Learn about how the use of audio can enhance pupil learning experiences with Tilly Brooke.

Can you please introduce yourself?

I’m Tilly Brooke and I’m passionate about education and learning through play – I believe that children learn best when they are having fun! I am the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at now>press>play and I also sit on the management committee for KLASP, a charity that provides a lifetime advocacy service for adults with autism or learning disabilities who cannot speak for themselves.

What is now>press>play and what is your role there?

now>press>play is an award-winning immersive audio resource for primary schools that engages children in the curriculum through sound, story and movement with over 80 Experiences and supporting resources for EYFS-KS2.

In our Experiences, each child is given a pair of wireless headphones. Immersed in sound, they become the main character in a story: meeting people, discovering places and solving problems on an educational adventure they’ll never forget. From climbing through the rainforest canopy in the Amazon to fighting a woolly mammoth in the Stone Age, our audio adventures increase engagement, extend life experiences and inspire children to produce quality writing.

I have overall responsibility of ensuring that now>press>play operates smoothly and efficiently. My role is varied, e.g., one day I might be working on product development, the next I’ll be collaborating with marketing or our account managers. I love that no day feels the same.

Tell us a little about what you did before now>press>play and what sparked your interest in becoming a COO?

My mother was an ex-actress and a primary school teacher. She made up the most wonderful stories about a little witch called ‘Bannasticklebockle’ who did naughty things such as shrinking the class on the way to the library. Throughout her teaching career, cohorts of children were transfixed on the classroom mat at story time and my siblings and I were lucky to be regaled with these imaginative stories at home.

Everything at home was always quite theatrical and story-led and it made life seem magical and full of possibility.

This heavily influenced me, and I too attempted an acting career (spoiler alert: I didn’t make it as an actress). I was supplementing my acting income working at my old primary school, Prior Weston, supporting children with SEN. Meanwhile, my brother and his two friends had ingeniously begun work on now>press>play. When they shared it with me, I immediately fell in love with the concept; it combined everything I loved – the immediacy of theatre and storytelling and helping children to love learning. The year was 2012 and they had just started to work with schools. I jumped aboard and have never looked back.

You’re passionate about providing quality immersive audio experiences for children. Why is this important to you?

In the early days, our co-founders Alice and Oscar would write and record our Experiences at home with actors. Today, our process is finely honed and professionalised. We consult education experts, use professional scriptwriters, actors and sound designers. Each audio adventure is based on a topic or subject in the English National Curriculum. The children have to go on a mission to solve a problem, meeting people and discovering places along the way. For example, in our Fractions experience, you are a stow-away on the Titanic. After it hits an iceberg, the captain calls on your mathematical skills to work out if the ship will sink and how many people can be saved. The experience gives historical context to the Titanic and a real-life application for practising fractions.

It’s important to us that we provide our schools with the highest quality product to ignite learning and to enrich the curriculum teachers need to deliver.

How can schools use audio experiences to enhance pupil learning experiences?

Aside from using now>press>play, there are many other ways schools can use audio to enhance learning, such as:

  • using music to help set the mood as the children arrive in school
  • playing music while children write – experiment with different tempos, speeds and rhythms, and see how it affects their writing
  • using sound effects to help children immerse themselves in a new topic
  • sharing audiobooks for the pleasure of hearing the spoken word
  • recording the children reciting a poem or a story they have written and playing it for another year group or parents/carers
  • listening to voices and sounds that are near and far, and becoming aware of the sound of your own breath and heart. This can be a powerful way to create a safe space for children and adults to receive information and enhance awareness and listening skills.

What advice would you give educators in sparking children’s imaginations?

Teachers are naturally brilliant at doing this – be that through the use of edtech, conversations or stories etc. What and how you do it will always depend on the child and your class. I think it’s about really getting to know your harder-to-reach pupils. Maybe you will need to swot up on the latest school craze and allow them to teach you something!

Or it could be combining a number of resources. For example, Rachel Orr told me that while her class was on break, she left a trail of biscuit crumbs across the tables, and when the children returned, they asked why they were there. She used the FXGuru app to show them that while they were on break the Gingerbread Man and his friends had run through the class. In the corner of the room was a box of now>press>play equipment and the class discovered a note from the Gingerbread Man and friends, inviting them to put on their headphones and join them in their world. I just love this blend of resources and the sense of fun and enjoyment that the learning delivers. It’s guaranteed to engage and capture the imagination of any child.

What benefits does drama have for young pupils and how can teachers best support them in this subject?

Learning through play is actively encouraged in the early years’ settings, but it can be harder for teachers to continue to use drama in later key stages.

I think drama helps to develop a sense of self. It enables you to research and explore other people and places, leading to greater understanding and empathy.

A simple drama activity like ‘hot seating’ helps to develop imagination and empathy skills. Even if children are too shy to perform, they still gain a lot from watching others

What are now>press>play’s values and how do they link with your own?

My values are intrinsically linked to now>press>play.

These are my top 3:

  1. I always try to find a sense of playfulness in everything I do. It makes life and work enjoyable and helps create a supportive environment.
  2. At work, we care about experience, from the Experiences that we create and that the children participate in, to how it feels for a teacher to use our content. In my home environment, I strive to create experiences for my friends and family that are thoughtful and enjoyable.
  3. We also value collaboration. We believe that everyone has their own unique view and something special to bring to the process. Again, this is a wonderful value to apply to home life –start collaborating and so many wonderful adventures unfold.

What’s next for now>press>play?

We are always growing and innovating in all areas of the business. At the moment, I’m enjoying working with product development and marketing on the new Experiences Road Map that we will soon be able to share with our schools (if there is a part of the curriculum you think we should cover, let me know!). We’re also working on something very new but it’s in the early stages, so I’m not allowed to say too much… but watch this space for something interesting in 2023!

Author

  • Tilly Brooke

    Tilly is the COO of now>press>play and sits on the management comittee for KLASP. She is passionate about education, theatre and learning through play. She keeps playfulness in everything she does and believes that work and learning should always be an enjoyable experience
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