Our project began with two premises. The first is that real teachers are better than cartoon characters; the second is that students spend too much time playing on digital devices. Taking a curriculum, “gamifying” it, and having the app teach it to the student has been done before. We did something different. And we were guided by the following principle: “If it’s not necessary we don’t include it.”
This principle is based on Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller, 2003, see also Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017), which explains that in the process of Learning, information passes through Working Memory before it is stored in Long-Term Memory. Because Working Memory is limited, unnecessary information adds Extraneous Cognitive Load, which prevents learning from taking place.
In short: Less is More!
What We Built
So we began removing what isn’t necessary. First to go were the “virtual world” and the “animated characters.” Next to go were the “extrinsic rewards” such as “currencies” and “badges.” They weren’t necessary, so we didn’t include them.
In the end, we were left with a curriculum. In every interface, the students are either reading, writing, spelling or typing. And the kids are engaged BY the learning, and NOT by an external motivator.
We were happy to learn that because our curriculum doesn’t look like a game, teachers were allowing students more time on the program, and older struggling readers were more comfortable using it.
Then came the big surprise. We realized that we can teach kids to read Without Verbal Instructions. So we left out the instructions. For example, instead of telling students the “name” and “sound” of a letter, we say: /l/ as in Laptop, and give the student a Laptop to assemble, then we give the student the letter L so they can place it on their Laptop and create an association in their mind between the sound and shape of the letter using our Visual Mnemonic—all without us saying a single words of instruction. Less is More!
We created a curriculum that never communicates with students telling them what to do or how to read. There are no instructions, not in English, not in Spanish, not in any Language. The curriculum is Language Agnostic.
This has exciting implications for ELL students. CAPIT comes ELL ready Out of the Box—without modifications—or additional teacher training. ELL students and native English language speakers have a shared learning experience because they use the same program in the exact same way.
American classrooms are like a rainbow of languages. One teacher using our program, Elsie from Sherman Oaks, has 7 languages in her classroom: Spanish, Hebrew, Russian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Arminian, and English. Elsie tells us: “I’m seeing progress amongst all my students, especially the English Language Learners.”
We know there is plenty of competition out there. But CAPIT is the only Language Agnostic Digital Curriculum that is 100% learning 100% of the time.
How We Got Our Name
Our name—CAPIT—was carefully chosen. It is an acronym for Concept And Personality Integration Technique and is reflective of our educational philosophy: we take deep Concepts and give them Personality so students can Integrate them into their growing body of knowledge.
How We Build
“WHY” AND “HOW” WE CREATED CAPIT
Most businesses begin with a “problem” in need of a solution. This is not “how” or “why” CAPIT was created. We were well aware of the literacy problem plaguing American schools, and knowledge of this problem did not motivate us to create CAPIT. Our decision was made only after we discovered a possible solution. This “discovery” had multiple causes: research, experience, and testing.
To be sure, we were not new to reading instruction. The co-founders had a combined 30 years of teaching experience in both early as well as adult literacy instruction in both English and Hebrew. Together, we developed a new method for Hebrew reading instruction, and for a few years we trained teachers and sold our Hebrew program to schools in the US and abroad. CLICK HERE to see our Hebrew language products and services. It was our Hebrew program that laid the foundation for our future English program.
We believed we discovered something big: a novel solution to the reading crisis. But even this realization was not a sufficient reason to create an EdTech solution. We would first need to “paper-test” our hypothesis. We recruited students ages 4 and 5 with no previous literacy instruction and began testing our ideas. For about 2 years we tested our many theories, writing lessons about two days before our students learned them, giving us a chance to test, adjust, and test again. Writing the lessons in “real time” gave us an unbiased view of what works and what doesn’t. Only after our curriculum was written, printed, and tested, did we begin considering options for digital delivery.
What makes our program effective is the “curriculum,” with the technology acting as the delivery system. In other words: If someone pulled the plug, most—if not all—education technology companies would disappear overnight. Not CAPIT. Our curriculum was in print before we digitized it. CAPIT would be effective in a world without computers or tablets because its effectiveness is not due to technological wizardry or game design—aspects of a product that quickly become out of date. Furthermore, neither co-founders are coders, technology experts, or game designers. We are teachers with teaching experience and a love of research. What makes CAPIT effective is the unique nature of its curriculum. (CLICK HERE to learn more about the research and theory behind our curriculum.)
Now that we had our curriculum, it was time to bring it to “digital” life. We specifically sought-after game designers, and not curriculum developers. We believed that talented game designers could help us make learning our curriculum fun and easy—like playing a game. We interviewed various technology companies and eventually hired Dubit Limited for both their expertise in game design and their unique focus on product testing. They were surprised to learn that CAPIT will not be a game. They specialize in game design and have never created a curriculum. They were even more surprised to learn that CAPIT will teach students to read WITHOUT verbal instructions. Is it really possible to teach kids to read without speaking directly with or at them? But they were up for the challenge. It took us 3 years to build our technology solution. Year 1 was spent designing and testing the basic structure of the app and its interfaces. Year 2 was spent beta testing our program in a Los Angeles charter school classroom. We became “volunteer teachers” and spent 3 days a week in the classroom. (The Kindergarten kids loved us.) By year 3—the 2016-2017 school-year—we had over 70 teachers and over 800 students piloting our program. BY Year 4 we were selling our program to our early adopters, recruiting new clients, and collecting data on the effectiveness our program.
In summary, Capit Learning is a unique company with a unique product. We are not coders aiming to get into the EdTech market. We are teachers offering a curriculum solution to a curricular problem. The success of our program is not due to any superior technology. CAPIT is successful because it is a good curriculum. CAPIT is a high impact company that attempts to affect change for students, teachers, and schools. We did not go after free users to show fast growth, but instead spent our time and resources development a product we believe in, and a company with a sustainable business model.
Capit Learning, Inc. is a virtual company, with key staff working from Los Angeles CA (financing, product design and curriculum development, testing, sales, research), and a development team working out of the UK (technology, game design, art).