Coming to a classroom near you ... Dial S for silence
Ask any teacher, whether they have years of experience behind them or are newly qualified, and they will tell you that at some point in their career they have struggled with controlling the level of noise in a classroom.
Much of that hullabaloo can stem from the illicit use of mobile phones. So what better way to control classroom noise levels than by utilising those very same phones as weapons?
New apps designed to help teachers achieve optimum noise levels and increase concentration are coming on to the market every few weeks. Silent Light and Too Noisy are currently the most popular of these noise-control apps and are being downloaded by teachers around the world.
Silent Light works by using the microphone on an iOS device to detect background noise. It shows the decibel level in a simple traffic light system, and teachers can set a target noise level tailored to the classroom activity, ranging from "hear-a-pin-drop" to "aeroplane".
The traffic light stays green when the noise level is at or below the threshold set by the teacher, then turns orange and, finally, red as the class gets louder. The teacher can use a points system to reward children if they are quiet for a set amount of time.
The app was created in New Zealand by two primary school teachers, husband-and-wife team Glen and Monique Storey. The former explains: "We created Silent Light because we wanted our learners to develop self-management skills. Instead of asking the kids to be quiet, we wanted them to have the tools to manage their own learning and noise level."
The other app proving popular with teachers is Too Noisy, which was launched in 2012. The concept is simple: it's a noise-monitoring app centred on a smiley face, which changes expression according to how loud the classroom is. When the noise is at a low level, a smiley face is displayed on the screen. You can also monitor the length of time it takes for a child to earn a point.
Similarly to Silent Light, the sensitivity of the noise meter can be adjusted and the app can be set to count the number of "too noisy" incidents that occur, the threshold again determined by the teacher.
Depending on the set-up of the classroom, both apps can be used by the teacher on their own or interactively with students. The idea is catching on and may well find other uses - not least controlling that loudmouth in the staffroom who you've had to put up with all term.
Both apps are available to download from iTunes.