Using audio to boost learning

Tilly Brooke, Director of School Engagement & Marketing at now>press>play, explains how audio learning can improve engagement in the classroom.

Today’s world is full of images and screen time, and so much of this is wonderful and inspiring both in and out of the classroom. But are we missing a trick? What about the simple power of audio?

UCL recently conducted a year-long study with Audible (part of UCL Innovation and Enterprise) and showed scenes from well-known stories and film to participants to gauge the physiological impact of auditory versus visual storytelling mediums. The results showed that:

“… listening to audiobooks produces a stronger emotional reaction to the content than watching it on a screen, yet when the participants were surveyed after the exercise they assumed they had been less engaged.” — Dr Joseph Devlin, from UCL Psychology & Language Sciences.

We all know how important it is to develop children’s listening skills; that children should be provided with opportunities from a young age to listen to stories. Storytelling is perhaps the oldest art form — a form and skill we continue to pass down generation to generation, whether it be an aural story, a book, an audiobook or even a film. When sharing aural stories we can engage in conversations, provide children with scaffolding words and sentences that help them contextualise and above all feed their imagination for further creative and emotional exploration.

At now>press>play, we believe there is nothing more powerful than the imagination to develop creativity, support learning and encourage emotional development. Our audio experiences place each child at the centre of a story that is linked to the curriculum, a powerful tool that teachers across the country use to develop literacy and topic engagement.

When children participate in our immersive experiences they are not staring at a screen. We don’t tell them how the scene should or shouldn’t look. We simply provide them with rich vocabulary and a binaural soundscape that makes the experience feel real and brings each topic to life. Children become totally immersed in the experience, actively participating and engaging their imagination as they perform tasks, solve puzzles, and move around the room.

This might sound like a lesson in which the class are out of control. Actually, any passers-by will only see 30 children wearing wireless headphones, moving around and performing actions in unison, in complete silence. Take a look at this brilliant video of the inspirational teacher Simon Hunt and his class doing now>press>play for the first time.

We currently work with over 40,000 children across the UK, mainly in deprived areas where children often have limited life experiences. We provide experiences that are rich in language, and place ‘listening’ at the centre of that experience. The immersive experience is so engaging that many children spontaneously share their thoughts and feelings, providing the teacher with a golden opportunity for writing.

Chisenhale Primary school in Tower Hamlets, London, have been using now>press>play for the last 5 years and have embedded this way of learning into their curriculum.

“now>press>play enabled the lower ability children within my literacy group to focus on describing and retelling the story. They were able to focus on the techniques and strategies they learnt, instead of what to write because they had actually experienced being in Ancient Egypt. But the biggest benefit has to be that they enjoyed writing and were taken away from the mundane and thrust into the unreal.”

Find out more about now>press>play. National Literacy Trust members get a 10% discount — find out more.