2012-08-03 / Schools

Duo makes story time a digital adventure

Touch-screen capability is key to project
By Stephanie Guzman

Bowen Bowen To reinvent story time and create interactive children’s stories for the iPad, Tracy Hopcus Jordan and Shelly Bowen needed to think like 2-year-olds.

“You look at a 2- or 3-year-old child and they are like a sponge on iPads,” said Hopcus Jordan, a Camarillo resident. “It’s so interesting to watch them because they’re so tactile and use both of their hands to explore.”

The pair has created a new way of storytelling with their digital children’s story “All Fixed Up,” an interactive tale which takes advantage of how youngsters are drawn to the technological wonders of touch-screen devices such as the iPad.

How it started

Hopcus Jordan, an interactive Web designer, teaches a digital media class to high school students at the California Institute of the Arts’ summer program in Valencia.

Hopcus Jordan Hopcus Jordan The 39-year-old said her students were well acquainted with mobile devices, such as iPhones and tablets, but could hardly navigate a Web page during lessons because the design wasn’t intuitive.

The observation encouraged her to think about the way children will learn in the future, when digital media will be an important tool for educators in the classroom and at home, Hopcus Jordan believes.

The Simi Valley native researched e-books and storytelling applications currently on the market but found that many apps don’t take full advantage of the iPad’s touch-screen technology.

“The interactive books were one-dimensional in that you flip a page or you touch something to make noise,” said Hopcus Jordan, who owns the Web design company Inkling Studio. “(The publishers) were just putting what’s in print on an iPad but not using all the iPad can do.”

Working together

Hopcus Jordan joined colleague Bowen, a former children’s book editor and owner of Red Piggy Press, to create a truly interactive book for the iPad.

The duo came up with “All Fixed Up,” a story about a child who has an absent parent—not by choice but by work.

“My dad was in the Navy for 24 years, and he would be gone for nine months at a time,” said Bowen, who wrote the book.

Bowen and her father would fix things such as bicycles or music boxes when he returned home, a memory that inspired the story. Bowen said the book is for children who have parents who travel a lot, including members of the military, pilots, speakers and salespeople.

“I hope this book is the first of many like it,” Bowen said. “That’s why we started with a story line so close to our hearts.”

Hopcus Jordan’s dad was also away because he worked as a commercial pilot. “It was always an adjustment because you would have to get re-used to that person being back in your life again,” Hopcus Jordan said.

Sara Jane Franklin illustrated the story.

What’s interactive?

The app will allow a child or parent to personalize the book with names. The parent in the story can change from a dad to a grandmother or other person, and the main character can change from a boy to a girl.

“All the interactions will have a purpose for the child to explore, discover and anticipate, which are key learning tools to problem-solving in the future,” said Bowen, who has worked with Hopcus Jordan on the project for about a year. “The screen isn’t going to animate by itself, and (the child) will have to figure it out on their own.”

The app can also change the story to a different language and allows a reader to record their voice in the story. The story can then be shared over social media, perhaps with a loved one overseas. “This is about the education and future of our children, Hopcus Jordan said. “It’s about making what’s out there better for kids.”

Finding funding

The two launched a campaign on Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding platform, to help pay for the application’s programming. Hopcus Jordan and Bowen hope to raise $15,000 by Fri., Aug. 10—a deadline set by Kickstarter.

So far they’ve received more than $7,000 in pledges, but if the full amount isn’t funded by the deadline they will receive nothing.

To donate, visit http://redpiggypress.com/allfixedup.

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