2014 Australian Mobile & App Awards

mobile, web, IoT, desktop, connected devices
design champion, best studio, best start-up & IoT
plus 20 specialist nomination categories

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Phonics Under The Big Top [DRAFT]







Project Overview

Did you know there are 42 phonemes (Letter Sounds) across the entire English Language? We didn't until commencing this project. Phonics Under The Big Top is a gamified mobile experience for kids aged 3-5, delivered via an iPad or Android Tablet. It uses the Jolly Phonics methodology and it's multi-sensory synthetic phonics program, making learning to read and write fun for kids.

Prior to “Phonics Under the Big Top,” there were no dedicated mobile application that existed to teach kids the Phonetics of the Australian English language.

Project Commissioner

Jolly Discoveries

Project Creator




Midu Chandra - Director of Strategy & Innovation
Mike Vasavada - Director of Mobility Solutions
Isabel Desequera - Art Director
Mac Dongpil Kwak - Development Lead
Allan McLeod - Project Manager

Project Brief

‘Edutain’ – Deliver a best in class practice synthetic approach to learning Phonics that is engaging, interactive, exploratory and fun. Make the program uniquely Australian but scalable enough that it can be used across the world.

This was a real opportunity for us to deliver an educational program which used the principles of gamification and reward mechanics to engage kids with this key educational development program. This provided children with with instant reward & recognition and a reason to progress and complete all modules within the program.

A key part of this brief was to create an application that can be used to teach 3-5 year olds, the Phonetics of the Australian English language.

Key functional attributes of this application are:
- Teaching kids the sounds (phonemes) given to you
- Introducing kids to the principles of phonics and reinforce with fun activities
- Showing each sound, relating it to pictures and getting kids to practice
- Showing how sounds can be blended together
- Letting children have a go at building words with sounds

Project Need

"Phonics Under The Big Top" is a based on the principles of “edutainment” [education + entertainment]. Rather than building a program that was just systematic and based on achievement, we decided to build "Phonics Under The Big Top" using a narrative based approach which took the form of a Circus and child's adventure and excitement when attending such an experience.

We created an illustrated Circus adventure which took kids on an interactive journey of Phonics Discovery, where the user plays a variety of circus games that reinforce the phonemes (Letter Sounds) of the Australian English Language. Based on their achievement, they get to progress to harder levels within the application.

The application introduces the Jolly Phonics methodology. Jolly Phonics is a systematic synthetic phonics programme designed to teach children to read and write. Children learn the 43 letter sounds of the English language, rather than the alphabet. They are then taken through the stages of blending and segmenting words to develop reading and writing skills.
There are two main approaches to teaching phonics: analytic and synthetic. Both approaches require the learner to develop the ability to hear and discriminate sounds in spoken words. Jolly Phonics is a scheme which comes under the Synthetic Phonics method.

This app has currently ranked in the Top 50 iPad Apps under the education category and is being trialled in many schools within Australia and soon to be launched in other global markets.

User Experience

The user experience has been created using a story telling style, which immerses children into a Circus where they get to interact with the Circus Master, performers and rides.
All the visual elements within this application are painstakingly hand-drawn to ensure they provide the best experience within Apple and Android Tablet devices. This style allowed us to ignite the application interface through the use of vibrant colours to excite children, whilst still allowing us allow them to engage in the core activities. We then blended this aesthetic with interactive animations and sound to provide kids with both a visual and kinetic experience, ensuring their learning experience was a memorable one!

The App’s structure was designed to break each modules interactivity -based progress and achievement, while providing no fixed requirement for the child to complete all activities in one instance.

The key user experience elements we focussed on:
- Allow kids to listen to the correct pronunciation of each phoneme
- Explore the various sounds and how they form words
- Multiple levels from easy to hard via our random quiz engine
- Drawing letter formations
- Follow instructions at every level and to practice the letter formation skills
- Learn how to write many words by combining the phonemes (sounds) introduced through the program

Project Marketing

"Phonics Under the Big Top" is a 100% home-grown idea developed by Celeste Musgrave & mobiDdiction. Celeste Musgrave has been a primary school teacher in NSW for over twenty five years and specialises in the areas of early literacy and numeracy development for young children.

In 2005, Jolly Discoveries was formed with the aim to provide young children with a wide range of learning strategies that would cater to their specific learning needs. Synthetic phonics was one of those strategies they believed all children would benefit from knowing.

This app, is the beginning of an exciting new adventure bringing education and technology together.

From a marketing perspective, this Mobility Solution is primarily advertised & discovered via search, direct contact with educational institutions and word-of-mouth. The app itself has been exceptionally well received by the educational community and is now being trialled by many schools within Australia. Alongside this, Jolly Discoveries has been receiving a lot interest from international counterparts to help launch & extend such a program in other countries.

"Phonics Under the Big Top" has been ranked in the top 50 iPad Apps under the education category.

Project Privacy

This application purposefully has no data capture or any user behavioural analytics, ensuring the App is fun and 100% safe for kids. There are also no Advertisements, external links and notifications to download other upgrades in the app. All research on the application is done via offline quantitative and qualitative measures.

This category relates to applications associated with family activities and entertainment, childhood development and education.
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