Silent Light - Classroom Timer and Decibel Meter is a new app from the folks at Top Storey Apps. It was written by a pair of teachers for teachers to use in the classroom or homeschool environment. The premise behind the app is simple -- it uses the microphone on the iOS device to detect background noise and rewards children when they are quiet for a set amount of time.
The Silent Light app lets you select a target noise level that is compatible with a range of activities. When it is test-taking time, you can set the app to the lowest "hear a pin-drop" level of quietness. If you are holding small group discussions, you can raise the noise level to allow quiet talking, but not loud outbursts. The app rewards children with points for being quiet and you can configure the time, from 1 to 15 minutes, it takes for a child to earn a point. The app can be used on an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch that is placed on a student's desk. If you are using one device per classroom, you can also output the display to an HDTV using an Apple TV or a compatible digital AV adapter.
Silent Light uses a very familiar traffic light graphic to visually represent the noise level in the clasroom. Red is too loud, orange is getting loud and green is within the level of quiet needed for an activity. A timing meter counts off the minutes and changes color to give kids real-time, feedback about their level of noise. A rewards counter keeps track of the points that awarded for times of quiet activity. When you are done with your quiet time, you can start over by changing the activity title and resetting both the timer and the rewards counter.
I tested Silent Light in my own home and found that the app works exactly as described. It picked up ambient noise and reported it as loud based on the noise level that I selected. When I selected the ultra-quiet pindrop level, even quiet whispering between two or three children triggered an orange warning light. When I turned the level up to group discussion, my children were allowed to talk, but not laugh or yell without the app warning them they needed to quiet down.
Warnings are visual only -- the timing meter turns red and the traffic light turns orange or red. There is no alert or other audible cue that the noise level is too loud. (According to the developer, there is a xylophone ding that should chime when the noise gets too loud). The only audible in the app is a cash register noise that chimes when a new point is added to the coffer. This noise can be turned off by lowering the volume on the phone.
Silent Light - Classroom Timer and Decibel Meter is an effective visual tool for classroom or homeschool teachers who want to reward children for their quietness during activities. The Silent Light app is available from the iOS App Store for US$3.99.