Cooney Center Prize Winner Innovates with The Electric Company — and More

by Jay Schiffman
March 2, 2011

Last spring, my company Dreamkind won the first Cooney Center Prize for Breakthroughs in Literacy Learning. Thanks to the Cooney Center, Sesame Workshop and the Electric Company, there are lots of good things to report since we won the award.

Most importantly, as a result of winning the contest, we were able to meet and collaborate with a bunch of really talented producers from The Electric Company. We proposed different ideas to them, exchanged concepts about developing educational gaming curricula and worked with them on ideas for a virtual world. When it was time for them to develop online games for Season 2 of their Emmy Award winning show, we were asked to propose a game based on their connected text curriculum. So, we developed an idea for an online game that was an American Idol spoof starring Ryan SeaMonster, Simon Howl, Paula Abghoul, Randy Barkson and the cast from The Electric Company animated series, Haunted House and Pets Home Alone. After what were probably some tough deliberations on their part, we were awarded the contract.

The game, The Next Electric Company Star, teaches children how to follow-through when reading. It is a monster of a game, with 12 iterations, more than 60 short animations and multiple levels of interactive learning and scaffolding. My team worked closely with the highly gifted producers of The Electric Company: Emily Friend-Roberts, Andrea Palumbos and Erica Branch-Ridley. We couldn’t have wished for a better experience or better partners. After a lot of hard work on their part and ours, the game went live on PBSKids.org a few weeks ago.

Over the last six months, a lot of great things have happened to Dreamkind, and the Cooney Center Prize has certainly been a big part of our growth. Not only has our company tripled in size, but we have landed a number of significant contracts, and at the same time launched our own apps and digital media. Among other projects, we have recently created animations and webisodes for Kids Concoctions and Fuzzoodles, and we have developed apps for companies like Alex Toys, Giddy Up, and Infantino/Step2. Within the last few months, we have developed iPhone and iPad versions of the Moody Monster app, Hide & Seek Babies, Musical Rainbows and Spin & Say Animals for our clients.

In addition, in partnership with the United Nations, we created Sproutster, a free app that allows players to grow virtual rice while playing a word-building game. Dreamkind donates real rice, equivalent to the virtual amount grown in the game, to the U.N. World Food Program.

This spring, we will introduce three additional apps under our own brand: Frankenstein Matchmaker, Office Wars and Major League Bugball. Each of these games is designed to be both educational and addictively fun. We have another five apps in production for 2011, including Zootopia, Brainbots and Squeezies and a number of large projects for entertainment and educational companies in the works.

2010 was a great year for us, and 2011 looks even more promising. The Cooney Center prize was a huge feather in our cap and definitely helped us to move to the next level. Thanks JGCC!

 

Jay Schiffman is the founder of Dreamkind, an entertainment studio that develops animations, apps, virtual learning experiences and other forms of digital media for kids and their families. To learn more, go to www.dreamkind.com.

 

Related links:

The Next Electric Company Star on PBSKids.org