Tag Archives: iPad

Digital Microscopy with an iPhone: Magnifi by Arcturus Labs

11 Jan

I am really excited about a new product just launched a few months ago.  In some of my early posts I have talked about how to turn a regular light microscope into a digital microscope using the camera on an iPad.  This works great, however it can be really frustrating trying to align the camera with the eye piece, getting it in focus and then having a free hand to hit the picture button.  It can be done but takes some practice and usually two people.

A new product by www.arcturuslabs.com has made this process a lot easier, at least for iPhone uses.  They have created an adapter that allows you to hook your iPhone up to most microscopes allowing you to take pictures, record video and then share them anyway you want.

I am excited to use this in my classes and even more hopeful that they might create one for the iPad.

See their video here:   Magnifi

Another new note taking App

19 Dec

As students perform more and more of their class work on the iPad we are really putting note taking apps through it. We have tried Goodreader, iAnnotate, NoteShelf, Remarks, Notability and now UPAD. So far none of them are perfect but we are now leaning towards UPAD. Remarks was our standard at the beginning of the year but we saw consistent problems with data corruption and deleted annotations. While we really like the typing features and the interface of Remarks we can’t stand by and watch our students keep losing work. We have moved to UPAD. It has a great handwriting engine, pretty good folder structure, decent typing tools and the ability to read PDFs and take free hand notes. Students have not lost data and are therefore trust UPAD with their work.

We are always looking for a new note taking app. If you have suggestions send them our way.
Requirements for a good note taking app…
1. Handwritten notes
2. Typing took
3. PDF reader
4. Free hand note taking section
5. Connect to either WebDAV and/or Dropbox
6. Folder structure that allows students to organize their notes
7. A way to open the notes in other PDF apps
8. Ability to change tools, colors and options quickly and easily.

I know there are more but at some point you have to stop!

Critical Reading with an iPad: Good, Not so Good or just Different

13 Nov

This was an interesting email sent to me by one of our AP English teachers.  The email describes his class’s experience using the iPad to read critically.  

About a week and a half ago the students finished reading their first full-length novel in iBooks, The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I asked the class for their feedback on the process of reading a full-length novel on the iPad, since this was the first time we had done it. Up to this point all of our readings had been shorter works such as essays and poems – things I would’ve handed out as Xerox copies in previous years.


There were several interesting comments they made about the experience of reading on the iPad, several of which I thought I would share with you and you are welcome to share them for the larger record in the iPad pilot. I had 20 students in class on the day I did this in informal survey. All of the comments below were agreed to by at least two or three students.


Students said that the iPad fundamentally improved their notetaking process, but in an unexpected way. They said at the beginning they found it very frustrating that they couldn’t simply take out a pen and write quick handwritten notes in the margin or underline quickly. Then as they continued reading, they realized that the extra effort of highlighting and opening up a note was actually beneficial to them. They said that it made them very conscientious of when they wanted to take a note. The girl who spoke in the most detail said that she normally would highlight huge sections of the book and never be sure why. She just had a gut instinct that they were important paragraphs or something like that. But with the iPad and the extra effort it took to actually get a note in the margin, she found herself being much more thoughtful about the way she annotated a text. She felt like she needed to know what important ideas she had to add in order to go to the extra trouble of making that note. To me as an English teacher, this is an immensely important change for students like this girl. Annotating become something that they are much more thoughtful about then simply making a star or a highlight. I did not anticipate the specific reaction, but I’m thrilled to see it happening.


Several students expressed some frustration with the inability to quickly see the notes in the margin while they were reading, since in iBooks all you see is a small colored square indicating that a note is embedded at that location. But as soon as that comment came out a large number of students suggested that they were really pleased to be able to see the larger pattern of notetaking and highlighting in a text by looking at the screen that shows all of their notes together on one page. They liked the idea of being able to review and even email their collective notes on a text. This was an improvement I anticipated, and I was pleased to see it raised by the students without my input.


Some students found the variety of colors irritating or overwhelming, but other students found the variety of highlighting colors helpful. A couple of the mentioned that they would never have that many highlighting tools on their person with a paper text, but they like the idea of being able to develop their own color-coded system in a digital text.


Several students said that they liked reading on an illuminated screen for a number of reasons. The funniest reason that two students mentioned was that the bright light shining in their eyes helps to keep them awake if they were doing homework at a late hour. Not sure if we want to enter that into the record, but I was amused that several students agreed with this.


Finally, I surveyed the 20 students in the room after we had gone over assorted likes and dislikes of reading a novel in iBooks. I asked them to choose one of three options: (1) reading a novel in iBooks was a net minus with more irritations that benefits compared to a paper text; (2) reading a novel in iBooks was a net plus with more benefits than irritations compared to a paper text; or (3) reading a novel in iBooks was equivalent to reading a paper text, with different sets of positive and negative qualities that balanced out about the same as reading a book on paper. The results were: net minus = 0 students; net plus = 10 students; about the same = 10 students.

This was a very surprising result for me, as I anticipated that there would be at least a handful of students who found the reading less appealing on the iPad. Now granted I have five students absent that day (there were several field trips) but on the whole this was a very positive development.


I wanted to make sure I put it down for the record, so that you could share it in whatever way makes sense. Feel free to get back to me with any other questions you might have about this, and I’ll keep you in the loop on things. I’m having a very hard time getting to Technology Planning Committee meetings this year, because they fall I have day where I have some family obligations in the afternoon. I will not be able to attend this week’s meeting either.



Remarks: Failing Us

11 Nov

In my classroom we have moved away from using Remarks as our note taking app because of two reasons. First the app corrupts PDF files at an unacceptable rate. Out of our 600 + students using Remarks we found that most of them have had more then two corrupt files in the first two months of school. The response from the App developers about this has been rather slow.

The second reason we have moved away from it is because students saw their annotations disappear from PDF documents. This also was a fairly regular occurrence. When trying to motivate students to learn, annotate, and answer questions on their iPads having their hard work just vanish was not helpful!

We are now testing many new note taking and PDF annotating apps including UPad, Notability and iAnnotate. If you have any ideas please let us know!

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.