Our kids need Detective Dot!
In kids cartoons, 0% of princesses are engineers, 2.9% of characters are black, and Batman doesn’t recycle. AND kids spend up to 9 hours in front of screens seeing this stuff everyday. Shocking, right!
My name is Sophie. I’ve worked in law, tech, teaching kids to code and as a play therapist in a primary school. I noticed a few things:
- We’re obsessed with buying stuff but we don’t know how it’s made or who made it.
- Kids media is heavily stereotyped. Children, particularly girls and minorities, need positive role models in engineering, science, technology, arts and maths.
- Technology can engage kids in a really cool way.
Detective Dot Stories
Detective Dot is a story about a mischievous 8 year old coder with a special power – everyday objects come to life around her! From a memory chip with amnesia, to a football with an overinflated ego, these objects have big questions about who they are and where they came from.
Tech- savvy Dot uses computer science to solve problems, and encourages kids to ask ‘who made this?’, ‘where does this come from?’ and ‘what impact does this have on our world?’
- Our hardcopy and digital books are for kids aged 7-9
- We’re also making curriculum materials for teachers
Travelling around the world, from Indian tea fields, cotton crops in Uzbekistan (t-shirts), copper mines in Uganda (microchips) and swanky Silicon Valley offices, join Dot and her gang as they uncover the world, one household object at a time.
The story of Detective Dot & Tumble Cotton
We’re making a story (via digital book and hardcopy book) about Detective Dot and her former designer t-shirt, Mr. Tumble Cotton.
You can get
- a digital book (available on tablets, smartphones & e-readers)
- a 23 page hardcopy book (sustainably made)
- a school pack full of teaching resources (assembly pack + lesson plans x6 + activities)
Detective Dot is always asking questions: Where did that come from? How was it made? Why can’t I put my elbows on the table? Why do people wear ties?…. It’s what makes her such a good detective. So when Dot’s old t-shirt, T umble, comes to life suffering with terrible amnesia, she vows to help him find out where he’s from – even if he often seems more interested in taking selfies than uncovering the truth! Via London, China and Uzbekistan – Dot’s new adventure is nothing like a school trip!
Why we’re doing this
Kids media – What?!
Books and television give children a glimpse of the world outside their own, but at the moment it is warping their ideas about the world, themselves and others. We want to change that.
- 72% of characters in children’s TV across the world have white Caucasian skin, but in reality only about 15% of the world’s population has a skin colour like this.
- Children’s books are almost twice as likely to feature a male central character than a female one.
- 90% of female TV characters aged 10-17 are below average in weight
Detective Dot is on a mission to create a diverse, fair and extremely un world for our kids. Please join us!
We’ve veered away from stickers, magnets and glow sticks and instead focused on our core product – very cool digital stories. We’ve also partnered up with Craftivist Collective, who make mindful, sustainably made craft kits that we love.
- Education: Content is mapped to the primary school curriculum, with computer science concepts and language seamlessly weaved in.
- Personalisation: Parents can record their own narration, with a ‘Read to Me’ and ‘Read by Myself’ option.
- Simple games: We teach kids about coding, geography, math & more.
- Sustainability: We’re not afraid to tell the whole story, especially when it’s about cow farts and carbon emissions.
- Diversity: We show positive role models doing positive things. Diversity goes beyond tokenism to create a world as diverse, different and unique as our own.
- STEAM: Science, technology, engineering, arts & math portrayed in a seriously fun way.
- Fair Trade: Our stories trace the very human journey of where things come from and where they go.
- Half a term’s (9 hours) topic based, cross-curricular teaching materials for primary school teachers of KS1 & KS2.
- Special focus on computer science concepts (e.g.logical thinking, debugging) which complement the new computing curriculum. (In September 2014, coding became compulsory for 5+ year olds in England, alongside maths & english).
- Our materials actively encourage curiosity, tenacity and self-directed learning. We want kids to question and investigate the world for themselves.
- Be the Boss: In this game, children pretend to be Shelly Belly – she’s the boss of Largemarge Inc (her life motto: ‘Profit before kittens, babies and people’), and she wants to make a best-selling new t-shirt. Using real data, teams have to make tough decisions about raw materials, labour costs and transport. It’s better to employ women in India because they get paid less than men, right?!
- The Big Picture: Based on evidence from Amnesty and the Fairtrade Foundation about successful educational materials, we’re creating activities around different ‘big pictures’ e.g. the cotton fields of Uzbekistan, below.
Budget & plans
Here’s how we’ll spend the £12,500.
Timeline: We’ll wrap up writing, drawing & piloting in March, printing and delivering in April. Our expert team are in place, and we’ve carefully selected fair trade suppliers to fulfil the campaign.
Fulfilment: We’re using Calverts.Coop to print our books, a cooperative focused on sustainable printing, and we’re working with Playerthree to develop the interactive bits. They’ve been making educational games for 14 years+ with cool organisations like the UN, BBC and the Science Museum. We’ve also teamed up with the amazing Craftivist Collective to bring you a bespoke education craft back – made just for us! We’ve chosen our favorite Nelson Mandela quote (‘Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world’).
We’ve all worked together before, have extraordinary collective expertise, and we’re bossed around by logistics specialist Andres, who runs a tight ship – so we know we can deliver.
We’ve been busy bees. Since Dot was born in March 2015, we’ve run a pilot with 30 teachers and educators in London (100% of teachers would recommend using our materials and stories), we won an Computer Weekly award for our work with Detective Dot, and we’ve been in the press and on live TV! We get asked to speak at cool events and people say nice things about us.
We’re united by a deep passion to inspire and empower children, and to do our bit to change the world for the better.
Founded by Sophie Deen (me!), the Bright Little Labs team has an exceptional mix of industry experience (developers, teachers and designers) + brilliant advisors including Graham Brown-Martin (edtech/gaming, education advisor to Lego) Rick Jones (Google), Katherine Crisp (UNICEF) & Miles Berry (University of Roehampton, writing team for the UK computing curriculum). I work full time on Bright Little Labs, with the help of a wonderful bunch of experts.
Here’s a little more about everyone:
I first conceived of Dot when working as a children’s play therapist. I’m a law graduate, and have worked as a school counsellor for the Place2Be, head of strategy at a global tech company and head of teacher training at Code Club (with Department for Education & Google). I was recently voted Computer Weekly’s ‘Rising Star’ Women in IT 2015.
Our creative team is top-notch. John Thornton and Sarah Campbell are our amazing writing duo. John’s funny – he’s written award-winning short films and has taken two comedy shows to the Edinburgh Fringe. Sarah is a creative writer, vegan enthusiast and has a lifelong passion for reading anything about vampires. Nathan Hackett – who has a scarily encyclopaedic knowledge of cartoons and comics – and Nerea Sanchez, work on bringing Dot to life through their amazing illustrations.
Our experts are experts! Laura Kirsop looks after product. She’s a product manager at edtech FutureLearn, former teacher, head of Code Club UK and school governor // Emma Murphy looks after sustainability. Emma’s the Founder of Life Size Media, an award winning green comms agency // Turgay Oktem looks after UX Design. He’s a UX designer for Penguin Children’s books, working on apps for Moshi Monsters and Peppa Pig // Louise Kwa looks after education. She’s a primary school teacher who has written leading curriculum materials in computer science.
We want to build a children’s company that’s different – with products that are always fun and entertaining, but also educational, ethically sourced and fairly traded. Why not? And….. we’ve got big plans!
More stories: The first few stories focus on cotton (Uzbekistan), a microchip (the DRC), honey (Uruguay), chess pieces (Zimbabwe), football boots (Australia) and an old cassette player (Pacific Ocean) – the possibilities are endless!
Children’s Intelligence Agency platform: Dot’s a member of The Children’s Intelligence Agency (‘CIA’) – a secret hi-tech agency run by kids worldwide. It’s only open to under 11s and is unknown to adults. We’re going to build a CIA platform for kids so they can investigate their own belongings, play educational games, and access the CIA’s reports.
More edutaining stuff: Product development plans include web-based games, apps, cartoons and ‘maker’ kits for children – robotic kits that girls and boys can build and programme themselves, using ethically sourced parts.