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Using an iPad as a Digital Microscope

5 Nov

We have a set of microscopes from the 1970s that are still in great shape but certainly don’t have the ability to capture images.  Digital microscopy is an excellent teaching tool for many reasons.

1.  The large screen allows for the student and the teacher to view the same image at the same time.  It is a lot easier to teach students about what they are looking at if you both can see the screen at the same time.

2.  Even with digital microscopy I still believe the task of drawing to be very important in the development of my students.  The digital images of the slides provides a great way for the teacher and student to compare their drawings directly to what they see under the microscope.  The iPad allows students to capture the small viewing area of a regular compound microscope and transfer it to the larger screen of the iPad.  Once the image has been captured to the iPad the student and the teacher can look at the image and at their drawing.  A really good conversation about what the student is actually seeing can then take place much easier now that we can point to specific items from the slide and their drawings.

While the images are far from perfect they are much better then most teacher expect.  There are better digital microscope options out there but if you already have an iPad or an iPhone why not incorporate this into your microscopy lessons.

See the examples of the lab below.

Enhancing a Current activity to take advantage of iPad

15 Oct

I thought I would write a post showing an activity before and after the use of the iPads.  In our skeletal unit we assign a joint homework that asks the student to identify the major joints in the body.  The images below show what the assignment looked like before students had access to the iPads.  We asked them to define a few terms and identify joints by looking at some x-rays.  (This was also more challenging for the students because the paper version made viewing the x-rays less clear)


As you can the above images will be much better viewed on an iPad then on paper.  In addition there is not a lot of interaction with the document.  No research or creative inquiry.  With the new document we have added a section to add images and information they gather from either their text or the internet.  They are responsible for figuring out an example of each joint, inserting it into the document and adding other important information that will help them learn each joint.  Each student found their own images of joints and inserted them into their homework.  These images are no longer provided to them by me!

The images below are of the new assignment with the added student work.  This is nothing life changing but just another example of how a homework assignment can become more interactive and meaningful using the iPad.

Using iPads: Students teaching students

3 May

iMovie / Explain Everything / Animation Creator HD / Keynote

In my anatomy and physiology class we are rounding out the year with the last few units, but instead of continuing down the traditional path of a teacher centered lecture followed by a discussion and a lab that usually includes students watching animations or video clips we are switching it up a bit. As I finished up my last unit and looked out at the tired and drained faces of the juniors and seniors in my class I knew I had to figure out a way to motivate and reenergize my class. Some may call it “senioritis” (for some of my students it probably is) but for a lot of my students I think it is more about burn out. Most of them have already been excepted into college and have AP tests coming up next week so here is the question…How do we motivate these students?

My answer while certainly not ground breaking has worked really well and I thought I would share it: Have the students become the experts and teach the class using their iPads as their tool to create multimedia presentations.

I planned this unit on the immune system for my advanced honors human anatomy and physiology class. While this project is designed for this class this model can certainly be used in almost any disciplin.

The Assignment

Students were assigned a particular topic of the immune system and asked to research and create a movie to teach the class about their topic. (see below) Once the research was completed I felt the content each group had gathered was sufficient I gave students choice in how they created their videos. Students were given the option to use applications including iMovie, Keynote, Explain Everything, Animation HD to create their movie. Each movie will end up being between 5-8 minutes long but the expectation is that their presentation that goes along with the movie will be between 15 and 20 minutes. The additional time will be used for student and teacher generated follow up questions, clarification and additional help for students that may not have picked up the information by just watching the movie. I set expectations that the students will be responsible for teaching the material and answering follow up questions. I think this is the key because it is too easy for students to do research, create a script and make a movie without actually learning the material. (Past experience!) This time the students know that they must be the experts and so far they seem to be not only motivated and engaged but learning the material!

iMovie was used as the final product editor. Student brought in slides they created in Keynote, movies they made in Explain Everything and animations they created in Animation Creator HD and put them all together. In iMovie they added music, transitions, voiceovers, titles and credits. Some students used all of the tools and other only used a few.

Explain Everything was used when students wanted to be able to talk and draw on slides or images at the same time. While iMovie allows you to add voiceover audio to any movie or still image you cannot use a pointer or a pen to annotate slides as you talk. We chose Explain Everything as the tool for this because it allows you to export to your camera roll. This was important because students wanted the ability to add these clips into their larger movie located in iMovie.

Animation Creator HD is a great app to use to make simple to complex animations. Some students drew and created full animations of cells and pathogens that were quite impressive not only from a scientific standpoint but also an artistic one. Other students used it in a more simpler fashion by drawing simple objects that were able to appear in sequence while they recored over them. (See examples of student work below to be posted 5/9/2012)

Keynote although not normally associated with making movies is a great way to make images to insert into iMovie. Students simply create a slide that is visually interesting using photos, diagrams, and bullet points and then enter into presentation mode and take a screenshot. This places the slide into their camera roll allowing the students to easily insert it into their iMovie project.

Student Immune System Topics

Complement System

  1. Understand and diagram complement cascades
  2. Role in cell hydrolysis
  3. Role in inflammatory response
  4. Role in promoting phagocytosis

The inflammatory response and the role of Histamines in immune defense

  1. Acute vs Chronic Inflammatory Response / Neutrophils / Macrophages / Mast Cells
  2. Allergies / Anti-Histamines
  3. Stopping inflammation…

Interferon and the usage of Peginterferon

  1. Interferon role and Production
  2. Interferon effect / mechanism
  3. Interferon role in Hepatitis treatment

Physical / Chemical barriers / Fever

  1. Types of barriers
  2. Role of Mucus
  3. Lysozymes
  4. Role of non-pathogenic bacteria
  5. HCL
  6. Pyrogens & Fever

Extracellular specific immunity (Antibody/Humoral mediated)

  1. Role of Macrophage / APC
  2. Helper T, Cytokines, B-Cell vs Plasma Cell vs Memory B-Cell
  3. Role of the Antibody
  4. Types of Antibodies
  5. Clonal Selection

Intracellular specific immunity (cell mediated )

  1. Role of Macrophage / APC
  2. Helper T, Cytokines, Cytotoxic T-Cell vs. Memory Cell
  3. How Cytotoxic T-Cells work
  4. Clonal Selection

Macrophage / Neutrophil /Natural Killer Cells / Antigen presenting cells

  1. MHC I and MHC II
  2. CD4 vs. CD8
  3. Antigen presenting and Intercellular Communication
  4. Clonal Selection


  1. Vaccination & Prevention Strategies
  2. Antibiotics & Mechanisms of Action
  3. Anti-Virals, Cytotoxic (Antineoplastic) Agents
  4. Auto-Immune Disease & Treatment, Anti-Inflammatory, etc…

First Post: Overview of my website

1 May

My name is Wes Molyneaux and I am a science teacher and technology staff developer at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL.  My goal is to create a blog/website where I can post the projects and curriculum ideas that I am implementing in my anatomy and physiology class.  My students currently are part of an iPad 1 to 1 pilot and we are experimenting with ways to create more engaging curriculum that asks students to be at the center of their learning.

I look forward to posting some of those ideas soon!