Wednesday, May 19, 2010


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St James Primary NSW Australia Case Study

Teacher Engages Students,

Covers More Material with

Interactive Participation Tool

“Mouse Mischief engages students…. Lower-achieving students are more likely to be involved because there’s no embarrassment in giving a wrong answer.”

Joe Stewart, Teacher, St. James Primary School

St. James Primary School teacher, Joe Stewart, understands the challenge of engaging today’s computer-savvy students. To make learning interactive and fun, Stewart pioneered the use of Microsoft Mouse Mischief, a free add-in to Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 and Microsoft PowerPoint 2010. Now, students are more engaged and Stewart can instantly assess their understanding, while getting through material faster.

Business Needs

Joe Stewart, fourth grade teacher at St. James Primary School in Yamba, New South Wales, Australia, calls today’s students the “constantly connected” generation. “Children are surrounded by technology from an early age, from cell phones to DVRs to Facebook,” he says. “It has really impacted the way that students respond to teaching and lesson content. I still do ‘chalk and talk’ lessons, but as soon as I put something up on an interactive whiteboard, they’re instantly engaged. They can touch, manipulate, and participate in the content. Children have come to expect this level of interaction.”

In 2008, St. James started purchasing interactive whiteboards (IWBs) for some classrooms. An interactive whiteboard is a large interactive display that connects to a computer and projects the computer's desktop onto the board's surface. Teachers can then control the computer using a pen or mouse. Unfortunately, Stewart’s class did not receive an IWB.

Not to be deterred, Stewart learned that he could turn a commercial gaming system into an IWB for about AUD$70 (U.S.$62). During mid-2008, he worked nights and weekends to create one of these homemade devices. Stewart’s goal was to give kids a way to interact with material that he projected onto the IWB; however, the device was designed so that only one student at a time could participate. “I wanted to develop a multiuser device so that more than one student could use the IWB at once,” Stewart says. The main problem with any IWB is that whoever is using it usually has their back to the class. If there is more than one person trying to use the board they usually cast so much shadow over it or they physically block the board from the rest of the class. This often causes an instant breakdown in engagement for the students in their seats who can no longer see what is happening.

Another major disadvantage of the IWB is the amount of time wasted as each student, one at a time, walks out the front, selects their answer then hands the pen to the next student who walks out the front to answer their question. This turn-taking delay and slow pace of the lesson can be very frustrating for students, especially those who don’t get a go as you will often run out of time.


In March 2009, Stewart came across Microsoft Mouse Mischief, an add-in to the Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 presentation graphics programs that is free of charge and enables teachers to create interactive presentations. When installed, the Mouse Mischief application adds a tab to the Ribbon of the PowerPoint user interface, which teachers can use to add interactive elements to their presentations, such as multiple-choice questions. Large groups of students can answer questions using mice connected to the teacher’s PC. Stewart obtained a beta copy of Mouse Mischief in June 2009 and installed it on his copy of Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007. He was also able to buy every student in his classroom a mouse for about AUD$14 (U.S.$12) each.

When a teacher opens a Mouse Mischief–enabled presentation, students can choose icons for themselves and use these custom cursors to answer questions. Once students have selected their answers, the teacher displays the correct answer. Teachers can have students answer questions individually or as part of a team, to encourage both competition and collaboration in the classroom.

Stewart’s students love Mouse Mischief. “Lessons can be quite noisy, but it’s busy, excited, happy noise. ,Mouse Mischief is often fast-paced where every student gets to answer every question and every student gets feedback simultaneously.” Stewart says. “I can ask students to name the species of a snake or find missing apostrophes in a sentence,” he says. “Students are collaborating and shouting ideas. Normally, if I say, ‘Name the species of this snake,’ one student raises his or her hand and says ‘Cobra,’ and I write it down. Then the next question is asked, and the next hand goes up. A lesson using this traditional method of teaching takes so much longer than if I teach the same lesson content with Mouse Mischief. , which takes a long time. With Mouse Mischief, the whole class is working together to answer the question at the same time. Every student is engaged and is able to participate simultaneously. They all work from the comfort of their desk and no one blocks the screen.”

Through this method of teaching, Stewart can also instantly assess how many students get an answer correct, so he can review the material again if necessary.


By using Mouse Mischief, Stewart can better engage his students during lessons, cover more material at one time, and better assess learning. And because the application is so cost-effective, St. James Primary School was able to save thousands of dollars by not purchasing the additional hardware to complement their existing IWBs to be used as Student Response Systemss. .

Attentive Students, Enriched Learning

Stewart is excited about transforming the way students learn and participate in class. “Mouse Mischief engages students. The children love the ability to select answers and draw on screen,” Stewart says. “Lower-achieving students are more likely to be involved because there’s no embarrassment in giving a wrong answer; it’s anonymous participation. They can have a go, and no one will judge them.”

Mouse Mischief had a remarkable impact on one student in particular. “One of my students was unsuccessful at math; he couldn’t focus and had trouble understanding,” Stewart says. “When we did multiplication lessons using Mouse Mischief, he went from being the lowest-achieving to the highest-achieving student in a week. The child was an avid gamer at home, but in a normal classroom environment, he just tuned out. Mouse Mischief completely changed him. He told me, ‘When we use Mouse Mischief, learning is fun.’”

More Time to Teach and Review

When Stewart uses Mouse Mischief to teach, he can move through lessons much faster than he can when he uses traditional methods. “When I put concepts into Mouse Mischief, I can complete lessons quickly, which frees up time to cover more material,” he says.

Better Ability to Assess Learning

Stewart receives immediate feedback from students on whether they understand or enjoy his lessons. “Using a continuum chart, students can anonymously let me know if they loved a lesson or hated it,” he says. “If I see that most children loved a lesson, or understood the subject, I know that I am doing a good job.”

Inexpensive and Easy to Use

Stewart was able to equip his class with Mouse Mischief and a mouse for each student for about AUD$500 (U.S.$450), in comparison to the thousands of dollars that most student-response systems cost. “Mouse Mischief puts a powerful teaching tool within reach of just about any teacher,” Stewart says. “It has made a huge impact in my classroom.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wireless Mice for Mouse Mischief

Recently I was given two new brands of Microsoft Mice to help implement Mouse Mischief in the classroom. They are the Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 and the Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000. Both are perfect for use with Mouse Mischief. Special thanks to Mj Bailey for arranging these mice for me.

There are 40 in total. 20 are the 3500 model. 20 are the 4000 model. They are both amazing mice - just perfect for Mouse Mischief and other whole class multi-mice applications that I use.

The following information compares each of  these Mice. The 3500 model, although it is not as feature rich as the 4000 model seems to be better for the following reasons.

1. The 3500 model is slightly smaller in size and better suited to children's hand size.

2. The range is greater for some reason. More than 15 metres. I don't understand why as both should be built to the same specs and use the same frequency and receiver. The 4000 model was erratic at ten metres. This may just be an anomally as I have only tested one of each.

3. The button configuration is perfect for Mouse Mischief. The 3500 model has distinct and audible clicks. The scroll wheel is also distinctly clickable. The 4000 model is almost silent when clicking. The scroll wheel also rolls smoothly. There is no distingishable click when scrolling. Also, it is capable of horizontal scrolling as it is also a tilt wheel. This feature isn't necessary for Mouse Mischief. It also has a side button which is configurable. I will disable this button using the sofware provided as students don't need this feature either and it could cause problems with other applications.

The tracking capabilities of both are excellent. They use BlueTrack technology which means they can work more reliably even on uneven surfaces. Same type of tracking that my MousePen uses and that 1st ellusive mouse I bought that I can't get any more!
The battery life of each is also excellent. The 3500 model claims 8 months and the 4000 model claims 10 months!! They also have an on/off switch which is essential.

In fact, the 3500 model is virtually THE mouse that I have been searching for, since I began working on this project over one year ago. (See blog post below for other suitable mice that I have purchased.) All the specs are exactly as I described months ago for the perfect mouse. Its size, button configuration, blueray tracking, frequency and range, on/off switch and battery life all make this the better mouse for this project. It is also quite robust and sturdily built. It is almost as if this mouse has been developed based on what I desired the perfect mouse should be over a year ago. It is also much better quality than the other mice I have purchased. These other mice were about AUS$11 each delivered. I did experience some issues with them and the suppliers though. They still work well but as the saying goes, "You get what you pay for."

The major advantage of the 4000 model is the fact that when clicking the buttons it is virtually silent. When there are 25 mice all clicking at the same time it can become a little annoying. I would love to get student feedback on their preferences.

Finally, if it come down to cost (and this is meant to be an affordable SRS) the 3500 model I believe is cheaper by about $10 each. Please correct me if I am wrong. Either mice would work perfectly (I just want to make more tests with the range of the 4000 model). They are great mice. I wish I had come across them last year.

Again, thank you so much Mj. They will be put to great use. It appears that there may be some very exciting opportunities for me on my return to work. I can't wait."

MMMM. All these mice. But first get rid of the dog.