Microsoft education evangelist Dan Roberts espouses some multi-mouse magic – and it's free
 Microsoft Mouse MischiefIn these tough economic times students, teachers and schools are feeling the pinch and looking out for cost-effective new ways of engaging learners. Ultimately they are seeking classroom innovation for free. Welcome to Mouse Mischief from Microsoft.

What is it? Mouse Mischief is an add-in for PowerPoint that lets teachers and students design interactive quizzes, questions, polls and slides with PowerPoint. And students can respond to them simply by the click of a mouse.

How does it work? You can download Mouse Mischief for free (here) and it then automatically becomes part of your PowerPoint slide decks, built in as part of your 'ribbon' tool bar. It works in the 2007 and 2010 version and runs on XP, Vista and Windows 7. The best part of this is that your presentations can now be truly interactive. When the PowerPoint is played through, students can respond to the questions on the slides by the click of a mouse. And up to 25 of these can be run from the teacher's computer rather than students having to use other computers.
You can view the system in action below in a video created by some students:

All students need to get interactive is a mouse – and most schools have many of these lying around gathering dust. Each student can plug a mouse into the teacher’s laptop or computer. If they have wireless ones it's even better because they can plug a wireless receiver into the teacher's USB port and away they go.

Because up to 25 individual mice can be supported, the system can used as a useful alternative to the relatively expensive "instant response" handsets that cost thousands of pounds and are more difficult to use. And because Mouse Magic is built into PowerPoint, any teacher's existing slides can be made interactive by simply adding new questions.

How can it be used? Mouse Mischief is a fantastic tool for engaging students and enhancing the learning in your classroom. Students are given the opportunity to get involved in interactive learning that increases their participation while having fun. So far we have used it successfully here at Community School across several different subjects from Year 7 to sixth form for multiple-choice revision quizzes, for questions following a short video clip or for getting students to create their own quizzes to use as part of a revision lesson. It has even been used to draw the electronic configuration of elements in a chemistry lesson.

You can hear exactly what our teachers think of it on the short video below:

A feedback comment from one of our teachers mentioned a possible downside – that it does not collate the students answers to keep a record of their achievements. However this could be a positive thing, especially if you consider the quote below where one of our students liked the fact that they don’t have to worry about answering a question in front of the peers in the class and getting it wrong. One way of getting around this would be to get your students to keep track of their own performance during the presentation.

What do students think about it? After using it for a week in our school this is what our students said:

  • “It is really fun and interactive;
  • “It is great for visual learners;
  • “It helps you learn from your mistakes;
  • “I like it because I can answer the questions without worrying if I am going to get it wrong;
  • “It really engages you through being competitive.”

How can you use Mouse Mischief in your classroom? See for yourself by downloading the software for free here. You will also find  some ready-made PowerPoint templates too.

Make sure you watch this simple instructional video that shows you exactly how to use it and how to create an interactive Mouse Mischief presentation:

If you have ambitious plans and have a small amount of cash available, then why not invest in a class set of wireless mice which will cost around £150? Alternatively, use the spare mice you already have in school.

More information

You can find more details about Mouse Mischief on the Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Network  
Mouse Mischief
Microsoft Multipoint Mouse Software Development Kit (SDK) 

See also how Microsoft's multi-mouse technology is exploited in Scholastic's Story Stage products in "Story Stage opens door to classroom mash-ups"

Dan Roberts is deputy headteacher at community School, Plymouth, and is a Microsoft education evangelist in the UK for 2011

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