CPD Webinar: The Power of Sound for Immersive Learning

How can we use sound, immersive learning, and storytelling to enhance the curriculum for early years and primary school children both inside and outside the classroom? What impact does sound have on increasing engagement levels, stimulating the imagination and building life skills?

Discover our guest speakers’ approaches to working with the power of sound, how it can ignite creative thinking and support wellbeing, along with simple ideas you can get going with.

Schools are language rich, whether it’s silence, listening, or actively making noise to express ourselves, and school is the richest place for those things to be happening.

Webinar Recording:

Webinar Guest Speakers:

Alison Kriel — Education Advisor @AlisonKriel

Alison Kriel was an inner-city Executive Head Teacher for nearly 20 years and a CEO for 5 years. She has a passion for social justice leadership, wellbeing, equity, inclusion and diversity.

Alison has a reputation for excellence in leadership, leading schools with high social challenges to be in the top 0.1% nationally, top 3 in London, and sustain high attainment over time.

Her turnaround school won many prestigious awards including London Gold School Status, SSAT Award winner for Attainment and Pupil Progress, and National Pupil Premium Award winner, as well as being listed in the Sunday Times Top 500.

Alison now works nationally and internationally supporting leaders with the strategic development of their schools, particularly those in challenging circumstances. She is the founder of the newly launched Above & Beyond Education — a social media platform for all educators and schools to celebrate, support, grow, and collaborate to make every school into a great school.

Rebecca Gregory-Clarke — Head of Immersive at National Film & Television School and StoryFutures Academy @BecGC @StoryFuturesA

Rebecca Gregory-Clarke is Head of Immersive at the National Film & Television School and StoryFutures Academy. This programme, funded by UK Research & Innovation, aims to help the UK creative industries to become the most skilled in the world in the use of immersive and real-time production technology for storytelling.

Rebecca was formerly Head of Technology – Immersive at Digital Catapult, and a Development Producer and Research Technologist at BBC R&D.

Jocelyne Quennell – Director of the Wellbeing Faculty, Institute for Arts in Therapy & Education @WellbeingEduc

Jocelyne Quennell is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as a Drama Therapist and Art Psychotherapist. She is also registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) with the Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy College (HIPC).

Jocelyne is a course leader for the portfolio of courses leading to becoming a professional Child Therapeutic Wellbeing Practitioner. She has been in the field for thirty years, with a wide range of experience with adults and children.

She has been a supervisor and consultant for many organisations in statutory, independent, and charity sectors and is responsible for the supervision training for psychotherapists at the Institute for Arts in Therapy & Education.

Jocelyne was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from UKCP in 2009 and is committed to promoting and enhancing quality and standards in training and education.

The Power of Sound for Immersive Learning — Key Insights:

Sound for school

“I see sound as the way in which we communicate with each other and understand each other, irrespective of who is there with you in the community. So diversity doesn’t mean that we can’t communicate through sound, and sometimes we think it can only be done through signals, but there is so much more.

It’s a way of expressing ourselves, and we learn this and how to extend ourselves from the youngest age. We learn it socially and emotionally at home and then at school. We then think about how we’re going to represent ourselves through it, so a critical part of school life is accepting that every child is different, and every child will communicate in a different kind of way, and they see that as an extension of their personalities.

They also learn so much from each other and the adults in the classroom with them. Teachers need to be very present in the way in which they use sound to ensure it comes across as an even and measured way for each and every child.”

“There is also silence and the importance of listening. Silence can be used in a purposeful way so that you can be calm enough to receive teaching and contribute and find a space you can be heard in. It is important for both the teacher and the children.

I think COVID has made us much better at understanding the notion of deep listening. So all of that online learning, which was probably difficult for adults and for children, and children had to negotiate the concept of turn-taking in a different way — learning to listen to just one voice at a time. Which meant we probably got better at deeper listening and we moved beyond that phase of listening to respond and probably got better at listening to understand, a skill many of us were losing over time.

It probably also helped with equity of voice, as every child was given a chance to be seen and heard.”

“True immersive content is not just about being told a story; it’s about making your participant part of the story, so not just a listener but someone who is taking part in something.”

“Schools are language rich, whether it’s silence, listening, or actively making noise to express ourselves, and school is the richest place for those things to be happening.”

Sound for storytelling and stimulating imagination

“Immersive experiences are about building a world you want to be part of, so there is this world-building element that goes hand in hand with immersive storytelling, and sound has such a crucial role to play in bringing those worlds to life. It brings stories to life — it can really ground you in a place and specific time, and tap into emotion.

Some recent innovative uses of immersive sound include History Royal Palaces, The Lost Palace audio tour, which was educational in nature, as well as the kind of work BBC R&D has done in adaptive radio plays which adapt based on the user.

Many areas, from theatre to heritage locations to broadcasters, are looking to use the power of sound to tell amazing stories.”

“Storytelling is a massive part of school life, and I was amazed to discover how many schools no longer have story time, which I think should be an important part of every child's school day irrespective of what their age is, because listening to something unfold does enormous things for the imagination.

And storytelling around the world is another way of opening up experiences in a different kind of way and getting different parents coming in as well as children doing that.”

“True immersive content is not just about being told a story, it’s about making your participant part of the story, so not just a listener but someone who is taking part in something, and that’s how it should feel if it’s truly immersive. Putting them in a place in time and allowing them to interact or influence the story in some way. It doesn’t have to be full-on, it can be really subtle.

There was a great piece again made by the BBC called ‘Make Noise’ about the suffragette movement, and it had the ability to use your voice to interact, so at certain points, you’re prompted to say the names of those you remembered and they brought it to school children and the engagement from them was fascinating.”

The power of sound for building life skills and navigating emotion

“Sound is so important; the human voice for connection and empathy and compassionate presence.

I would also pick up on the theme of deep listening, and also the social justice agenda in terms of equity and liberation, for every child to be able to communicate and express themselves. Children who don’t necessarily talk with words, thinking about neurodiversity, thinking about the way we consider children’s rights around provision, participation, and protection.

We need to support every child to be able to enjoy education and fulfil their potential in terms of their growth and development. In my work, including arts therapies and child and adolescent development and wellbeing, music is fundamental to creative group work, in terms of connecting to children’s own cultural heritage and also in the ways in which they make meaning in their relationships with one another.

The immersive experience is fundamental to the arts in psychotherapy. At the Institute for Arts in Therapy & Education we use sandplay, poetry, puppetry, drama, music, movement, and dance – a whole range of different mediums in an integrative way – and we need that kind of multi-sensory approach to growth and learning, and healing, that involves kinesthetic, visual, auditory, so that children can enter into lived experience with their whole self. To communicate beyond their lived experience which might be beyond words. So empathy, tone, and the way in which we’re able to connect with the rhythm and flow of our emotional experience.

The musicality of communication — I think sound is vital for our sense of who we are in the world and for the development of our relationship with ourselves and other people. There is so much related to mental health wellbeing and social justice, and it’s a feast of possibilities really, to consider the power of sound.”

“We used meditation quite a lot... at the beginning of the school day and immediately after play and immediately after lunch, so that the children had a space, where they could get themselves ready for learning. If something was bothering them, it gave them a chance to work out whether they wanted to share it with someone or let it go for reasons of their own. It did mean they learned about the power of silence, so it wasn’t about emptying minds at all, but it was about to prepare yourself to receive whatever’s coming next and to be very present in that moment.”

“What was so great about using now>press>play was the way the children adapted to what they were hearing in the headphones was deeply personal... it is an opportunity for them to develop a deeper understanding of what happens in the world to others, or what happens to them and how they then communicate that to the world.

It takes incredibly skillful teaching to use that immersive Experience really well because it’s about observing the children and how they respond to the soundtrack and how they express themselves based on what they are hearing and to get to know them.

The quality of writing that we got from the children at the end of a now>press>play session was far superior because the children really thought about what they were feeling and what they imagined was going on, and you can begin to think about the richness of feeling in a different way. It was a way to get the children to think beyond happy, sad, and angry to a much deeper range of emotions and thinking about how they are going to express that.

And once they begin to do that, they understand empathy in a different kind of way and they understand compassion in a different kind of way and it gets extended in life through that Experience.”

“The importance of what is child-centred, finding yourself as the protagonist in a story, and taking risks in terms of spontaneity, play, drama, and improvisation, and that process of self-discovery. Each child finding their own unique personal experience in the midst of that universal story, and whether that’s through story myth and imagination in terms of metaphors or the literal stories of people’s lived experience.

Developing a coherent narrative is key... being able to express themselves and to build their self-awareness, confidence, and self-esteem, to strengthen their capacity for emotional regulation, their identity. Making meaning with others and joining in and going through adventures with challenges can build ego-strength and a sense of belonging, and resilience.

How you can build new neuronal pathways in the brain... we know children’s brains actually grow through their interactions with others. The work of cognitive, social and affective neuroscience today, mirror neurons, are very key to children’s development. So their academic and cognitive learning, as well as their social and emotional learning, can really evolve and develop through sensory, symbolic, and projective play.

Overall, they are stepping into that drama, that landscape of the imagination with their whole self, and that’s wonderful because they are going to be going on journeys – mythological, fantastical – and their imagination is going to be fully stimulated and alive.

And as Becky was saying, in terms of the world they live in, how can we reimagine the world in new ways — we really need to support children to reinvent themselves and the future. And I hope this kind of technology is really a way in for children, to be able to take ownership of the future in new and exciting ways.”

“The way the children adapted to what they were hearing in the headphones was deeply personal...it is an opportunity for them to develop a deeper understanding of what happens in the world to others, or what happens to them and how they then communicate that to the world.”

Inspiring children to make their own sound-led now>press>play Experiences

“I see so much potential to use this medium for students to also make their own soundscapes. There is so much they could do to craft their own worlds and get other people to understand where they are from and their experience of the world.”

“The best type of learning is where children show their understanding by creating... and they are bringing their world alive to whoever wants to be their audience... if you want to understand what is going on your child’s world, observe them when they are doing that kind of role play, to show what they understand through a unit of work is the perfect way in.”

The Power of Sound — Top Tips

Alison Kriel

  • “The importance of silence. Sometimes when you want children to listen you raise your voice but you get the adverse effect. Having seen the power of mindfulness and the whole school approach was really great for everyone’s wellbeing, but it also meant children could go into a space of learning, ready to listen, ready to learn, and ready to be present.”
  • “Make sure children are given the opportunity to express themselves in as many ways as possible. I think we can have a very narrow definition of the way in which children’s voices are allowed to be heard in school, but actually having that diversity is critical.”

Jocelyne Quennell

  • “Listen in depth — be aware that sound can harm as well as heal, and be mindful not to shout at children but to reflect on their behaviours as communication about their lived experience, and look deeper, and go beyond the racquet sounds of what you might initially see in children’s communication and listen more in-depth to what they might be carrying within them. And the kind of internal sounds they might have going on within them as a result of potentially challenging experiences in their own lives.”
  • “Play music to them — of every kind, of every culture, of every different genre. Bring a sort of post-modern medley of possibility to them and let them find themselves in the rhythm and flow of everything that culture, music and art has to offer our kids to help them grow into who they are and expand into everything they can be.”

Rebecca Gregory-Clarke

  • “The UK has a wealth of talented creative partners, producers, and storytellers who want to connect with educators but don’t know the audience the way educators do, so there could be interesting R&D projects that could be fostered out of really good partnerships between the two. So do look out for them via immersive networks and events as well as looking into some of the examples like the ones I’ve mentioned that are already out there to give you more ideas and inspiration.”

If you haven’t already got now>press>play in your school, you can book a free trial here

Our children really love using now>press>play — the ability to transport your mind to another place using the power of sound has increased the enjoyment and engagement in learning.