Editor's Note: Today we welcome Alvin Tan, a physics teacher in Singapore, as our guest blogger. If you recall, he was the teacher who recently had a special in person visit from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
I first started using an early version of Microsoft Mouse Mischief when it was introduced to me last year during an AsiaPac Microsoft Partner-in-Learning workshop. It was called ‘Multi Mouse” then, if I remember correctly. My first impression was that it is more suited for Primary school pupils because of its interface and it was somewhat ‘childish’ looking. However, I like the fact that it gives every child a ‘voice’ in the classroom and really increases the interaction between the teacher and pupils.
In the beginning of this year, I was wondering how I could set up a low-cost Students’ or Classroom Performance System (some called it Clickers). I was thrilled to stumble upon the Mouse Mischief beta version and the fact that it was developed as a free-of-charge downloadable add-in for PowerPoint 2010 and PowerPoint 2007. It cannot be compared with Clickers, which has much more functionality than Mouse Mischief. Mouse Mischief, however, provides the basic function of real-time polling and gives all the pupils the opportunity to participate in the activity. That met my objectives for the following reasons. First, Mouse Mischief being free-of-charge reduces the hassle for me to prepare a technology plan to request funding. Second, as an add-in to PowerPoint the learning curve is greatly reduced because I think educators are so familiar with using PowerPoint that the functions become very intuitive. Third, regarding hardware, the school has many mice lying around after condemnation of old PCs so that they can be recycled for use. This helps reduce even more cost! I had some problems with the beta version crashing on me at least one time in my lesson, but I still use it as I saw its potential to really engage the class by using an interactive lesson!
I am a Physics teacher and I use Mouse Mischief for misconception analysis. I came out with True/False and multiple choice questions on some common misconceptions about Physics concepts. I also collected common mistakes or misconceptions from the daily work or assessment and turn them into True/False or multiple choice questions. This really helps address the common mistakes made by my pupils. I also use Mouse Mischief for daily lessons. I copy-n-paste my lesson slides into a Mouse Mischief template and use the slides to check for understanding after a section in my lesson. Mouse Mischief has given me the opportunity to identify and clarify some simple things that I assume my pupils know. However, the real-time polling results show otherwise! In addition, the timer in Mouse Mischief adds a competitive element in the lesson and my pupils love it! Some challenge themselves to be quick and accurate in their answers. I still remember the first time I used Mouse Mischief in the classroom—it made the whole class really excited and I could see they had fun also!
One of the ‘disadvantage’ of Mouse Mischief is that everyone can see all the mouse pointers. Therefore, there can be a copy situation where some pupils would wait-and-see to select the more popular option. But frankly speaking, I am not bothered about this. I usually adopt the collaborative strategy of Think-Pair-Share. Each pupil has a partner and they are supposed to discuss the answer first before they make their choice. For the academically weak pupils, I would pair them up with those who are academically stronger to provide peer guidance.
One problem I face is connecting all the wireless mice. The wireless (Hovono) mice I bought seem to have generic nano receivers. Sync’ing one mouse to the receiver may disconnect another mouse. So, I have to spend some time to get all mice connected, use more wired mice instead, or I simply get pupils to bring their own wireless mice! Hey, if you want to reduce cost further!
Take note of this if you are buying wireless mice: they should be 24 GHz, must have long range and preferably include a nano receiver for ease of storage and ‘clean’ look. If you are connecting more mice, an AC powered hub is recommended; although, I have survived 2 × 10 ports USB hubs and 1 × 7 port USB hub—all USB powered at the same time!
Here is my setup:
- Fujitsu laptop running the Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) operating system
- The 2007 Office system
- 2 × 10-ports USB hub (USB powered)
- 1 × 7-ports USB hub (USB powered)
- 14 wired mice
- 8 wireless mice
- some USB extension cables for wired mice
I have done a survey about which is the most effective ICT tools (blog, forum, Twitter, MSN, Microsoft Live@Edu, GoogleDocs etc.) used by me in my lessons and these are some of my students’ feedback:
“The Mouse Mischief pollingz, definitely. It’s the most engaging and interactive tool as it gives a competitive feel, or rather, a thrill with a group, instead of working solo. Working in a group is something that interests youths a lot. It’s a tool which is fun and educational and very effective in correcting fellow classmates misconceptions. Especially for myself.” – Lim Junhao
“I felt that the Mouse Mischief add-in to PowerPoint was the most effective. It aids us in getting rid of our misconceptions in the chapters we have learnt, ensuring that we will not repeat the same mistake in our exams. The class is also separated into groups, so there was a lot of interaction involved too. In groups, we were able to share our ideas and debate on what we have thought all along about the chapters we have learnt, thus allowing us to gain new insights on what we have thought previously.” – Ng Kim Li
“I felt that Mouse Mischief is the most effective tool for my learning. The main reason is because by using this, I am able to clear all of my misconceptions of a certain topic in a particular subject. This helps to further improve my understanding of the foundations before going deeper into the topic. It aids my learning as it explains the main points and thus, helps to form a solid understanding.” – Rashid Bin Ahmad Yusoff
“I think that Mouse Mischief is most effective for my learning. As other than just learning, it serves as a very good way to recap our knowledge and to test our understanding by setting up some trick question. Also, it is in the form of a game, so I will be more interested. Lastly, after each question, it shows us the results of who got it right or wrong and hence, it enables us to look out for areas we might have misconceptions on.” – Amelia Lim
“I think that Mouse Mischief is most effective for my learning. It helps us to test our understanding of the different topics and corrects common misconceptions so that we will take note of them and will not make the same mistakes again. It is more fun than having class tests. Our mistakes are also addressed straight after everyone answers the question while the question is still fresh in our minds.” – Tan Sheau Shiun
“I feel that Mouse Mischief is most effective for my learning.. Mouse Mischief tests us on our concepts of Physics, and allows us to clear our misconceptions on any specific topic. Should most of us answer a certain question incorrectly; Mr. Tan would then help us clear our doubts by going into details about the topic the question was derived from. It is more effective as we would be able to clear our misconceptions immediately. Mouse Mischief is also in the form of a game, hence, we would be trained to think faster so as to be the first to answer the question swiftly and correctly.” – Chew Yi Ting
So, I hope you guys give Mouse Mischief a try and start giving every child a mouse today!
Ngee Ann Secondary School, Singapore