Education

Detective Dot is turning your children into smart spies (who can code)

By Oliver Smith 24 May 2017
Summary

The ‘Sesame Street for software’.

Detective Dot begins with a top secret letter, addressed to your little one, that arrives in the post.

Dear Recruit, We believe you are an ideal agent for the Children’s Intelligence Agency, a secret organisation investigating criminal networks, global mysteries, and rotten teachers…

Afterwards books, missions and even a CIA membership card take kids on a series of adventures with the eponymous detective.

It’s all part of Sophie Deen’s master plan.

Not world domination, teaching our kids to code.

Meet Detective Dot

“I love the idea of having an organisation like the CIA that all kids can join, and once we had the idea it was so fun to help kids become agents, go on missions and do investigations,” Deen told The Memo.

And through those missions and investigations, kids from 9-years-old can pick up the core concepts of coding, led by Detective Dot.

“It’s all about encouraging kids to ask questions, to start thinking about how they might hack their devices to make better spy gadgets – we encourage all our agents to hack stuff – or to start thinking about how computers work,” she says.

Deen’s latest ‘investigation’ she’s designing is an international poo crisis, which is all about poo, but is actually about sustainability and different sources of energy.

“We’ve got a leaning towards STEM and diversity, but the overriding theme should always be fun and getting kids to ask questions.”

“If I could choose one thing to leave kids with, it would be excitement and curiosity.”

But hang on, isn’t everyone trying to help children code these day?

Yes, but after working at Code Club, a charity that sets up volunteer-led coding clubs around the world, Deen saw a large group of kids who just aren’t engaged.

The ‘Sesame Street for software’

If you’re aren’t a rich, white, boy, then you just don’t have any role models who are programmers or hackers.

As Deen puts it, in children’s cartoons: “0% of princesses are coders… and 73% of characters have white Caucasian skin (compared to only 15% of people in the world!).”

Detective Dot is Deen’s attempt to fix that.

“In the same way that Sesame Street did more for poor black kids reading and writing in America than any other education programme did.”

“I really wanted to have a positive female role model, and I didn’t want her to be white because of the issues I saw with representation,” she says.

Today Deen is in early discussions with animation studios about turning Detective Dot into a video series, and she’s also been approached by some of the world’s largest media and entertainment groups interested in what she’s doing.

Eventually Deen hopes Detective Dot might even become an adventure series that defines, and teaches, a generation of disengaged kids.