Microsoft's free program allows for collaborative PowerPoint presentations.
Joining in the effort to keep students engaged in the classroom, Microsoft on April 30 announced a new addition to its PowerPoint software that allows students to participate in classroom presentations. The best news: It’s available free of charge.
The new tool, called Mouse Mischief, allows teachers to add multiple choice, yes/no, and drawing questions to their presentations. Students then use any computer mice (any device from the school will work) to answer these questions. The tool also allows for whole-class or individual student responses.
“We’ve observed classrooms around the world, and it’s a no-brainer that technology has the power to engage students—but not every classroom has the budget to afford new technology,” said Nasha Fitter, senior product manager for Microsoft in an interview with eSchool News.
“We’ve also observed that many teachers use and feel comfortable with PowerPoint. By making Mouse Mischief free and easy to use through any mouse, we’re cutting down costs while helping to make learning engaging for today’s students.”
After Mouse Mischief is installed (teachers can download the application at http://www.microsoft.com/multipoint/mouse-mischief/), the Mouse Mischief toolbar will appear as part of the PowerPoint ribbon when a new or old PowerPoint presentation is opened. The toolbar lets teachers add interactive elements, such as multiple-choice question slides, with a single click.
Once the students have selected their answers, the teacher can display the correct answer. The tool also calculates the percentage of students who answered the question correctly; if a teacher sees that, say, only 20 percent of students got the correct answer, perhaps the students need more time or a different way to learn the concept.
“Since no one can tell whose cursor is whose up on the presentation, this tool can really help shy students, too,” said Fitter.
More control, more resources
Because Mouse Mischief allows for the whole class to participate in answering questions, teachers might find it difficult to ask an individual student to answer a question with multiple cursors on the screen.
However, according to Microsoft, one teacher already has figured out how to isolate individual student answers on screen.
“It’s called a parking lot,” explained Fitter. “What this means is that as part of the PowerPoint slide, a square that resembles a parking lot is added in. The teacher then asks all the students to place their cursors inside of the parking lot. When a specific student is called [on] to answer a question, [that student] can take [his or her] cursor out of the parking lot.”
Special teacher controls also allow instructors to disable students’ mouse cursors, navigate between slides, set timers, and more.
The idea of the parking lot, advice on how to use the application, and many other resources will be available to teachers using Mouse Mischief. Microsoft enlisted the help of an expert from Teach for America to create 25 PowerPoint question templates, which can be viewed and used by the teaching community during classes.
“We really wanted this to be a community of sharing,” said Fitter.
So far, there have been 1,200 downloads of the beta Mouse Mischief software by teachers, mostly from the U.S., but many from around the world as well. Two hundred schools participated in Mouse Mischief’s beta research phase before the launch to help make the tool as efficient and easy to use as possible, Microsoft said.
Microsoft Mouse Mischief