Digital Visualization for Science and Math Classrooms

Science and mathematics instruction can benefit greatly from the use of visualization tools. These tools can help us observe events that are too small (biological microorganisms), too fast (the trajectory of a dropped ball in a physics or math classroom), or too slow (transformation of a butterfly into a chrysalis) to see otherwise.


This year we are crossing a watershed – for the first time, more digital cameras will be sold than film cameras. The emergence of inexpensive digital cameras and webcams connected to computers provides an exciting opportunity for students to experience first-hand, phenomenona that previously could only be seen from afar. 

Students’ understanding of science and mathematics is enlarged when they can acquire and analyze these images. In addition, digital images provide a compelling way for students to communicate their learning experiences with other students. The student's role shifts from a passive observer to an active participant, facilitating the learning experience.

Intel QX3

Intel blazed the trail with their affordable QX3 microscope, which was successfully adopted in the late 1990's by many educators. Many people developed curricular activities around the QX3. However, integration of the QX3 into US classrooms was threatened when Intel subsequently discontinued its production.  (It is still available though from DigitalBlue)



CameraScope is the first tool in a series to be made freely available to educators throughout the world through the Thinking Spaces Tools initiative. The goal is to provide a stable software platform around which educators can develop curriculum without fear that it will be made obsolete.

 Screen shot of CameraScope using QX3 Microscope (Image of an emory board)

CameraScope is an easy to use software application that supports a wide range of digital imaging devices, including the Intel QX3, Canon and Olympus digital cameras, and most commonly available webcams. It is easy to take high-quality still images, digital movies, and time-lapse movies of events too long in duration to fully comprehend.

Measurement and Analysis


Clicking on any of the captured movies or still images, students can easily capture information directly into a spreadsheet file for further analysis. The data can be seamlessly viewed on Excel with a single click.

CameraScope Advantages  

CameraScope Example  

For an example from physical science click here.

About the Thinking Spaces Tools Initiative

Thinking Spaces is the online home for a research initiative investigating the authentic and rigorous use of digital images in content area curricula. This initiative emerged from the National Technology Leadership Summit, which convened educators from teacher educator professional associations representing the core content areas, including science (AETS), mathematics (AMTE), English (CEE) and social studies (CUFA), as well as their counterparts in educational technology (SITE and ISTE).

This initial module was developed at the Center for Technology and Teacher Education at the University of Virginia, in collaboration with the Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching at Iowa State University.

We plan to develop a series of tools with associated curricular support that will build on CameraScope's foundation, including image processing and analysis. For example, a small application under development will automatically extract positional information from moving objects, to support regression analysis in real world activities in physics and mathematics classes. These tools will be made freely available without charge to educators and parents under a Creative Commons "Open Access" license.


These educational collaborations have been underwritten with funding and grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the Atlantic Philanthropic Foundation, the International Educational Collaborative Foundation, corporate partners that include Canon, Olympus, and Red Hat Linux, and support from the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE).


A beta version of CameraScope is available here.

Documentation can be found here.

A PowerPoint presentation about CameraScope can be found here.

For Canon Digital Cameras, download and install the support file in the same folder.


Last updated 4/25/04