Magnification of Scientific Specimens for Students with Low Vision

While at the gardens on campus, a group of my students discovered a snail and we carefully brought him back to the lab for closer inspection.  Using a CCTV (or video magnifier), the low vision students in the class were able to fully study the structure of the snail. Understandably there was an increased interest level in the topic as a result of this careful study.  While observing the snail later in the day on the CCTV, a student in another class remarked, "I have NEVER seen a snail up close like this!"

It has often occurred to me as my classes observe biological and geological specimens that all science classrooms (including general education) would benefit from access to a CCTV.  There are many models of CCTV that are available.  The Topaz (Desk Magnification) and Ruby (hand-held) are the two that I have the most experience with.  Please see the following reviews of these products:

As I conceptualized this blog, I realized that it hadn't occurred to me to write about this topic before, because I have always had a CCTV available for my students and have used it to magnify biological specimens, as well as other specimens. I understand, though, that for many itinerant teachers of the visually impaired this may not be the case.  However, the value of using magnification whenever possible for low vision students deserves attention. 

What types of magnification devices are available in science classrooms?

Other tools that be more available and are less expensive include portable CCTVs, hand-held magnifiers, Apple products including the iPad and iPod, and various tablets which include magnification in the camera setting.  Think creatively about what tools you already have available if you are not able to provide a desktop CCTV for regular use in the science classroom. Speak with the teacher about this topic as well so that he/she will be aware of the tools available and the need to magnify specimens for the student with VI.  Of course, the student himself should be taught self-advocacy in regard to his/her need for magnification.  

It occurred to me that the most likely scenario in which a student with low vision would not be regularly provided with this type of magnification is when he/she uses LP in class and does not use a CCTV to magnify text. 

Please also see the following blog for information on magnification to a screen from a microscope for low vision students:

The Goal in Using Magnification

In summary, our goal in using magnification, whether in the academic setting, for daily living skills, or for Orientation and Mobility, is to make life more accessible for our students with visual impairment.  Likewise, utilizing magnification in science can greatly enhance a student's experience and provide invaluable information for the low-vision student.  With this in mind, TVIs should employ both more traditional means of magnification (CCTVs, magnifiers) and those which might not immediately be considered (iPad, tablets) to meet the needs of your students. 

Magnification collage