Innovation: Education

Authentic cell biology with Notability on the iPad

This spring, Nancy Spencer and her class discovered something amazing about their cheek cells.

The students discovered that by placing the lens of their iPad cameras directly against the eye-piece of a microscope, they were able to take photos of cells that had, until five minutes earlier, been a part of their bodies.

And Spencer discovered that by letting her students lead and giving them the freedom to experiment with technology in their hands, she could still be surprised by what they came up with.

Notability on the iPad

“It’s very exciting that, in all these years I’ve used microscopes, this is the first time for combining the microscope with technology on a personal level,” Spencer commented. “Sometimes I’ve had one in class where I’ve been able to project it onto the screen. But to enable the students to really capture the cells, and put it on Notability? I was able to have them label it and have them write the structure and function of that organelle.”

In this classroom, educator and students discovered that authentic cell biology was possible. It makes a difference when the data you gather is about yourself.

What they did:

  • Students swabbed the insides of their cheeks and prepared the cells on microscope slides;
  • Then they placed their iPads’ camera up against the eyepiece of the microscope and took a picture of the slide’s contents;
  • They used the Notability iOS app to mark the different parts of the cell on their digital image, write up the experiment and share it with the educator;
  • Finally they saved their Notability notes to their digital portfolios. The students had previously prepared and examined plant cells, so they were able to compare the cell structures of animal vs. plant cells.

Connect with them:

Mrs. Spencer’s 7th grade scientists would love to hear from any class who replicate their cell biology experiment.

If you and your students elect to take the cheek-cell-Notability challenge and are willing to share your experience with Mrs. Spencer’s class at Harwood (Skype! G+ Hangout!, Facetime!, just a blog post!) please get in touch.

Author

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by five dogs.

Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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