Skip to main content

On closer inspection

Glenys Hart offers some ideas for what to do with your school's free Intel computer microscope

In 2001 every school in England was given free, as part of Science Year, an updated version an Intel Computer Microscope. Unfortunately, many are missing. If you have never seen the Intel Computer Microscope it must be sitting in a cupboard in your school. Open the box, unpack the microscope, load the software on your laptop and explore it.

Capture magnified images of mini-beasts or plant life and arrest pupils' attention. Then modify these digital, microscopic and macroscopic images.

First, you connect the microscope to a PC to explore the microscopic world.

Second, place microscope slides or specimens of all sizes under the microscope. Choose top or bottom lighting, select 10X, 60X or 200X magnification and view unique vibrantly coloured digital images on your computer screen.

Its software allows students to collect and save images, modify them by adding text, and record live video to stimulate their interest. By changing video and audio effects and adding special effects an element of mystery can be added. Create time-lapse movies to capture lab results or life-forms growing or decaying. Incomprehensible science brightens into comprehension if pupils take a series of pictures of the advancing shadows of a tree in the playground throughout the day and make a slide show.

With digital microscopy students can print professional-looking images for use in reports and funny stickers and posters. They can also share thrilling images on-screen and send novel representations to classmates, teachers and friends via email. For younger pupils and those with visual impairments, use a multimedia projector and motivate discussions and develop precise, scientific, technical and creative vocabulary.

The best place to start is with the excellent ASE Primary CD-Rom. Guidance notes tell how to import pictures, use the time-lapse facility and make movies, highlight opportunities within the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority science scheme and show how to make best use of the equipment.

Sample slides and images provide a good "starter library" while the quiz identifying some much-magnified material will puzzle and engage learners of all ages.

Let three to five-year-olds use the microscope to observe objects with the help of an adult; five to seven-year-olds store photos independently; seven to nine-year-olds ask questions that lead to investigations; nine to 11-year-olds select when to use the microscope to support their own activities; 11 to 14-year-olds use the microscope for optics and 14 to 18-year-olds use an Interactive Java Tutorial Microscope Simulator to explore how the microscope software and hardware work together. You will wonder why you did not do so sooner. Just watch your students' expressions.

* Glenys Hart was a science adviser and is now an independent consultant References

* TAG Learning has taken over the sale and support of the microscope, renaming it the Digital Blue QX3 Computer Microscope TAG Learning: www.taglearning.comindex.php

To download the Teachers Resource pack for Intel Play QX3 Computer microscope: Be quick because Intel no longer support these devices.

Becta ICT Advice Science Online Inset PrimaryTraining May 2004:

Teacher Resource Exchange:;resourc eId=9904

ASE Primary CD-Rom (microscopes):

Links with QCA science curriculum Years 1-6 links with text in blue which indicates slides that can be downloaded from this site:

Using the Intel Play QX3 Microscope:

A forum for users to share experiences, problems and results:.

Molecular Expressions has useful technical background and tips for getting the best out of the microscope. Especially for KS3 to KS5: http:microscopy.fsu.eduopticsintelplay

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you