Classroom Digital Microscopes

Science teachers tend to have a love/hate relationship with microscopes.  When things are going well and everything works, it’s great.  When students break slides and the microscopes need repair, it can be extremely frustrating.  In our new world of virtual learning and trying to keep a safe distance even when in class, the idea of everyone going to the microscope can be nerve racking.  Here are some of the benefits of moving to a digital microscopy environment.


#1 - Students Love It!

In a world of video games and instant gratification, students are accustomed to viewing live activity on a screen and interacting with it. 

Students who find science “hard” or “boring” are not being engaged in the excitement of science.  Exploring and learning new things is exciting if done in a way that meets them where they are. 

The process of waiting in line to maybe see a specimen under a microscope and drawing it may not be an engaging experience for all students.  It can be tiresome and boring for many students and very time-consuming for teachers.

Imagine engaging your students with the live magnified image projected for all to see.  A classroom discussion about what it is and how it works.  What are the different parts and how do they function?  The “what ifs” are endless.  Students’ curiosity is peeked through lively discussion while everyone is viewing the specimen.  

The digital microscope version of previously boring activities can become truly exciting and thought-provoking.

It gets students excited about learning.


#2 - Saves Instruction Time

As classroom instruction time seems to decrease with each task teachers are give, it is important to become more efficient with the time you have for teaching. 

Teaching with a traditional school microscope involves each student going to the microscope one eye at a time and viewing the specimen.  This can take a lot of time for each student to get their turn and involve each student touching the microscope.  

In traditional microscope activities, it takes at least 10 minutes for all students to see the specimen. When you count in how many specimens you’ve planned to show in a single microscope activity, you can deduce that the biggest part of your science class will go to students walking to and from the microscope and viewing the samples.

With SmartSchool Systems and our digital microscope camera, this changes radically.

Instead of having students approach the traditional microscope one by one, you can project it on a screen using the microscope software for PC, Mac and chromebook.

Not only does it project specimens on a large screen, it also allows you access to different microscope activities and investigations. This is done using the Online Learning Portal, a STEM activities collection which you receive with every SmartMicroScope 5M ordered.

You can also digitalize your traditional microscope using the SmartMicroscope Optix. This is a device that’s connected to a traditional microscope, which then makes it possible to project the image on a large screen. With the Optix, you can also access the Online Learning Portal and start your microscope investigations. This saves valuable instruction time and you’ll manage to do a lot more in your science classes.


#3 – Collaborative Learning

A crucial part of all microscope activities is students discussing what they saw and interpreting the specimen. Collaborative learning is part of all microscope curriculum program and comprises a huge part of students’ success in learning.

Collaborative learning is more effective than a pure pure teacher presentation model. Young students learn and remember a lot better through discussions with their peers. This is part of the NGSS – Next Generation Science Standard. With this in mind, all SmartMicroScope (by SmartSchool Systems) products include teaching materials that are aligned to this standard.

In a traditional microscope setting, students had to view the specimen, get back to their seat and remember what they saw. This can be especially hard with unclear or misremembered specimens. After each student took a turn at the microscope, of course, students who approached it the last have the clearest memory of the visual, while those that came first barely remember it.  This is not even considering the ones that never saw it in the first place.

While discussing what they saw on the microscope, students have to deduce from visuals by memory. This can sometimes be unclear, false or simply misremembered. There’s also no chance to notice something new on the specimen. During the discussion, if a student mentions something the other student didn’t notice yet, they don’t have the opportunity to easily view the specimen again.

A classroom digital microscope fixes this problem. When the students all see the specimen in real-time, it has a huge impact on productive discussion and collaborative learning. Students can use the visual input to discuss what they’re seeing and draw conclusions.

Thanks to the Biology microscope investigations, they can also take part in different activities and tasks related to the specimen they’re seeing.


#4 – Versatile

Traditional microscopes have a very narrow area of specimens that they cover. They are also highly impractical when it comes to classrooms. With a traditional microscope, everything you want to present has to fit on a microscope slide. Therefore, there’s a limit as to what can be seen by students.

SmartMicroScope 5M allows you to view anything you want under a microscope because it’s handheld. There’s no need to calibrate the specimen perfectly to fit under the microscope camera. With this chromebook digital microscope, students can view absolutely anything. The ability to move the SmartMicroScope around makes it ideal as a dissecting microscope or even a replacement for a stereo microscope.

This practical side is especially beneficial as an elementary digital microscope. Since this is, for elementary students, the first approach to science, it can peek their curiosity and interest to be able to view anything they want.

Generally, students are highly interested in microscope activities. They see it as a fun way to discover the world around them and see it in a new way. Imagine their thrill when they have the ability to have a digital microscope view of absolutely anything they want. Due to classroom digital microscopes, students can have an unforgettable adventure in the introduction to STEM science.

There is also a new generation of iphone microscope devices, digital microscope for iPad and Chromebook microscope camera devices. All of these cutting-edge technology devices allow you to connect your digital microscope to your students’ favorite device. This is another level of making science more relatable and accessible.


#5 – Mobile

One of the biggest perks of classroom digital microscope devices is the opportunity for mobility, which traditional microscopes certainly lack. In traditional science environments and microscope activities, students could observe specimens on a microscope slide using a device located in their classroom.

Using SmartSchool Systems devices, students have an opportunity to take their digital microscope outside and observe specimens in their natural habitat.

When you observe the samples in their natural habitat, you have the option to take photos or record videos for later use. This is achieved through the SmartMicroScope Online Viewer and the Online Learning Portal. Access these programs to present to your students the specimens they observed previously.

It’s also a chance to do some outdoors exploring and field activities. Next to the science curriculum goals, it also promotes outdoors time, physical activity and health.

Mobility is a great characteristic for a Biology microscope. It enables students to get a big picture about nature and the environment, because they’re not observing an isolated sample only. Students will love the mobility option that comes with every SmartMicroScope device. You can take this chance to bring science closer to your students in an accessible way.


#6 – Cost-Effective

Many science teachers presume that digital microscopes cost more than traditional ones, buy they actually cost much less and you may need only one per classroom for effective teaching.

On the other hand, in a traditional science classroom, you usually have 10 or more microscopes, which the students use one by one.

With a Chromebook digital microscope, you can use just one and be able to project the image from the microscope camera for everyone to see.

When you compare costs, you can get a SmartMicroScope 5M for $269 and equip the entire classroom with just this one device. It also comes with the Online Learning Portal included. This is a microscope software program which includes microscope investigations for different levels of education.

There is the Elementary digital microscope program, which includes 20 investigations aligned to the science education standards of over 20 US states and the NGSS.

For Middle Schoolers, Middle School microscope investigations offer 20 different projects, along with ready-made student handouts. It’s aligned to the Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS).

High schoolers use the Biology microscope program to perform advanced microscope activities of the US curriculum. They also include 20 different investigations like DNA extraction or Plant Hormones. High school microscopes for students offer a perfect introduction to advanced STEM sciences and college preparation.

When you take into consideration that you receive the access to all these materials, along with a mobile, handheld and versatile chromebook microscope camera device, it’s much more cost-effective than purchasing a single traditional microscope.

If you don’t want to switch from your traditional microscopes, but want to go digital, you can purchase the SmartMicroScope Optix, which allows you to project the image from your traditional microscope on an Apple, Android or Chrome OS device. It turns an outdated, traditional microscope into a digital microscope for iPad.

There are also other iPad microscope options like the SmartMicroScope iGo2. It has an Apple and Android app, which you and your students can use to connect the microscope camera image to your phones. From there, you can view, record, compare or annotate microscope camera images and use them for discussion and learning.


#7 – Assessment

In the US science education curriculum, the 5E model (engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate) places high importance in the evaluation phase of the science class. Assessment is very important to make sure that your science classes are high-quality and that students are comprehending the teaching goals.

Using SmartMicroScope devices you will have the ability not only to view specimens but also to record images and videos. This way, you can use them in later lessons and discussions in the Online learning portal. You can even annotate the images so specimens so they can be used to assess the effectiveness of the lesson.

When you enter the microscope software provided by SmartSchool Systems, you can annotate the specimen you’re currently viewing. After you’re done making edits on the image, you can save it directly to your Google Drive or Dropbox for later use. These images can be used for formal assessments later. Or you can use the “Quick Assessment” mode to quickly determine if the students have learned the material for today.

Use your annotated images in later lessons and revisions to make sure your students have acquired a good grip on the subject. When you notice some specimens are unclear or misunderstood, you can add additional instruction time for those areas in later classes.


#8 – Powerful Software

Along with each product from the SmartSchool Systems digital microscope line, users receive a powerful microscope software. This digital microscope software includes additional advanced features and microscope activities such as measuring specimens, comparing two images side by side and time-lapse videos. It makes the entire process of comparing two specimens much easier and accessible.

The USB handheld digital microscope devices come with three options: 1. Installed software for Mac (site license). 2. Installed software for PC (site license). 3. Web-app software for chromebooks, PCs and Macs.

The SmartMicroScope Optix comes with the web app (SmartMicroScope Online Viewer) for chromebooks, PCs and Macs.

The SmartMicroScope iGo2 utilizes a free app from the app stores for iOS and Android.

This is perfect for Biology microscope activities and advanced investigations for High Schoolers. It enables them to receive a quick visual presentation about the similarities and differences between two specimens.

For earlier stages of education, like Elementary School and Middle School, students can use this microscope software to interact with the visual projected through the microscope camera. Since this is their first introduction to microscope investigations, it’s important to keep it engaging and interesting. This way, students learn to cultivate their love towards nature, the environment and sciences from the earliest age.


#9 – Software Site License

The USB handheld SmartMicroScopes come with installed software for PC and Mac. This software can be installed on any computer on your campus (site license). The software is available on the website for download if you don’t have a CD-ROM drive:

This microscope software can be used on any computer on campus, and it’s easily installed in just a couple of clicks. You will need the software license that is printed on the CD envelope so don’t discard it even if you don’t have a CD-ROM drive.

The option to have your microscope software installed from a website is much more convenient and faster. After you download the microscope software, you’ll be able to use it on the classroom computer with just one click.

When you purchase a USB SmartMicroScope device, you’ll also receive a license (single user or site license depending on your purchase) for the web based microscope software. After you enter the site, just register using your credentials and you’ll be ready to use the SmartMicroScope Online Viewer. You can log in from any computer with that log in information.


#10 – Curriculum and Kits

SmartMicroScope 5M and other digital microscopes for students from the SmartSchool Systems collection are the only classroom microscope devices specially tailored to US science education. Most other products are either made for the industrial market or as a toy for hobbyists.

Traditional microscopes and other digital microscope devices offer absolutely no teaching materials or support related to US science education. Since your school microscope is going to be used in the classroom, it’s extremely convenient to have relevant educational support connected to it.

SmartMicroScope devices all come with access to the Online Learning Portal.

All of the programs and modules in the Online Learning Portal are devised according to the 5E model, with alignment to the US science education curriculum in 20+ states and the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standard).

Online Learning Portal contains activities for all levels of science education: elementary, middle school and high school. It also includes student handouts for each level of education. These microscope activities handouts are specifically designed to go with the included investigations. By using these handouts along with the microscope investigations, you get an all-encompassing science class experience aligned to the US science education standards.

Elementary digital microscope activities include 20 investigations which are simple, fun and engaging intro to science education for the youngest students. Due to their curiosity, this elementary digital microscope kit is designed to accommodate the interests of the youngest ones, directing them onto a path of further science learning and discovering.

Next comes the Middle School microscope investigation program. This module is more advanced than the elementary one and contains 5E-model investigations and handouts according to the US curriculum.

The third kit is for high schoolers and it’s called the Biology microscope investigation program. This chromebook microscope module contains advanced lessons in STEM sciences and aims to prepare students for possible future education in science.

An additional benefit of chromebook microscope devices is that they’re compatible with US classrooms. Last year, more than half of the computers sold to the US education market were chromebooks. This means that a school microscope is the US has to be compatible with Chromebook. Many of them aren’t, but SmartSchool Systems has worked with Google from the early stages to get their USB driver compatible with Chrome OS.


David Walling

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