edit]

In the 1980s and 1990s Harel undertook research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the MIT Media Lab, in which she established the ‘children as software designers’ method of learning.[31] Her research studied the Constructionist vision of computer programming as a source of learning power, particularly in an inner-city-school computer culture. Her 1991 book about this research, Children Designers, presents a shift in research methodology and educational practice by casting learners in the role of instructors and knowledge communicators rather than information recipients, and in the role of media producers rather than consumers.[10] By implementing design projects with elementary-school children, Harel explores how learners can attain new levels of insight when they develop mathematical software products for other students in their school. The book demonstrates how design, productive activity, social context, and technical contents are essential to mathematical understanding. The young designers learned not only about mathematics and programming, but also about instructional and user interfaces, representational, pedagogical, and communicational issues-presenting a new paradigm for computer-based learning activities in schools.


Much of Harel's work in the 1990s focused on what she calls the development of the "Clickerati Generation" (a play on the term Literati) - the new generation of young people who were born—or will be born—between 1991 and 2010. She advances the notion that children born during this time will grow up immersed in new media, and will not be able to imagine a world without Internet technology. Therefore, she contends that there is a need for a radical, global paradigm shift relating to education and acculturation of this generation in comparison to the methods used with the youth of bygone eras. In other words, where people of the past worked with print-based literature, current and future generations will click their way through technologically-based mediums of digital information and communication — and will need to be prepared adequately with digital literacy skills for their successful development, citizenship, and leadership within such physical-digital blended environments.[32]

Constructionist MOOCs[edit]

In the 2000s, Harel advanced the vision of new media technology for creative learning and global citizenship that focuses on the rising generation of young people growing up immersed in new media, through the launch of the World Wide Workshop and research on its flagship program, Globaloria, which engages youth in learning and digital literacy through social media and Web 2.0 tools. Globaloria is the only MOOC for middle and high school students, and demonstrates her theory that Constructionism is necessary in any education model that aims to make children the owners of their learning.[2] She is known for criticizing MOOCs as generally replicating the instructor-led learning model, and challenging ed-tech entrepreneurs and educators to use technology in the classroom to amplify active learning.[33][34] Idit has noted one of the challenges in establishing Constructionist MOOCs in the classroom is recruiting innovative educators willing to teach as a co-learner rather than instructor.[35]

Advisory boards[edit]

Harel has been active with consultation work for several non-profit educational entities. She has served as an Advisor to TakingITGlobal, a youth-led, technology-empowered charity based in Toronto, Canada. operates as the online largest community of globally aware youth by providing inspiration, information and involvement opportunities.

In 2004, she reunited with former colleagues Negroponte and Papert for One Laptop Per Child, the organization responsible for the oversight of MIT's controversial $100 laptop project. OLPC seeks to ensure that every child in the world has access to education through inexpensive computers and networks that can operate in areas with little or no existing infrastructure.

Her primary focus during 2005-2006 was the establishment of educational links between the United States and the rapidly growing technological infrastructure of China by working with individuals, corporations, and educational organizations (like Saybot, ECNU, BNU, and OLPC). She has been a featured speaker and lecturer at numerous universities in Beijing and Shanghai. During the fall 2005 academic term, she was a visiting professor and consultant at the Software Engineering Institute at East China Normal University, where she developed and modeled a student-centered, project-based curriculum for their graduate schools.

She has worked with the Aspen Institute's FOCAS and Info-Tech policy programs. She is a member of the board of directors for the ATLAS (Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society) Institute, helping to launch the ATLAS Speaker Series in 2006. She also advised on the founding of NCWIT (National Center for Women & IT).

In 2006, she joined the PBS KIDS Next Generation Media Advisory Board.[36]

She is also an advisor to multiple educational institutions, including William E. Macaulay Honors College, Harvard Graduate School of Leadership, and MIT Media Lab.[37]


  • 2013: Globaloria awarded Silicon Valley Education Foundation STEM Innovation Award in the Science Category[38]
  • 2013: Globaloria named Microsoft Education Laureate in The Tech Museum of Innovation Tech Awards[39]
  • 2013: Named to Disruptor Foundation Fellows[40]
  • 2011: Named “Digital Leader and Luminary” by Digital Learning Now!
  • 2010: Jessie McCanse Award for Individual Contribution to Media Literacy, by the National Telemedia Council.
  • 2005: Named Beijing Normal University Honorary Professor.
  • 2002: The Network of Educators in Science and Technology and MIT honored Dr. Idit Harel with their “Award for devotion, innovation, and imagination in science and technology on behalf of children and youth around the world.”
  • 1991: Outstanding Book Award for Children Designers, by the American Education Research Association (AERA).
  • 1989: Journal of Mathematical Behavior - Special Annual Issue on Outstanding Dissertation: Interdisciplinary Constructions of Learning and Knowing Mathematics in a Computer-Rich School.

Further reading[edit]

  • Harel Idit. "Globaloria: Students Making Game Media for Literacy and Learning." Journal of Media Literacy (2012)
  • Harel Caperton, Idit. "The Instructional Software Design Project for Learning Mathematics in a Computer- Rich School." Journal of Mathematical Behavior (1989)
  • Harel Caperton, Idit. "Learning about Learning." Newsweek 1989
  • Harel Caperton, Idit. "And a Child Shall Lead Them: Young Kids Show the Benefits of a New Affinity with Technology." Context Magazine January 1999
  • Harel Caperton, Idit. "Learning Skills for the New Millenium: The Three X's." 21st Century Learning 1996 October
  • Harel Caperton, Idit. "Clickerati Kids: Who are they?." 21st Century Learning 1997 March
  • Harel Caperton, Idit. "Learning New-Media Literacy." Telemedium Journal of Media Literacy (2002)
  • Harel Caperton, Idit. "“Hard Fun:” The Essence of Good Games AND Good Education." Telemedium Journal of Media Literacy (2005)


  1. ^ "Dr. Idit Harel: Huffington Post Author Page". Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Harel, Idit (17 October 2012). "Before We Flip Classrooms, Let's Rethink What We're Flipping To". Edutopia. 
  3. ^ Harel, Idit (20 August 2013). "What Students Learn When They Give Up Shoebox Dioramas For Video Games". 
  4. ^ Harel, Idit (5 February 2013). "Let's Give Girls a Chance to Succeed in STEM". 
  5. ^ Harel, Idit (19 March 2012). "High-Quality STEM Education for All: It Take a Village". Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  6. ^ Harel, Idit (25 July 2013). "Taking Games for Good to a New Level". Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  7. ^ Journal of Media Literacy 59 (1). National Telemedia Council. 2012. pp. 2–4. 
  8. ^ Harel, Idit (1990). "Children as software designers: a constructionist approach for learning mathematics". The Journal of Mathematical Behavior 9 (1): 4. 
  9. ^ Harel, Idit and Papert, Seymour (1991). "Software design as a learning environment". Constructionism. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0-89391-785-0. 
  10. ^ a b Harel, Idit (1991) [1991]. Children Designers ((pbk.) ed.). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation. p. 389. ISBN 0-89391-788-5. 
  11. ^ Kafai, Yasmin (1995) [1995]. Minds in Play ((pbk.) ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. pp. 286–309. ISBN 0-8058-1513-9. 
  12. ^ "Company Overview of MaMaMedia Inc.". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  13. ^ " helps families explore Web". The Rock River Times. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  14. ^ "MaMaMedia: A Kid's Guide to the Web". Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "MaMaMedia Inc. joins forces with America Online to bring kinds unique 'playful-learning' web activities" (Press release). MaMaMedia, Inc. December 29, 1997. 
  16. ^ "Rising interactive co. MaMaMedia signs agreement with AOL". Selling to Kids 3 (1): 4. 
  17. ^ Sutton, Vic (30 August 2010). "Idit Harel Caperton – An Interview at the Edge of Change". education, techonology & change. Retrieved August 28, 2013. 
  18. ^ Harel, Idit (19 March 2012). "High-Quality STEM Education for All: It Takes a Village and global citizenship through game design.". U.S. News & World Report. 
  19. ^ Marcott, Amy (13 February 2013). "Alumna Develops Educational Game Changer". MIT: Slice of Life. 
  20. ^ West Virginia Department of Education (2008). A Chronicle of West Virginia's 21st Century Learning Initiative
  21. ^ Reynolds, Rebecca; Harel, Idit (2009). "The Emergence of Six Contemporary Learning Abilities (6-CLAs) in High School Students as They Design Web-Games and Use Project-Based Social Media in Globaloria". American Educational Research Association. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  22. ^ Reynolds, Rebecca; Chiu, Ming Ming (2012). "Contribution of motivational orientations to student outcomes in a discovery-based program of game design learning". International Conference of the Learning Sciences. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  23. ^ Reynolds, Rebecca; Chiu, Ming Ming (2013). "How sustained engagement in game design and social media use among diverse students can mitigate effects of the digital divide". American Educational Research Association. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  24. ^ Reynolds, Rebecca; Chiu, Ming Ming (2013). "Formal and informal context factors as contributors to student engagement in a guided discovery-based program of game design learning". Journal of Learning, Media & Technology. Retrieved 23 Feb 2014. 
  25. ^ Reynolds, Rebecca; Wolf, John (2014). "Collaborative inquiry-supported game design as a context for cultivating ‘Constructionist' Digital Literacy". American Educational Research Association. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  26. ^ Chadwick, Kristine; Gore, Jessica; Hsiang-Yeh, Ho (February 2013). "Globaloria Replication Study: An Examination of the Relationships between Globaloria Participation and Student Achievement in Year 5 of the West Virginia Pilot Implementation". World Wide Workshop Reports. Edvantia, Inc., WV. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  27. ^ Chadwick, Kristine; Gore, Jessica (January 2011). "Globaloria Replication Study: Examining the Robustness of Relationships between Globaloria Participation and Student Achievement". World Wide Workshop Reports. Edvantia, Inc., WV. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  28. ^ Chadwick, Kristine; Gore, Jessica (February 2010). "The Relationship of Globaloria Participation and Student Achievement". World Wide Workshop Reports. Edvantia, Inc., WV. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  29. ^ Reynolds, Rebecca; Baik, Eun; Li, Xiaofeng (2013). "Collaborative information seeking in the wild: Middle-schoolers’ self-initiated teamwork strategies to support game design.". Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST). 
  30. ^ Reynolds, Rebecca; Li, Xiaofeng; Baik, Eun (2014). "Inquiry and Resource Use Strategies that Emerge Among Middle Schoolers in a Guided Discovery-Based Program of Game Design Learning.". Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE). 
  31. ^ Harel, Idit (Winter 2012). "Students Making Game Media for Literacy and Learning". The Journal of Media Literacy 59 (1): 3. 
  32. ^ Harel, Idit (Spring 2002). "Learning new-media literacy: a new necessity for the young clickerati generation". Telemedium 48 (1): 17–26. 
  33. ^ Harel, Idit (18 October 2012). "Opinion: Before We Flip Classrooms, Let’s Re-Think What We’re Flipping To". WiredAcademic. 
  34. ^ Glader, Paul (14 December 2011). "Interview: Globaloria Founder Dr. Idit Harel On Video Games As The New Language Arts". WiredAcademic. 
  35. ^ "Globaloria Creator Idit Harel Discusses Her Recent Visit To East Austin College Prep". Southwest Key Programs. 12 March 2012. 
  36. ^ "PBS Convenes 'Think Tank' to Help Shape the Future of Children's Public Service Media". PR Newswire. 25 April 2006. 
  37. ^ "Idit Harel". EdSurge. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  38. ^ "Silicon Valley Education Foundation Names Award Winners for STEM Innovation". World Wide Workshop. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  39. ^ "Techmanitarians lauded for humanitarian uses of technology around the world". The Tech Museum. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  40. ^ "The Disruptor Foundation Fellows". Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 

External links[edit]