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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Q-Tales (A Collaboration Ecosystem enabling EU Creative SMEs to exchange multi-media content and create multi-plot, interactive Apps for Children, curated according to Reader ability and educational value.)
H2020

Q-Tales Report Summary

Project ID: 645588
Funded under: H2020-EU.2.1.1.4.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Q-Tales (A Collaboration Ecosystem enabling EU Creative SMEs to exchange multi-media content and create multi-plot, interactive Apps for Children, curated according to Reader ability and educational value.)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

"Children books are on the cutting edge of eBook innovation. It is an arena where the very definition of "book" is being stretched, and where concepts of what an e-book is and could be constantly evolve. An e-book is a digital snapshot of a book, an enhanced e-book adds multimedia and interactive features as interruptions to the linear story, and a book app is based on a book but acts more like a game with multiple pathways that require the user to interact instead of simply scroll and click or tap. Moreover, a book app can do everything an enhanced e-book does, but crosses the line from linear storytelling to non-linear storytelling, allowing the user to choose from multiple pathways and select from a potentially huge number of photos, videos, audio files, illustrations, hyperlinks, and interactivity. The production of a complex, quality book-based app requires a team that includes programmers, graphic designers, professional actors for custom narration, music soundtrack and sound effects, interactivity, editors and page layout designers for different devices and operating systems. All these creative services (and others, directly or indirectly, related to the electronic and legacy publishing) are provided mainly by freelancers and micro companies.
The end vision of Qtales, as a commercial platform, is to be the de facto choice and facilitator of all storytellers for children stories, brimming European culture and tendered to the world. Independent children book writers and illustrators, through the unique Qtales Authoring Tool and Collaboration Platform, are given the tools and the know-how to publish like professionals. The professionalism and sophistication of Independent children e-book writers has increased dramatically in the last six years. This is resulting to the publication of better e-books, and more diversity of better e-books. This innovation and professionalism will continue in the future as Creative SMEs owners and Innovative SME ICT providers pioneer and promulgate tomorrow's best practices.These “small” players are publishing e-books that are quality-competitive with traditionally published e-books, but priced dramatically lower. As a result, these players have the ability to underprice, outsell and out- compete the e-books from traditional publishers. In the years to come, the European Creative SMEs (including independent self-publishers) will have the ability to serve and please readers more effectively than traditional publishers.The ambition of the consortium for the Qtales Collaboration Ecosystem is to capture the momentum by bringing together the excellent quality content provided by the European Creative SMEs and the excellent technical skills of European ICT Providers.

“Picking the right book for the right child to read at the right moment is the true challenge of Qtales.”

Qtales platform is consisting of the following three interrelated subsystems:

- Qtales Collaboration Platform(qtales.com), including Gamification Aspects, where self-publishers, authors, illustrators, voice actors, animators and other related SMEs and professionals communicate, offer and receive services and collaborate.
- Qtales Authoring Tool(downloadable through qtales.com), featuring an easy-to-use interface with powerful and sophisticated authoring features which can be used to create and publish interactive e-books for multiple screens (Tablets, PCs, Mac).
- Qtales Store (store.qtales.com) where the published e-books and apps are offered worldwide.

More information can be found at www.q-tales.eu "

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"The duration of the project is 18 months. The main goal of Qtales is to create a unique platform, through which ebook creators will be able to co-create unique bundled products, expertly curated - having always in mind that they serve the rich and indispensable European heritage in children literature and children education themes.
If we have to distinguish Qtales project is its major parts, these are:
-The Pedagogical and Curation Frameworks
-The Gamification Framework and user interface design
-The Qtales platform comprised of the collaboration platform, the authoring tool and the Qtales store.
-The evaluation of the ecosystem, the exploitation of the results and the establishment of Qtales as a Brand Name.

Central to the Qtales pedagogical framework is a focus on literacy skill development and engagement in reading. Our framework is grounded in developmental considerations derived from an analysis of the broad developmental psychology and education literature. These considerations shape our ultimate activity- and design-focused pedagogical ontology. At a high level, our framework and ontology includes 3 themes: (1) stories, (2) literacy activities, and (3) design considerations, each of which has a number of dimensions. The ‘narrative and stories’ section outlines a codeable category system for Q-tales narratives which include; story plots and types, story characters and archetypes, story forms, story genres and story technology. The ‘developmental considerations’ section of the framework encompasses developmental considerations in relation to the pedagogy of reading literacy from birth to adolescence. It is structured in light of developmental considerations relevant to three broad age categories; children aged 0 – 4, 5 – 8 and 9 – 16, in particular, focusing on three broad stages of literacy development; emergent reading, initial reading and reading to learn. The ‘pedagogical literacy focus’ section concentrates in particular on pedagogical activities organised according to developmental level, each of which is broken down into the following categories; code related skills, comprehension skills, cognitive and metacognitive skills, and social/emotional interaction. Finally, the ‘design considerations’ section focuses on a set of design considerations which we see as complementary to the pedagogical literacy focus; multimedia design, interface design, learning design, disability design and cultural design. On the basis of what was learned from research during the development of the Pedagogical Framework, the Qtales curation strategy was also developed. The objectives of the curation strategy are to: (a) Provide a way of rating the pedagogical quality of a product to ensure that it is appropriate for a given reader and that it helps to improve the literacy of that reader, (b) Develop tools that will not only evaluate a product, but will also provide data metrics that users can access, understand and contribute – creating a virtuous circle, and (c) Evolve a curation network to facilitate the above, to support the launch of Q-Tales and inform its ongoing development. In Qtales, four principal categories of literacy skills are cited as follows: (a) Code-related skills, (b) Comprehension, (c) Cognitive and metacognitive skills, and (d) Social and emotional interactions.

Across the Qtales ecosystem points are awarded to the users in all the components in order to enable tracking of progression (among others). Complementary to the Basis of the Qtales Gamification Framework come the Component Specific Game Elements. These game elements are vertical and cater to the specific needs/goals of the users in different parts of the Qtales ecosystem working in parallel (or extending) to the core game elements. An example of such a game element (Component Specific) is the Mission/Achievement game element that is not – universally applicable. In parallel to the game elements (both core and component specific), come the metainformation for each game element in the Qtales Gamification Framework that illustrates the reasoning for selection and introduction alongside to the target goal for its introduction. The later is used as the evaluation / optimization metric that guides future enhancement on both the framework as well as the unique game elements. As in Games, where "Fun arises out of mastery, it arises out of comprehension and it is the act of solving puzzles that make games fun" (Koster, 2013) in the Qtales Gamification Framework, the same working definition of Game is applied. A game is “a structured set of activities with explicit rules” Roger Caillois, 2001) and the purpose is making that participation in the collaborative authoring of books interesting and enjoyable through the introduction of the game elements. 82 Badges, 62 missions, points, rating and leaderboards are compising the set of game elements designed for the Qtales ecosystem.

One of the major activities of the project was the development of the Qtales platform that is consisting of the following three interrelated subsystems:
-Qtales Collaboration Platform.
The collaboration platform as a part/component of the q-Tales ecosystem has a dual role in the general project architecture. The first one is to provide the end user (both professionals and children/parents) the best experience by being simple while containing a large set of complex functionalities, like any other professional tool would do (i.e. Apple’s iTunes Connect dashboard). The second one is to connect and synchronize in a secure and discrete way all the components of the q-Tales ecosystem. To ensure the users’ sensitive data protection we have established a complex DRM system, introducing the q-Tales master key feature, which gives each user specific access rights on various assets. The q-Tales master key is required in all the requests to the back-end server. The Back-end system is a set of Web Services written in JAVA using the Spring framework to provide an MVC architecture. The front-end is the main user interface which also consists of two parts. The first one is the qTales landing page where the visitor can view all the, relative to the project, information before accessing the second part which is the dashboard. Access to the dashboard is granted only after the user is authenticated via the back-end and obtaining the q-Tales master key. The dashboard is the tool that the user can exploit to create new projects, find collaborators and communicate with other users while creating e-books. It’s the main control panel that contains all the features and tools a professional might need, organized in a non-intrusive and elegant way. Always in tune with the pedagogical and gamification frameworks designed by our partners we provide a more pleasant and playful, design and layout to kids and parents that want to use q-Tales to spend some quality time exploring the authoring tool and creating their own storybooks. The front-end uses a Joomla CMS distribution for the landing page which is easily managed and updated with any type of content we might need to display to the visitor. The dashboard is written in HTML, PHP and JS using jQuery and other frameworks to asynchronously fetch information by calling the various Web Services in the backend and dynamically update the content of the page.
-Qtales Authoring Tool
The Q-Tales Authoring Tool, offers an easy-to-use interface with powerful and sophisticated authoring features which can be used to create e-books that can be, with a single click, published for many different digital screens (iOS, Android, Windows and Mac Os). The Q-Tales authoring tool is based on the Unity3D game engine, but the user it’s not required to have the Unity3D platform to build an e-book. All the required functionality has been exposed to the authoring environment (available for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac Os and WebGL) making the e-book creation free and extremely easy. Q-tales Authoring Tool is not intended only for professionals, but also for parents, teachers and other adults, that want to create e-books for or with their kids/pupils.
-Qtales Store.
The Q-Tales Store is the place where the curated e-books that are developed within the Qtales collaboration platform will be offered worldwide. The Store is based on PrestaShop, which is an open source e-commerce software, free for download and customization. PrestaShop is a simple, efficient, intuitive and user-friendly platform, which is currently used by more than 250,000 online shops. It is a very powerful platform, which is enriched with hundreds of innovative tools to build and manage an online store.

Evaluation, dissemination, communication and Exploitation of project ouputs was the parellel activities during the project that were intensified in the last 6 months. Evaluation took place in two phases. The first took place internally from project partners, while the second with real users. Qtales partners disseminated the project through the participation of international conferences and events. Qtales was present with a stand at Bologna Children's Book Fair – Bologna Italy 4-6 April 2016 and London Book Fair 2016 (London, 12-14 April). Scientific articles were sent for publication in international conferences and academic journals. The social media were largely used for the dissemination of the project results. Q-Tales social media campaigns run on Facebook and 15.568 people reached, 700 of them visited qtales.com. Several other articles were posted in online blogs, news sites and LinkedIn, newsletters were send by partners, press releases published, interviews given, banners placed at relevant sites, links from partners sites’ to the QTales project Website were placed, etc. During the project 4 Collective Intelligence focus groups were organized (Ireland, Italy and Poland) to identify user needs and requirements that align with pedagogical priorities and affordances identified in the mainstream educational,sychology, and learning science literature, and one other in Greece to gather authors opinion on the final platform. The results of the communication and dissemination activities were very positive and the consortium has arrived to the decision of establishing Qtales Ltd in the safe harbor of the Coventry University Technology Park. This move is imperative due to the interest and the strong will that two important organisations expressed: A big publishing house anf a big private school. These will probably be the first clients of the new company, since the project coordinator is already in the process of signing an NDA with the Publishing house and the school has officially expressed its interest in integrating Qtales in the school curriculum."

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

"Q-Tales platform, offers an easy-to-use interface with powerful and sophisticated authoring features which can be used to create e-books that can be, with a single click, published for many different digital screens(iOS, Android, windows and mac os). The authoring interface makes use of pedagogical mini games, gamification techniques and a Curation mechanism to create quality e-books. Is based on Unity3D game engine, but the user it’s no required to have the Unity3D platform to build an e-book. All the required functionality has been exposed to the authoring environment (available for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac Os and WebGL) making the e-book creation free and extremely easy. Q-tales Authoring Tool is not intended only for professionals, but also for parents, teachers and other adults, that want to create e-books for or with their kids/pupils.
The basic functionality of the authoring environment includes:
· Selection of e-book style(portrait/landscape(4:3 or 16:9))
· Add/remove pages
· Setup an e-book theme and page backgrounds(background images, colors, etc)
· Add/Format texts.
· Add images, sounds and 3D objects
· Undo/Redo functionality
· Copy/Paste functionality
· Animation
· Create minigames (a number of mini games focusing on the development of different skills)
· Add navigation triggers transparent for the end user (triggers that navigate to other or skip pages of the e-book).
· Tools including word count features and statistics (number of words per page, number of different words in the e-book, average words length, etc).

The authoring tool is based on Unity3D game engine. All the code behind the authoring tool is written with C# on mono develop. Communication with data layer is taking place through web services (www.qtales.com/api). A set of complying players for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac Os, and also in WebGL(for any browser without the need of plugins) have been also developed using Unity3D. These players, downloaded once, can reproduce any developed and published e-book. All but WebGL players support also offline mode so the user to be able to download e-books and read them without the need of internet connection. Parents have full control of what their kids read.The Qtales Authoring Tool is easily extentable to integrate all exciting upcoming technologies, such as Virtual Reality, Augmenting Reality and 3D Printing.

The impact of Qtales is high due to:
- Qtales offers the fastest way for children book authors to find collaborators, create an e-book and sell it directly through the Qtales Store.
- Qtales is the only completely free platform designed for children book authors, enabling them to find collaborators, create an e-book and sell it directly through our Store, paying only through sales commissions, if needed.
- Qtales is the only authoring tool which is based on a true and powerful game engine, UNITY 3D, “exposed” to leisure and professional users through a simple and intuitive user interface.
- Qtales is the only Collaboration Platform and Authoring Tool based on unique Gamification, Pedagogical and Curation Frameworks especially produced for Children Book and eBooks authors.
- Qtales is the only Children eBook Store which sells only Curated eBooks.
- Qtales is the only authoring tool which is compatible with the exciting upcoming technologies of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 3D Printing."

Related information

Record Number: 192902 / Last updated on: 2016-12-15