Microsoft Releases Free Classroom Interaction Add-on for PowerPoint
Microsoft has released a new piece of free software designed to help make PowerPoint more of an interactive tool for classroom learning. Dubbed "Mouse Mischief," the software is a PowerPoint add-on that allows teachers to present materials that multiple students can interact with simultaneously using nothing but off-the-shelf computer mice.
Mouse Mischief is designed to "turn students from passive observers to active participants," according to Ira Snyder, general manager of the the Startup Business Group at Microsoft.
The software works by adding a toolbar to PowerPoint 2007 or 2010. From the toolbar, teachers can add interactive elements to a presentation--such as a question, an accompanying graphic, and a range of multiple choice answers, for example. When the question appears onscreen, students can then use their mice (including wired and wireless mice) to click on their answer.
At the same time, the software provides tools for teachers that allow them to control student interaction, when necessary, by letting them disable specific mice and navigate between slides, among other features.
Mouse Mischief is similar conceptually in some ways to classroom clickers/student response systems. However, said Nasha Fitter, senior product manager for the Startup Business Group, "we're not trying to be a clicker replacement." Unlike student response systems, Mouse Mischief does not tabulate individual scores (although it does compile aggregate totals). But, Fitter explained, it isn't as limited as student response systems in the types of interactivity allowed. And it doesn't require teachers to learn a new platform; it works directly within PowerPoint. And Mouse Mischief's input devices (standard mice) are available at an extremely low cost of entry.
A demonstration by Microsoft of students using Mouse Mischief. Complete video can be found here.
In a blog post today, Microsoft's Snyder wrote that the software also affords the chance to engage students who might otherwise be too shy or embarrassed to participate in classroom activity, an advantage cited by teachers for other types of interactive classroom tools as well.
"Watching Mouse Mischief being used by a classroom full of students reveals other, unexpected benefits--for example, the ability to draw in shy or non-participative children," he wrote. "In one school, I was introduced to a student who would typically never raise his hand or participate, but after using Mischief in class, he turned around 180 degrees and became one of the class' biggest contributors. We've seen this same thing happen in lots of classrooms--when using Mouse Mischief, students don't feel insecure or 'on stage' when answering questions; if they get an answer right, they receive positive feedback, if they're wrong, they can fix it without humiliation."
Microsoft has also launched a Mouse Mischief community on Office.com. There, teachers will be able to upload and share Mouse Mischief resources, including templates and curricula. (As of this writing, 25 free resources designed for classroom use have already been made available.)
Microsoft said it recommends Windows 7 or Vista, which can handle larger numbers of simultaneous input devices than XP (about 20 to 25 for Windows 7 and Vista versus XP's approximately five). Beyond this, base requirements include Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 or 2007, a 1 GHz multi-core x86 processor, 1 GB RAM (2 GB on 64-bit systems), an XGA or greater display resolution, and DirectX 9 or later.
Mouse Mischief can be downloaded directly here. Additional information about Mouse Mischief, Microsoft MultiPoint, and the MultiPoint SDK can be found here.