Closing the Divide of the 3 R's AND the 3X's

Background & Strategy

Our concept of "Digital Divide" is rooted in Constructionist Learning Theory - that children learn best when they use computers in ways that put them in the active roles of designers and builders, not just passive recipients of information (e.g., From our perspective, closing the digital divide requires thinking about all children (not just privileged ones) learning how to use Internet technologies as tools for constructive, active, and creative thinking, and personalized lifelong learning.


Over the past 20 years, the President and Founder of the World Wide Workshop has worked to develop constructive and innovative software and Internet applications, websites, and online projects, that we believe will help close the gap in the digital divide.

In 1994, Dr. Idit Harel left MIT. She decided to take her educational vision in a bold new entrepreneurial direction, and in 1995 founded MaMaMedia in New York City. Her strategic business plan was to use the Internet and the World Wide Web to reach out (directly) to children, their families and teachers by creating new Internet media applications and online communities that can help close the digital divide. With teams of educators, designers, programmers, writers, and artists, a new approach was used to develop the pioneering website,

In 1996, Dr Idit Harel presented Kids and the WWW: A Metaview at SIGGRAPH '96. Using her remarkable and comprehensive multimedia presentation), she set out to provide one of the first theorized maps of the way forward for those who want to help children tap the potential of the Web. Dr Harel visualized child-Web-users as active explorers, experimenters, designers, and researchers -- liberated from the constraints of "pollution by a schoolish atmosphere" and "instructional informational approaches," as she put it.

High-quality and rigorously disciplined in their educational value, the MaMaMedia software and technology tools were designed to put kids in charge of the Net and the Web, in a playful style. Registered users of the children's website learned and had fun by creating, constructing, programming and connecting using the MaMaMedia software engines, interactive content, online projects and characters. Integrated websites for parents, educators and academics were created as well -- to support the development of their new understanding of how to learn the 3R's AND the 3X's with the Internet.


On children use the Internet to read and write, but also to become young designers, builders, artists and writers themselves. All the activities on the site were designed to provide media for children to create their own media, and to involve children directly in the design process, as children use tools to create and produce their own media, explore and express idea, and join a safe online community of kids. The design of teaches children how to use browsers, various media tools, and Internet technologies - all for the high purpose of creating, building, and expressing themselves and learning about the world around them from other children and websites. The activities are designed for all types of browsers -- low-end and high-end, as well as for use in diverse environments, including home, school, a library or community center. The key design principle we embedded in all these activities was to invite children to think openly and creatively, collaborate effectively, overcome technological challenges, continuously generate new ideas - and have fun along the way! We believe these are some of the essential skills for success in closing the digital divide in the 21st century. Here are a few examples:

In this activity kids are learning basic programming concepts by directing and animating characters that can rotate, twist, turn and tumble at varying speeds. Children learn about programming key-frame animations, using direct object manipulation as well as variable manipulation. They can save their creations and send them to their families and friends.

Frame that 'Toon
Kids become cell-animators by sequencing still images and turning funny characters into crazy animated cartoons. They create action sequences, with backgrounds, sound effects, and programmable speeds. They can save their creations and send it to their friends.

Bullseye Blast
In this activity children can participate in an Archery Competition and learn to model the physics of an arrow in flight; science topics include projectile trajectories, forces, angles and velocities. There are also links to other websites on the Web with articles and content about the science of sports.

Kids Say
This poll software is a tool that children can use to share their thoughts and ideas with others around the world. They can select an opinion and see how popular it is among other children. They can also create their own Polls.

Kids' Gallery
Children ages 5-15 come to the MaMaMedia Kids' Gallery to do digital art, publish their latest creation, and share it with other kids; as well as to see other kids' masterpieces. There are dozens of themed galleries to choose from in Kids' Gallery, such as Best Friends Gallery, Dinosaur Gallery and Space Gallery. Surfing other sites is integrated with this personal creative process with digital art tools. Children's self eXpression is integrated with eXploration and eXchange (the 3X's).


More than 5.2 million users registered on by 2004. "3X's activities" are free and available to all, and have been accessed by children from all over the world, from 36 different countries -- from homes, classrooms, libraries, and community centers - many of whom tell us that they are using a computer for the first time!

For its contribution to closing the digital divide and for its pioneering work on using the Internet creatively for children's learning, has received hundreds of thousands of supportive emails from kids and parents and teachers, as well as numerous distinguished awards for its innovative design, including: 1999 & 2002 Computerworld Smithsonian Award for excellence in the innovative use of technology in education and media; the GII Award for Best Children's Website, the 1999 and 2000 Best Kids Community Award from Yahoo! Internet Life, and the 2002 MIT Network of Educators in Science and Technology.