MultiPoint is a new technology from Microsoft that is designed to affordably increase the reach of existing classroom PCs and help students everywhere build essential 21st century learning skills such as collaboration, teamwork, and computer familiarity. Multipoint enables groups of students to use multiple mice on a single PC, giving students a new way to learn together and have more computer time than ever before. For the price of just a few mice, schools will soon be able to dramatically increase the reach of their existing PCs and extend the education experience. Now that’s global impact
The technology helps shift the student from passive to active learning, creating a collaborative environment for students to interact with.
According to Microsoft, in a classroom of 40 children with only four PCs among them, 10 students crowd around each machine, while one student takes center position and controls the mouse. Other students point, gesture and vie for control of the mouse, but they ultimately have no direct control of the PC and often lose interest and shift their attention elsewhere.
The company says that boosting the PC-to-student ratio by buying more PCs as not a viable solution too many schools in developing countries, and even with more machines, traditional PC set-ups do not allow for collaborative learning and teamwork.
Windows MultiPoint tries to solve this problem, by helping students to use PCs to learn together versus having an isolated computer experience where they’re each on their own PC. In addition, MultiPoint offers an affordable way to decrease student-to-PC ratios, and provides a platform for Windows education software developers to create collaborative learning applications.
Microsoft plans to make an alpha version of MultiPoint software development kit (SDK) available for download in January 2007, and the company has committed to delivering monthly builds until release to manufacturing (RTM) in May, Bealkowski says. In addition, Microsoft is encouraging this year’s Imagine Cup student coders to use Multipoint technology in related category challenges.
The Windows MultiPoint technology works with Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Vista.
Picture this: In a classroom of 40 children with only four PCs among them, 10 students crowd around each machine. Within each group a dominant student – often the brightest, richest, or oldest child – takes center position and controls the mouse. While other students point, gesture and vie for control of the mouse, they ultimately have no direct control of the PC and often lose interest and shift their attention elsewhere. The child with the mouse is learning on his own, and the others are not learning at all.
According to conventional wisdom, the obvious solution is to buy more PCs, thereby boosting the PC-to-student ratio. Many schools in developing countries, however, simply can’t afford more PCs. And, even with more machines, traditional PC set-ups do not allow for collaborative learning and teamwork.
But what if there was a more creative solution to the problem – one that would give multiple students access to a single PC and simultaneously provide them learning opportunities they would not get if each student had a PC to herself? Enter Windows MultiPoint — a simple, powerful technology enabling multiple users to share a single PC using multiple mice or other peripherals and to learn 21st-century skills in the process. The technology helps shift the student from passive to active learning, and the collaborative environment adds a whole new layer of value to the PC in the classroom.
“MultiPoint helps kids use PCs to learn together versus having an isolated computer experience where they’re each on their own PC. When they are accountable for finding the right answer and clicking on it, their learning goes up exponentially,” says Sherri Bealkowski, general manager for Microsoft’s Emerging Markets Education group. “It helps them learn teamwork, collaboration and computer familiarity – the 21st-century skills that children need to learn, especially children in emerging markets, so that they can be competitive and can help their countries be competitive.”
In addition, MultiPoint offers a more affordable way to decrease student-to-PC ratios, and provides a platform for Windows education software developers to create collaborative learning applications, Bealkowski says.
MultiPoint, says Dr. Richard Anderson, a professor of computer science specializing in Educational Technology at the University of Washington, is doing two things. "First, it is supporting collaborative learning, where students are engaged in group activities and learning from one another. Second, it is a cost effective mechanism for expanding the reach of computing hardware. Cheap input devices allow many children to interact simultaneously with a computer, greatly reducing the cost per student. The reality in the developing world is that the number of computers available for education is severely limited, so this simple and elegant mechanism makes it possible for many more students to access computers in a pedagogically sound manner.”
On the Horizon for MultiPoint:
MultiPoint is just one of a number of efforts driven by Microsoft to create economic, social and educational opportunities for people around the world. The innovation came from the world-class labs of Microsoft Research, and the company believes that technology such as MultiPoint can have a positive impact on people in emerging markets. In addition to the Imagine Cup competition, Microsoft plans a pilot program with the support of the Thai Ministry of Education at schools in Thailand using MultiPoint beginning in 2007.
MultiPoint is already exciting education professionals such as Carlton Samuels, chief information officer and professor at the University of the West Indies, who recently attended a MultiPoint demonstration. Instructional technology tools that invite collaboration and foster peer learning would integrate seamlessly into the classroom settings of Jamaican K-12 schools, Samuels says, but the associated cost has always hindered widespread adoption.
“This MultiPoint technology manages to address these issues at one go,” he says. “It enables collaboration and active learning at a price even a relatively poor Jamaican school could afford. It is such a simple idea, but so very effective in addressing our needs.”
Microsoft's Offcial press release of Multipoint