Challenges and Fun: Putting Doodle Den online

September 2014: After our first project meeting with The Tallaght West Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) we arrived back at our offices in Dublin City Centre armed with a 484 page long programme manual and a brief to make an online literacy learning support tool for senior infants.

Well, it’s a good job we like a challenge! The first thing we did was scan through the programme and quickly decided it was going to be critical for us to experience the programme first hand to understand it properly, back to school! Working with CDI we had several engagements with teachers, parents and seeing some classes in action.

It is a testament to the programme that such a tightly defined set of instructions for teachers translates into such a fun experience for the pupils. As far as they are concerned this is an after school club and not a class.

So how to represent it online. One of our early decisions was that this project should be a website and not an app. We felt that this would allow it to reach more people on more media including laptops and whiteboards, not only devices. We studied the programme and determined that the aspects that dealt with phonics, sight words and writing were the key elements that would translate well.

How to make it fun? Games is the obvious answer. We have developed a series of repeatable simple HTML5 games that match, drag, remember and select answers, none telling the pupils they are wrong, simply some answers that are better than others.

This was an obvious project to collaborate with an illustrator. We hired Orla Roche, a Dublin based illustrator, to help us visualise the project. She developed a character based approach to illustrate 6 different scenes in the animated Doodle Den world where the games and activities would live, the Farm, the Witch’s Forest, The 3 Bears’ House, The Bakery, The 3 Little Pigs’ House and the River. The characters that were developed for the animated scenes are integrated with the games, sing along videos and offline activity suggestions.

Just for fun there is an on-screen piano game, jokes and other surprises dotted here and there… and everywhere.

This project has presented many technical challenges to deliver a website packed full of animation and video that is accessible across devices and reaching as many children as possible. However, it has been lots of fun and thoroughly enjoyable.

John Sherwin
Director, Roomthree Design