Microscope goes beyond classroom walls

The ProScope Mobile by Scalar Corporation is a nifty wireless handheld microscope made specifically for iOS devices – but its best feature may also be its downside.

The microscope allows students to connect iPad or iOS devices directly to the device using the free AirMicroPro app. For our students, that meant switching our wi-fi to the device and manually configuring the connection. With 10-year-olds this took a while. It was a bit tricky to connect as we had to manually configure our access to the ProScope's network IP and subnet mask (lots of numbers for little fingers on iPads even with unique printed instructions).

However, once connected, the ‘oohs and ahhs' began as the Year 4 students and I saw the live video on our iPads. A great feature of the ProScope Mobile is that you can take it beyond the range of the school wireless network and venture into the outdoors. For this reason, I think it would be a great accompaniment for outdoor education and science excursions.

Christine Haynes on the ProScope Mobile.

Image: Christine Haynes.

The interchangeable lens was easy to switch, with the more powerful being the students' favourite. Although the microscope comes with a stand, we were too eager to begin exploring and skipped using it, so we found it hard at times to hold the scope still enough to consistently focus.

The ProScope has a feature that saves selected photos directly to the attached devices' camera roll with the click of a button. Individuals can also capture images from the video stream within the app, with or without the scale overlays.

The only drawback when using the microscope was that we initially wanted to connect our images wirelessly to our TV so that we could share them with a larger group, but because we had to disconnect from the network, we couldn't connect to AppleTV. But, as the microscope claims to be able to connect to up to 253 iOS devices, there are workarounds.

In the class I worked with, the students and teachers both thought they would like to use the ProScope Mobile when learning about science. In our brief exploration with the ProScope, students captured images of living and non-living things and began to see their unique structures and features. While microscopes aren't new to education, the mobility of a wireless scope opens up new possibilities to view the world in context.

Image: Christine Haynes.

Another product to consider is the ProScope Micro Mobile which fits over an iPhone, or iPad. I found this didn't work well for our students as we use defence-grade iPad covers, but teachers might want to access this lower cost alternative as part of their teaching toolkit.

The ProScope products are new to Australia and can be purchased from i-Mag optics. The ProScope Mobile kit starts at $1100 and the ProScope Micro Mobile Kit costs $227. Prices vary depending on the accessories in the kit and reduced pricing is available for large volume purchases for educational institutions.

The views in this article are those of the author. Teacher does not endorse any particular supplier or product.

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