Many schools are now well established with using iPads; they’ve embedded workflows and planned their whole school assessment strategies incorporating both digital and traditional classroom practices. The focus then often turns to thinking about longer-term considerations of sustaining learning and further developing skills with the iPad.

Even if your school is currently only at the beginning of your iPad journey, it will benefit you to consider these more advanced aspects of what can be possible with iPads to help you set up your iPad programme for future long-term success.

Dual Coding Theory is an interesting approach that was proposed by Allan Paivio in 1971. The concepts and practice associated with it are very much part of best practice for digital technology in schools to support long term learning and understanding. The theory suggests that our brains can recall information from both visual and verbal stimuli and, if we find a way of exploiting these two approaches simultaneously, then this can really help children with the long-term remembering of information.

As teachers, if we can find a way of effectively combining visual materials with words/audio, then we can improve the ability of children to remember details and improve recall.

Allan Paivio's 'Dual Coding Theory'

Fortunately, iPads allow us to create and share audio and visual resources very easily, allowing teachers to work with this model and plan effective dual coding activities.

If we have established a workflow to distribute resources and worksheets electronically, we have a lot of options to use in the classroom. Starting with Pages, Keynote and Numbers – these allow us to create engaging resources, whether documents, presentations or spreadsheets, and they all allow for the easy embedding of video, images and audio. We can also throw into the mix that Keynote is a very adept tool for creating animations. In these ways these apps give us lots of possibilities for effective dual coding influenced practice.

Here are some ideas to get us started:

  • Create a digital resource, but allow space at the side to include a verbal explanation
  • In Pages, create a document with images in text boxes, and ask the students to drag images to match them up with recorded audio explanations, they could also use the drawing tools to draw links between the two
  • In Keynote, give the students a set of slides with images and ask them to add audio explanations, perhaps include a sequencing element to organise the slides into a logical order
  • Provide a blank diagram and ask the students to add audio labels, and then use the drawing tools to annotate and add arrows etc.
  • In Numbers add audio questions, or even quotes, in the first column, and ask the students to complete the second column with images, diagrams or appropriate answers
  • Create a visual timeline and a selection of audio events, and ask the children to listen to and place the audio elements appropriately on the timeline

If we’re already using Sparkjar as part of your assessment strategy, and to share resources and assignments digitally, the above ideas become seamless and part of our everyday practice. Sparkjar also offers very powerful tools to support learning within its core interface, which can leverage the concepts of dual coding even more fluidly. This approach is quick and simple and there are no other apps involved as it can be done at the same time as sharing content.

For example, we can:

  • Share images, diagrams or charts with the class and ask them to add audio explanations of facts, processes or context within the app
  • Flip this idea round and provide an audio explanation, and ask the children to analyse the content and create a visual resource, such as a diagram, a translation or flowchart, the nature of which would be topic dependent
  • Give the children an image, map, or document and ask them to embed audio notes into the image or document at appropriate points to explain concepts or demonstrate knowledge, such as identifying the parts of a plant or the stages in the water cycle

Of course, there are many more apps, and many more approaches and ideas, but hopefully this has given you a little bit of an insight into the power of dual coding to support and sustain learning. When used regularly, it can be a very powerful tool in the classroom, and iPads and Sparkjar make this easier than ever to put in place.

To arrange a chat about any of the contents and suggestions in this article, or to find out more about Sparkjar for your school, just enter your details and the Sparkjar team will be in touch:

Stay tuned for my next post on using video for learning beyond lockdown

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