Microsoft Makes Some Real Mischief in the Classroom

Have you seen the new product (in beta) from Microsoft called Mouse Mischief?  I heard about it on Twitter a few weeks ago.  It’s an add-on to PowerPoint aimed squarely at the K12 market, but it’s of potential interest to those in higher education looking for alternatives to clickers.

To use Mouse Mischief as a classroom response system, a teacher embeds a special multiple-choice question slide in her PowerPoint presentation.  Each student in the classroom needs a mouse connected (wirelessly, no doubt) to the teacher’s computer.  When the question slide is shared with the class, each student sees a unique mouse cursor on the big screen.  They manipulate these cursors with their mice, using them to click on their answers to the question at hand.  The program then provides a bar chart showing the distribution of student responses.

I hear a lot about clicker alternatives that involve student cell phones or smart phones or laptops, but this is the first tool I’ve seen that uses mice as student input devices.  That’s a clever idea, but it has a very significant flaw.  Since the students can see their peers’ mouse cursors on the screen as they answer, students can’t answer independently!  This means that you’ll see the same lemming effect you see with hand-raising.  Once students start to figure out which cursors belong to the “smart kids,” they’ll just wait for those kids to answer and copy them.

Given this very significant flaw, I can’t really see how this tool would be useful.  It’s better than a show of hands, I guess, since it records student responses, allowing teachers to hold students accountable for their class participation.  That’s a good thing.  But the lack of independent responses is a real deal-breaker in my view.  What are your thoughts on Microsoft Mouse Mischief?

Image: “Mouse,” by pure9, Flickr

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