Although loud noise can be distracting, moderate-level sounds have been shown to help some people in several ways:
- One study found that natural ambient sounds can help people concentrate on what they are working on and improve their mood.
- Another study concluded that a moderate level of noise can help promote abstract thinking and higher creativity.
- Ambient sounds can also help drown out potentially distracting noises (such as office conversations, phone calls, and other noises where I work). This is something that could be very helpful for students in a busy classroom setting.
Thankfully there are many free websites that allow users to listen to a wide variety of ambient sounds, as well as create their own custom mixes. These could be used for the class as a whole, or better yet, students who benefit from ambient sounds could listen to these on earbuds plugged into their Chromebooks or other laptop. This could provide a great way for those students to focus on their reading, writing, and studying, and decrease distractions whether in a busy classroom or an active home.
See below for eight websites that provide free ambient sounds for students, as well as a description of what each site offers.
1) A Soft Murmur
A Soft Murmur offers 10 sounds including Rain, Thunder, Waves, Wind, Fire, Birds, Crickets, Coffee shop, Singing bowl, and White noise. You can play multiple sounds at once, adjust individual volumes, cycle through random volumes (meander), and set timers to start, stop, or fade out the sounds.
Noisli offers 16 sounds including Rain, Thunderstorm, Wind, Forest, Leaves, Water stream, Seaside, Water, Fireplace, Summer night, Coffee shop, Train, Fan, White noise, Pink noise, and Brown noise.
You can play multiple sounds at once and adjust individual volumes. If you log in with your Google account you get access to additional features including saving and sharing of favorite combinations, and settings timers to start or fade out of the sounds.
Noisli also has a Chrome extension to turn on and off your custom combos easily - Chrome Extension link
Moodil offers 15 base sounds with most having variants for a total of 38 sounds. The base sounds include Rain, Thunder, Fire, Water stream, Waves, Night, Frogs, Birds, Forest, Wind, Leaves, Walking, Train, Coffee shop, and White noise.
You can play multiple sounds at once and adjust individual volumes. If you sign up for a free account, you can also save favorite combos.
Soundrown offers 10 sounds including Coffee shop, Rain, Waves, Fire, Birds, Night, Train, Fountain, White noise, and Playground. You can play multiple sounds at once and adjust individual volumes.
MyNoise is one of the more complex options for ambient sounds. The site provides dozens of pre-made audio mixes on a wide variety of categories including Natural Noises, Tonal Drones, Atmospheres, Voices, Industrial, Soundscapes, and more. For each sound mix you can adjust the 10 individual sounds that create the mix, or choose one of the many presets for each mix. There is even an “animate” option that slowly changes the 10 sliders for you over time to create even more natural and dynamic ambient sounds.
6) Ambient Mixer
Ambient Mixer offers hundreds of user-created sound mixes. Each mix contains eight different layered sounds which can have their volume and repetition adjusted. A few sample mixes include The Perfect Storm, Hogwarts Library, Summer Forest, Evening Bonfire, Grassland, Japanese Zen Garden, and more. You can listen to all of the pre-made mixes, or edit them if you want, or even create your own.
7) Tabletop Audio
Tabletop Audio offers over 100 ambient audio selections with a focus on fantasy themes. Each audio selection is 10 minutes in length. A few samples include Windswept Plains, Winter Woods, Lively Cafe, Medieval Library, Middle Earth:Dawn, Woodland Campsite, and more. If you want to design your own audio mixes, you can use Tabletop Audio’s SoundPad tool at http://tabletopaudio.com/soundpad.html Here you can mix and match dozens of sounds from a variety of themes to make the ambient audio you want.
Coffitivity only offers 3 sounds, but each are designed to mimic the ambient sounds of a cafe. The three sounds include Morning murmur, Lunchtime lounge, and University undertones. You can choose any of the three sound options and can adjust the volume as needed.
I encourage you to try out these sites to see which ones are a good match for you and your students. You may find that the sound of falling rain or a crackling fire or a coffee shop helps some of your students to focus when reading or writing or studying. It may also help you when grading papers or developing lessons. If you can't be at the beach, at least it can sound like you are!
What other sites and tools have you used to provide ambient sounds? And what other ways have you found to use background sounds for teaching and learning. Share your ideas in the comments below.
Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1