MouseTrial: fun exercises for kids
...for vocabulary, concentration, cooperation and literacy

how to use mousetrial

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All illustrations, animations, software and text ©Dan Welchman Productions

Getting started

You can start up MouseTrial by simply clicking on one of the modules if you're playing online. If you're playing MouseTrial locally on your home computer (having downloaded it) then you'll need to run the file mousetrial.html. MouseTrial is always played using your web browser (usually Internet Explorer). If Internet Explorer is your default browser then you can simply double click on mousetrial.html. Alternatively you can drag mousetrial.html and drop it on the Internet Explorer icon, or you can start it using the "File>Open With..." option from the menu. Once started, you'll see the choice of submodules available. If you like you can then add the page to your browser's list of favourites so that it's really quick to get back to it next time.

supervised or unsupervised?

To begin with you'll probably want to sit with your child as they use MouseTrial. If they're not familiar with using a mouse then you can prompt them with your hand over theirs until they get the hang of it. As your child becomes more confident you can sit back a little and provide less intervention. If your child gets really proficient with MouseTrial you may find that you can leave them to get on with it. You can use the scoreline afterwards to keep track of how many trials they have done.

let them win!

MouseTrial will work best if your child is getting the right answer most of the time. That way they'll become confident and won't be put off when they do make the occasional mistake. Try to make sure that they're getting the right answer about 90% of the time or more. If necessary you can make it easier by leaving out some of the more difficult items or by having fewer items in the array (see below).

make changes with the options page

It's very easy to adjust mousetrial using the options page. The options page for the "numerals" game in the numbers module is shown above. You can use the tick boxes next to each individual item to control whether or not it can appear in the array. For example, if you only wanted to do trials on the digits 1-9 with your child then you could simply un-check the boxes next to the 0, 10, 11, and 12 images. You can also set the array size on the options page. Just type the number you want into the array size box. It's usually best to start off with a small array and then increase it later to make the trials harder and more interesting.

pictures? words? or both?

By default MouseTrial will display an array of pictures to choose from, but you can also opt to display the corresponding word underneath as well. This can be a good way of helping the child to recognise words. It's also possible to use an array of words only. This will test whether the child can identify the word without needing a pictorial clue.

what if they get "click happy"?

When you first play MouseTrial you'll discover that if you click on the wrong item then the right one will flash to give you a hint. This is useful for teaching new vocabulary. But sometimes, a child will learn that you can use this mechanism as a shortcut to finding the right item! You'll know when this is happening because the child will click on any old item at random, and then hit the flashing item with 100% reliability. This isn't something to worry about. It means that your child has independently invented a way to get the computer to do what he wants! This is a skill that will serve him very well as he gets older. It does get in the way of learning vocabulary however, so we need to do something about it. The number of retries parameter is provided to control this situation. The number of retries is set to zero by default, but if you raise it to 1 retry then MouseTrial won't immediately flash the right item in response to a wrong click. Instead, it will just repeat the question. The flashing will only commence if the child clicks the wrong thing a second time. So it'll be slightly harder work for the child to get the hint, and hopefully they'll resort to trying to hit the correct thing in the first place. You can further increase the number of retries to 2 or 3 if necessary. This will usually be effective, especially when you make the trial slightly easier at the same time (by making the array smaller or by eliminating some of the more difficult items).

the score line

This is the scoreline that appears just above the array of images when playing MouseTrial. In this case you can see that the child has made 8 correct hits out of a total of 10 while playing this particular submodule. This is displayed in the black text on the left just after the "main menu" and "options" buttons. Immediately to the right of that there's some text in brackets telling us that of the 8 correct hits 6 were hit on the first attempt and 2 were hit only after a yellow flashing prompt. You can reset the scores for this submodule to zero by clicking the "zero score" button which appears just to the right of this.

The next portion of black text appearing to the right after that shows the scores for MouseTrial as a whole (including all submodules of all modules that you have been playing). You can can reset all of the scores at once using the "zero ALL scores" button at the far right.

different users, online and off

If you log in to your computer under a different user name you'll find that you have a completely separate set of scores and options. So you can tailor MouseTrial individually for several different children. You may also have to enter your MouseTrial license key separately for each user the first time you log in (but don't worry, the same license key will work for all. You don't have to purchase more license keys unless you're using MouseTrial on several computers at the same time). Similarly if you sometimes play here online and sometimes offline on a copy stored locally on your computer, then most browsers will keep separate independent scores and options settings for online vs offline.