Aurasma is a free app for smartphones and tablet computers that can liven up lessons by introducing a touch of science fiction.
The augmented reality technology allows videos, animations and other content to be linked to an image of an everyday object. A photo of a book, for example, could be linked to a video about how books are made. If someone with the app scans the book, they can view the video on their iPhone, iPad or Android device.
Shaw Wood Academy in Doncaster started using Aurasma in September 2011, after ICT coordinator Patrick Carroll came across the app. He encouraged pupils to produce talking self-portraits - videos in which they discussed their interests, which were then linked to drawings they had done of themselves. Other pupils, parents and teachers who scanned the self-portraits could watch the videos and find out more about the children.
The school then began experimenting with other ways in which the app could be used in lessons, with Carroll encouraging pupils to contribute their ideas.
The app is now being used to help engage key stage 2 pupils across a number of different subjects. In music, pupils have been filmed performing in groups with the videos linked to photos of each band of pupils. In French classes children can use an iPad to scan the name of an animal or sport on a wall display to access a short animation intended to jog their memory about the word's meaning.
Shaw Wood also runs an after-school writing class that uses the app to make learning more fun. Pupils write and edit their own stories before being filmed reading them. The videos are linked to a picture that is related to the story. The pictures are displayed at school, and parents are invited to visit and use tablet computers to watch the performances.
Tips from the scheme
Don't be afraid to bring new technology into the classroom. If you already use apps for smartphones and tablet computers outside school, why not try using them in your lessons?
Let the children help guide how the software is used. Their ideas are likely to work just as well as yours.
Encourage colleagues to think about how the app can be applied in different subjects.
Evidence that it works?
The school's innovative use of Aurasma helped it to win funding from the SHINE education charity for its after-school writing initiative. The scheme has been successful at encouraging reluctant writers, and teachers have noticed improvements in the writing ability of those who have taken part.
Shaw Wood's creative use of the app led to Carroll speaking about the school's experience at the Bett educational technology show earlier this year.
Approach: Engaging key stage 2 pupils in lessons and after-school clubs with an augmented reality app, Aurasma. www.aurasma.com
Leader: ICT coordinator Patrick Carroll
Name: Shaw Wood Academy
Location: Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Age range: 3-11
Intake: A primary school in a deprived area with a higher-than-average number of pupils on free school meals
Overall Ofsted rating: Outstanding (2006).