Improving Science Education 5-14

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Equipment Review

Intel Play QXL Digital Microscope

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Intel has produced a low cost digital microscope, which is one of the best educational ‘toys’ on the market. The microscope is easy to use, robust and comes with user-friendly software.
The microscope has 3 levels of magnification: 10x, 60x and 200x. The microscope is designed for children aged 6+ and is therefore an ideal addition to any primary school science kit. The microscope ‘package’ includes an easy –to-follow instruction manual, software, sample slides and a small kit for collecting specimens.

A real plus for the microscope is that the teacher can ‘see’ what the pupils are seeing therefore explaining focussing to pupils is very straight forwards. Also the software corrects the image so that the slide appears the ‘correct way’ up on the screen and if you move the slide to the right the image moves to the right. This is not what happens with traditional microscopes. Adjusting lighting of the slide is easy to do and the slide can be lit from beneath the ‘stage’ or reflecting light from above the specimen.

The software is incredibly versatile. It allows pupils to take snapshots of their work, add text, Honeybee leg 60x colouredHoneybee leg 60x lit from aboveapply simple draw/paint facilities, export the picture as a jpeg or bitmap file to other programs such as Microsoft WORD and apply special effects such as how the image would appear to a fly! The pupils can also produce a slide presentation along with sound effects; do time lapse photography (ideal for monitoring crystal growth), create short movies or print out their images directly.

Honeybee leg 60x lit from above        Honeybee leg 60x coloured    

See also sample food pics from PIPS2 and for a review with the Motic Digiscope 300 see Science and Technology Equipment News 28 (pdf).

Since specimens can be lit from above it is ideal for magnifying everyday opaque objects. The object to the right is 60x its normal size. Can you guess what it is? Answers on a postcard to J. Birnie, c/o ASDARC. First correct answer wins an all expenses paid trip to the land of NOF for a luxury weekend of ICT INSET. A prize so special that it can’t possibly go uncollected!
The microscope can be lifted out of its stand permitting aspects of the body to be viewed. Clearly there are limits to this! Hand held use of the microscope should be carried out on 10x magnification because any unsteadiness will also be magnified resulting in blurred images.

Use of the microscope fits covers the ICT strands of data logging, collecting and analysing, word processing and presenting. The only limit to the use of the microscope is our imagination. The microscope requires Windows 98 at least and since the microscope connects to the USB socket (Universal Serial Bus), the microscope takes its power from the computer i.e. no batteries required. This means that if you have a suitable lab top, you can take the microscope in to the field.

This is such a useful piece of educational technology that I strongly recommend all school purchasing at least one. Pupils and teachers will have great fun using it. Good news for High schools. All High Schools are getting a free microscope sent to them courtesy of the ‘Year of Science’. Sorry Primaries. However, the good news for everyone is that if you shop around you could buy one for around £70, which is excellent value for money.

Any downside? Yes. The software makes noises every time a function is selected which can be annoying. One solution is to switch the speakers off or mute the sound via the loudspeaker icon in the taskbar along the bottom of the screen. Happy viewing.

CDO Science 5-14

PIPS1 and PIPS2 - The Partnerships in Primary Science Projects.

These projects were funded by the Astra Zeneca Science Teaching Trust.

Ian Birrell at SSERC with any comments about the ISE 5-14 development site.




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