Published: April 6, 2010

One step into the biology classroom of senior EBIO instructor Stephanie Mayer and you will find posters of magnified cells and plants lining the white walls. Taken by students with digital cameras attached to microscopes, Mayer says the process of capturing an image with only a small LCD instructor as a guide can be tedious.

“You just have a static situation, so what I have been trying to do for years is figure out a way to get a live-image capture, which I think would just be wonderful for teaching,” she said. “With [a] static [image]you have a picture, and you can’t really do anything with it. It’s just a snapshot in time, and you can’t manipulate it at all.”

Researching the company who supplies her current microscope fleet, Mayer found a digital camera capable of producing live imaging she plans to use for her upper-level biology courses. Called the Zeiss Axiocam, it houses a still camera capable of live-image capture in addition to still-image capture.

“I think it will be a great teaching tool; I think it will enhance what we have,” said Professor Mayer.

Professor Mayer found her opportunity to acquire one of these state-of-the-art cameras with the help of the ASSETT Developmental Award. Presently, her classroom houses 20 microscopes, all of which she one day aspires to install with Axiocams.

“So my hope is that if we really like this Zeiss camera, that we are trying out through ASSETT, that we can slowly accumulate a classroom full of them, but it’s going to take a while.”

Although the Axiocam does not record video, its capability of real-time image capture draws Professor Mayer’s attention as a tool for her biology classes.

“I think it will make it easier to talk about to students and demonstrate to one student or even a group of students some issue or some question, some structure they are trying to look at…,” Mayer explained.

Professor Mayer also believes the tool will lead to increased interactions between students and TA’s. This type of relationship between students and TA’s helps foster a social but educational learning environment. While students enjoy the excitement of using a sophisticated piece of equipment, TA’s also gain a practical teaching experience.

Mayer repeatedly stressed how the Axiocam allows for a heightened sense of visual connection between the students and the object they view. Students may find this very visually satisfying.

“I think it’ll be so much more of a dynamic tool for teaching,” she explained. “I mean we get along just fine with static tools, but I really think it’ll add another dimension to students appreciation and understand of what they are looking at under the microscope.”

Apart from helping her students gain a valuable resource for their learning, Professor Mayer believes the addition of the Axiocam could change the nature of pedagogy in her discipline.

“If we have live image capture,” she said, “we may be able to come up with some innovative ways of approaching the subject material.”

-Written by Esteban L. Hernandez, CU' 12, ASSETT Reporter