As a primary teacher in London, Jenny Cooke was keen to find ways to excite her young pupils about other countries' geography and daily life. She wanted to reflect some of the thrill she had experienced visiting foreign places - including doing charity work with schools in Zambia - and bring that into her lessons at the independent Harrodian School in Barnes.
But when she looked online for materials, many of the web pages she found, such as those on Wikipedia, were aimed at much older readers than her Years 3 and 4 children. Others seemed too drab and lacked interactive elements. "I was so frustrated that there wasn't a resource that was age-appropriate and that also looked good and relevant," she says.
Cooke decided she would set up a website herself. One of the first people she approached was Rodney Fitch, a veteran designer whose international design company Fitch has clients including Microsoft, Disney, Jimmy Choo and HSBC.
"I pitched it to him and he loved it," Cooke says. Rodney Fitch organised a professional team to design the website's brand and came on board as a shareholder and the company's chairman.
The website, Oddizzi - a play on "odyssey" - features two characters, Odd and Izzi, who take pupils on a tour of the world.
The material includes a child-friendly interactive map, a live news feed, games and materials aimed at pupils in the foundation stage and key stages 1 and 2, written by teachers and travel writers.
Schools can access some materials for free, but get more by paying an annual subscription, which costs up to #163;199. While most schools that have joined are in the UK, the site also has subscribing schools in 25 other countries and has a "ClassPals" system for them to form partnerships and send each other messages and digital postcards. Cleves School in Weybridge, Surrey, and the Wellford Academy of Technology and Science in South Carolina, US, found each other through the system. In November, the US pupils used it to ask about Guy Fawkes Night while the British pupils responded with questions about Thanksgiving.
Cooke is keen to stress that the site is more than just a geography resource, with links to other curriculum areas including languages, literacy, art and global awareness. After 10 years in the classroom, she has now left teaching to work full-time on the site, which has two full-time and three part-time staff.
Tips from the scheme
If you think a resource is needed for your classroom, other teachers may want it too.
Do not underestimate the power of branding to make your educational product stand out.
Evidence that it works?
Although Oddizzi has only around 100 subscribing schools so far, it has already been widely recognised in education technology awards. It won the BETT award for primary digital content and has been shortlisted for the Education Resources Awards being held today at the Education Show in Birmingham. Cooke has also received a Mumpreneur gold website award, a prize given to mothers who are also entrepreneurs.
Approach: A website that gives young pupils an understanding of other countries
Started: The project began in 2009 and the website was launched in 2011
Leader: Jenny Cooke, former teacher at the Harrodian School, Barnes