Our building recently was able to acquire a set of new microscopes – and we went with a model from Ken-A-Vision that has a middle-school-friendly design and a built-in camera. Soon, our students will be able to save, publish, broadcast, and annotate images from their adventures in studying microscopic worlds. Microscope images will be able to be saved into a PowerPoint, Word document, Wiki, blog, or academic social network page, and teachers or students can project images onto our BrightLink whiteboards. Using whiteboard pens, the displayed images can be annotated, important items labeled or circled, and this process will help learning become deeper. We will be able to have learning conversations in ways that we have not been able to do before.
Today, 7th graders had their first experience with the microscopes. We don’t have the cam software installed yet, but these scopes also work traditionally, which is an experience we want the kids to have too.
Students viewed prepared slides, which were purchased as part of an introductory slide set. These were fresh out of the box, and the quality of the preparations seems to be great. We’re also very, very impressed by the clarity of the new microscopes. Even though the built-in cameras can not be used yet while waiting for the software, I found I could line up my iPhone with the eyepiece and take a pretty good photo image:
Here is another iPhone pic – of a pine needle cross section:
All of this was very engaging for our students. Something interesting added to the mix was that we found a box of very old slides in a drawer in the lab. Since we wanted to have 4-5 slides for each team to view, we included these in the mix. It was clear they were hand-prepared slides, and very old, and some were labeled with stickers from universities and medical centers. What we didn’t notice until a student pointed it out, is that some had dates listed.
Students asked a lot of questions about the labels and the scientific names listed on both the new and old slides, and… were often grossed out. Pig embryo cross sections, full cross section of gammarus (a marine amphibod that at first glance looks similar to a flea), hydra, and a fly eye (from the 1960’s university set of slides) were some of the ones that drew stronger reactions. Allium, algae, and pine needle were some of the tamer ones, so there was a nice balance.
Next week, students will be checking out pond water, and we’ll try out the whiteboard abilities of the microscope and its built-in camera. Look for a new post then!