The 21-Tech initiative has allowed me as a Discovery Guide to push myself further on how much information I can process and share with each visitor I encounter.- Odis Garrett, Children’s Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech is a bridge between our museum guides and the visitors in that it creates connections between educational concepts and the real world.- Shawn Waxali, Children’s Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech has helped Discovery Guides engage visitors by extending their experience through the apps and applying it to the exhibits.- Ian Tibby, Children's Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech is a way of ‘hiding the vegetables in the fruit’ where the kids do not realize they are learning, but instead having fun and being fed knowledge that intrigues their minds.- Lauren Bell, Children's Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech provides a new outlet for our Discovery Guides to interact with the visitors in a way that further enhances their experience and makes the visit overall extra enjoyable.- Sylvia Garcia, Children's Museum of Houston Discovery Guide

App: AirMicro and Wireless Proscopes

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One of our favorite apps in the Life Science Lab at OMSI is AirMicro, which connects our iPads to a wireless proscope. Proscopes are hand held microscopes, made in the USA by Bodelin, where the focal length of the lens is exactly the distance from the lens guard to the lens. That means all you have to do is press something against the scope for it to be in focus. Because it’s mobile, we can take it around the lab and look at different animals up close. We can look at anything a visitor is interested in looking at.  If one of our geckos is crawling on its glass cage, we can look at the bottom of its feet.

We’ve also started to incorporate it into our beginning microscope classes. With the help of a few modifications, we can even look at compound microscope slides with our proscope. We use a light board to illuminate the slide from the bottom. Then when we press the proscope to the slide, the image appears on the iPad. It’s similar to the lowest magnification on the compound microscopes we use later in the lab. This is a great way to take about all the different pieces of a microscope, because they are so obviously different when you look at them like this. The iPad is our eye piece, it’s where we view it from. The light box is what gives the slide light, and it lights it from the bottom. The slide is the “something interesting you want to look at.” The proscope, itself, is the objective. This activity really lends itself well to understanding focal length of the lens. If you don’t have the proscope pressed right up against what you want to look at, it’s not in focus.

Since the scope will let multiple (up to 253!) iDevices connect to it, large groups of people are able to simultaneously see what we are looking at with the microscope.  This allows groups to discuss what they are seeing, point to interesting features on the screen, and ask questions of our facilitators or each other.  This makes using a microscope much more a social learning experience than previously possible with compound microscopes because of the nature of the eye piece.


PS: We also like to take close up pictures of random house hold items and send out “What is this?” emails amongst the education staff.

Museum Recommending:  Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Platform Used:  
Cost: App: Free Hardware: $500+

  1. July 24, 2012

    Olga Jankowski

    I just bought ProScope Mobile with 50x lens for my middle school science classroom. I want to buya higher magnification lens as well. What would you recommend 200x or 400x for viewing plant cells, pond life, etc? Thanks in advance for your advice. Which one would be most versatile?

    • August 2, 2012

      Sean Rooney

      Our recommendation is the 400x. We use the 400x to look at cells, and the 200x for threads, hair, computer chips and so on. Both the 200x and 400x are a lot of fun, as long as you’re using prepared slides or a still object. You will need a steady hand, or a mount if you go 200x or higher. It is not as forgiving if you move around since the field is more magnified. Note, that when we look at cells we use bottom lighting. We turn off the light on the ProScope and press it to the sample on a light table.

      As for live viewing, see below quote from our Energy and Environment Educator, Emilee:
      “When I tried to use the ProScope with the pond sample, it was just frustrating. To adjust the focus (on the nose of the scope), it’s really easy to push down on the cover slip, which changes the depth of the water. There are just so many variables that go into the depth of view on a live sample, so the proscope is not ideal. If you want to watch a pond sample with a whole class, I would recommend a camera connecting a microscope and a monitor. The ProScope works well for things that are solid, because you need to be able to press the nose against the object to be able to view it in focus.”

      We have found success looking at live samples while using an adaptor for a compound microscope. This allowed us to use the ProScope as a display camera with the steady lens of a compund microscope.

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Project Brief

21-Tech partners study and share the effective use of Personal Mobile Technologies (PMTs) by gallery facilitators in their work with visitors. The initial three years (2011-2013) of 21-Tech are funded in large part by a 21st Century Museum Professionals award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is led by the Children’s Museum of Houston in partnership with Lawrence Hall of Science, New York Hall of Science, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and Sciencenter. For more information, please visit the About page.

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