Idit Harel Caperton

Idit Harel Caperton

Idit Harel Caperton, Ph.D. (born September 18 1958 in Tel Aviv, Israel) is an educational psychologist and epistemologist specializing in the study of the impact of computer-based new media technology on the social and academic development of children. Her research, along with that of Seymour Papert, has contributed to the development of constructionist learning theory, a hands-on approach to the use of technology as a tool in juvenile education and acculturation.

She is the founder and CEO of MaMaMedia Inc., the executive director of the MaMaMedia Consulting Group (MCG), and founder and president of the World Wide Workshop Foundation. Additionally, Caperton is an advisor for several non-profit educational initiatives and is a regular featured speaker at universities and educational conferences worldwide.

Personal life

Bstate, often comparing the early years of the state to a business startup. Israel, a mere 10-year-old democracy when she was born, was in the process of building socio-political systems that combined leftist philosophies of cooperation and mutual reliance with free enterprise entrepreneurship. While a youth in the Levant, she experienced the Six Days War, the Yom Kippur War, and the 1982 Lebanon War. These events, along with other regional conflicts, such as the Gulf War, the First Intifada, and the Al-Aqsa Intifada, have led Caperton to actively support efforts to foster, build, and sustain peace in the Middle East and throughout the world.

In 2003, she married her second husband, Gaston Caperton, former Governor of West Virginia (1989–1997) and current President of the College Board, the organization responsible for the Advanced Placement (AP) programs and SAT examinations. They live in New York City and together have five children and five grandchildren. In addition, they continue to own a residence in West Virginia.

Academic career

Along with her first husband, David Harel (an Israeli investor, ex-fighter pilot, and Harvard MBA), she 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 CAGS in Human Development (1985). In 1988, Harel Caperton 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-inspired educational model called "Instructional Software Design Learning Paradigm."


During her time at MIT, Harel Caperton 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 their articles and several other works 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 at the Media Lab with Papert and Nicholas Negroponte until 1994.

Children Designers

In 1991, she published a book, Children Designers, which won the 1991 Outstanding Book Award from the American Education Research Association. In her research, Harel Caperton introduced several disadvantaged fourth grade children from the Boston area to the Logo programming language. She then facilitated their use of the language to allow them to create their own mathematical software applications that would help third graders learn fractions. 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 Caperton then observed and quantified the effect of the experience on their mathematical understanding and overall learning behavior. Her research 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. She identified the tendency of Logo-based programming to allow for individual variations in "learning, mastery, and self-expression" in children, and further called for an expansion of research into the nature of these differences by education scholars. Such exploration would help to uncover the long-term benefits of similar academic models on the subjects as they develop into young adults. These results were later expanded upon by Yasmin Kafai who found, in a similar six month project with inner-city forth graders, that learning through design resulted in statistically significant improvements in mathematical development.



In 1995, Harel Caperton moved to New York City, where she founded (a playful variation of the Italian-American exclamation Mama Mia! used to express Mother of all Media), a pioneering Internet dot-com that focuses on the fostering of digital literacy and creative learning skills for children and their parents. Basing itself on the educational principles of constructionism, the site's goal is to allow children a vast selection of "playful learning" activities and projects. Therefore, is the first technological adaptation using the Internet for some of the concepts originally espoused by educational theorists such as John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Seymour Papert. In applying these theories, the site seeks to allow children worldwide the opportunity to grow creatively at their own pace from a young age. For example, children using the site can create, save, and share their own animations, cartoons, stories, digital art and games with dynamic tools provided on the website, thereby creating a global exercise in experiential education.

Development and expansion

After founding MaMaMedia, Harel Caperton was quick to develop the site's niche in the emerging Internet and print marketplaces. Between 1996 and 2000, the company published the first print magazine for children about the Internet, MaMaMedia: A Kid's Guide to the Net. Additionally, the company formed content distribution partnerships for both its magazine and its website with notable 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.

In particular, the deal with AOL, announced on December 29, 1997, led to a dramatic jump in traffic for the main website of Before the site was linked from AOL's "Kids Only" channel, the averaged 300,000 visits per month. After the deal, however, the URL had 450,000 visits in a twelve-hour period. 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.

As the company prepared for an initial public offering in April 2000, the dotcom bubble popped and 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), and has been hired for consulting, along with research and development, on educational technology and global learning projects in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Awards for MaMaMedia

In 2001, Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, recognized the MaMaMedia Peace Project—created 48 hours after the September 11, 2001 attacks—for its contributions to the "global information-technology revolution and its positive impact on society." In 2002, MaMaMedia received the coveted 21st-Century Achievement Award from the Computerworld Honors Program for visionary use of information technology in the category of Media, Arts & Entertainment: "Recipients of the Computerworld Honors 21st-Century Achievement Awards represent those organizations whose use of information technology has been especially noteworthy for the originality of its conception, the breadth of its vision, and the significance of its benefit to society," according to Daniel Morrow, Executive Director of the Computerworld Honors Program.

MaMaMedia has also been awarded Computerworld's Award for Technology Innovation twice (1999 & 2002), and Yahoo! Internet Life's Best of the Net award twice (1999 & 2000). Most recently, was selected as one of the best Web sites for elementary teachers and students on the Internet today by the International Society for Technology in Education, a worldwide, non-profit, professional organization for leaders in educational technology. ISTE is also the home of the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), the Center for Applied Research in Education Technology (CARET), and the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC).

In 2002, the Network of Educators in Science and Technology and MIT also honored Harel Caperton "for devotion, innovation, and imagination in science and technology on behalf of children and youth around the world."

MaMaMedia Consulting Group

In 2001, she also became the executive director of a small consulting division that provides services encompassing 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.

The World Wide Workshop Foundation

Idit Harel Caperton is also founder and president of the World Wide Workshop Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that collaborates with educators and leaders worldwide in order to incorporate new technologies into their country's curriculum. Much of the Foundation's work looks at ways to create new online educational applications or overhaul existing Internet programs, designed for kids and youth, to inspire them to make their communities and our world a better place for everyone.

The foundation’s goal is to provide the people it serves with an opportunity to work together and individually, using Web 2.0 tools and methods, to master and be empowered by technology as they use it to achieve productivity, personal learning, leadership, communal success, and a deeper understanding of the world.


The Globaloria Program is an online social network for learning through game and simulation production. It was established by the World Wide Workshop Foundation in the spring of 2006 to create technology-based educational opportunities through a virtual learning network for students in developing nations and other technologically underserved communities. With a network of educational, web 2.0 platforms, students develop 21st century skills and digital literacy, master social media technology tools, and gain a deeper understanding of curricular areas, such as science, mathematics and health. Its activities help students 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.

Recent scholastic pursuits


Much of Harel Caperton's recent work in the past decade has 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.

Non-profit work

Harel Caperton has been active with consultation work for several non-profit educational entities. She has spent a great deal of time and effort with the Aspen Institute's FOCAS and Info-Tech policy programs and is a member of the board of directors for the ATLAS Institute. She has long 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 2006 TakingITGlobal launched its educational platform, called TIGed, with inspiration from Harel Caperton.

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.

Other recent endeavors

Her primary focus during 2005–2006 has been 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). In doing so, she has been a featured speaker and lecturer at numerous universities in Beijing and Shanghai. During the fall 2005 academic term, Caperton and her youngest daughter lived in Shanghai while 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.

Further Readings

  • 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)


External links


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