Computer microscopes are changing the way science is taught in the elementary and middle school classroom. Traditional methods involved setting up bulky equipment along with making flawless slides for getting a clear picture of the object to be studied. Students would many times struggle to locate the critical elements of the prepared slide. With the computer microscope it has become easier for the teacher to concentrate on content rather than setting up the equipment. Images can be projected on a large screen for the entire class to view.
Hand-held digital microscopes such as the SmartScope are one of the best science tools for use in the classroom. Firstly, it can be easily set up by simply connecting to a computer through the USB port. This simple feature has eliminated the need for the teacher to explain details of the instrument, as in the case of the light microscope. Secondly, the hand-held digital microscope has a flexible lens which is capable of achieving a range of magnifications.
Viewing prepared glass slides of common specimens of animals, insects, plants, amphibians and frogs, is as easy as setting the tip on the slide and adjusting the light level and focus dials. Many students struggle with making their own slides, for instance when the slides develop air bubbles. The computer microscope allows teachers to project a single slide for every student to see allowing them to discuss important features using only one slide. Students can even work individually, eliminating the need for constant attention of the teacher.
With the help of the computer microscope teachers can now encourage self study, as the instrument is easy to operate. Students can study in groups since the device can be connected to the computer using the USB port and images can be studied on the computer monitor. This method allows a more interactive learning experience, as students can discuss different ideas and new things with each other. Students can work in groups to import images and make PowerPoint presentations.
In addition to everyone being able to view the samples, many computer microscopes feature the ability to record video and time-lapse videos which can be used to study different stages of a particular process such as cell multiplication or a chemical reaction.
Computer microscope software often allows the students to take still images of the sample being studied. The advantage is that students can take the images over a period of time as well as at the exact time when a process takes place, thus providing them accurate picture of the process under observation.
Computer microscopes have not only improved the teaching standards, but also encouraged students to work together and learn as well as they share different ideas on the subject being studied. In most cases students found it difficult to learn and understand subjects such as biology, physics and chemistry. More often it is difficult for the teachers to create a picture that correlates theory with the actual environment. For instance, when intricate structure of rocks is being taught in the class, it may not be possible for the students to visualize its existence in the real world. However, technology has now made it possible for the students to relate concepts learned in the lectures with what actually exists.