Educators typically aren’t strangers to sonic chaos. Spend 30 seconds in my classroom of 27 ten-year-olds on a Friday before the bell rings, and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve tried everything to quiet the cacophony that is Room 5, but nothing worked until I discovered a silencing savior called Too Noisy Pro. This app relies on a visual display and peer pressure to keep classroom volumes at appropriate levels.
Too Noisy Pro, priced at $2.99, is the most affordable and effective method of noise control that I’ve found. Students can self-monitor their noise level and earn rewards for keeping it within the specified range. Relative to competing apps, Too Noisy is more engaging, child-friendly, and customizable. It helps teachers create an environment conducive to learning and, of course, less jarring to their weary ears.
Methodology: I started the testing process by downloading several noise-monitoring apps, including the free and paid versions of Too Noisy: Too Noisy Lite and Too Noisy Pro, respectively. I downloaded them to my iPhone and iPad and used each app in class daily for two weeks. I assessed each app’s ease of use and effectiveness.
Pros: Kid-friendly backgrounds and rewards engage students. Teachers can set the noise monitor’s sensitivity for different activities (e.g., reading or class discussion).
Cons: The alarm sometimes may sound unnecessarily or too quietly.
User-Friendliness (4/5): The app has an attractive, clean, and easy-to-use interface. You can manipulate settings with a few taps.
Teaching (3/5): The app encourages sound levels appropriate to students’ comprehension and concentration. The star rewards system reflects research that shows students learn better with endorphin-releasing encouragement.
Support (5/5): FAQs and technical support are available within the app. You can email questions and suggestions instantly.
When you open Too Noisy, you will see a noise meter in the center. To the right is a smiley face, but try screaming into your device, and you’ll see Mr. Smiley isn’t always so carefree. As the ambient noise level increases, Mr. Smiley goes from beaming to frowning to crying and plugging his ears.
First, I went into settings to adjust the sensitivity to fit the current activity. For instance, when my kids have to do certain projects, I break them into groups so they can share supplies. Too Noisy has a preset for this — “group” — that accounts for the appropriate noise level. It has similar presets for “class,” “quiet,” and “silent.” When the volume exceeds the predefined level for three seconds, an alarm sounds, the display shatters, and, sadly, Mr. Smiley weeps.
The alarm options are one of the neatest features. I could choose from six alarm options or record my own, which I did. When my kids get too loud, they hear, “Oh no! Mr. Smiley is crying! Shhhhhhh!” You can also choose different backgrounds, including a Halloween theme that my kids love in the fall. Students earn a star when the class stays at the acceptable level for the time specified, which can range from 1-15 minutes.
Research has shown that classroom noise levels can range from 60-70 decibels, the noise level of city traffic and vacuum cleaners. Studies have also shown that children, because of their neurological immaturity, are inefficient listeners and thus need optimal sound conditions to listen and understand.
That’s what Too Noisy did for my classroom. At first, my kids were a little distracted by the novelty, so we went through a few tests where I let them deliberately set off the alarm. Afterward, I noticed immediately that students began shushing one another when Mr. Smiley displayed distress.
The star rewards system also motivated my students well. My classroom got noticeably quieter, and that meant that I could teach more effectively.
Too Noisy’s closest competitor is Silent Light, a classroom timer and decibel meter app. The app displays the noise level in the classroom through a stop light system — green for appropriate levels, yellow for rising noise, and red for excessive noise. Staying on green for specified periods earns the class points.
While Silent Light is useful for many of the same reasons as Too Noisy, it is less engaging and kid-friendly. The changing emotions of Too Noisy’s Mr. Smiley appeal to my 5th-graders infinitely more than a stoplight does. Also, as Graphite notes in its recent review of Silent Light, incentives aren’t built into the app itself.
Other reviews have good things to say about Too Noisy. In the iTunes App Store, it has a four-star rating out of five. Similarly, Classroom Collective called the app “excellent for classrooms.” And Graphite called it “handy” for making students aware of their noise levels.
Too Noisy Pro is arguably the best $2.99 that I ever spent. While the soundtrack to teaching 5th grade is never going to be peaceful, this app made my classroom appreciably less rowdy and my students more aware of their noise. To my fellow teachers leaving with ringing ears every day, I recommend Mr. Smiley and his Too Noisy app to help you take back control of the classroom.