The HudsonAlpha iCell® is a visual tool for learning about 3-dimensional cell structure and function. Students examine images of cells up close, zoom in on organelles, and click to reveal labels and information for each structure. iCell can be fully experienced online through your existing internet browser, and it is also available as a free app download on the iTunes, Google Play and Windows 8 markets.
Even the least interested biology students will be mesmerized by this program, which lets them move the entire cell, or parts of it, as they explore parts of this critical structure – an experience a bit like driving on Street View with Google Maps, but even easier.
This high-quality interactive allows you to choose images of an animal, bacterial, or plant cell. The web version allows you to click on the cell of your choice, and the view expands into a larger screen with a “zoom” slider, a toggle to add/remove labels and text (handy for quizzes!), and buttons to select text level: Basic, Intermediate, or Advanced. The plant cell has an added option – to show or hide its dense cell wall. The mobile app versions provide much of the same utility for exploring the cell but do not have the ability to remove labels.
Perhaps the greatest fun is to “click and drag,” making the cells rotate around any axis, while the organelles change their shapes and locations in the 3-D display. The bacterial flagella are a must-see, almost popping out of the screen when they’re aimed toward the viewer!
iCell is especially valuable for students who have difficulty imagining objects that are too small to see, or usually shown to them in only two dimensions. The three different text levels are also a great option for classes of students with diverse abilities. All students will gain a deeper understanding of cell structure after manipulating these cells in “3-dimensional space.”
Biology teachers and students from upper elementary through high school will find iCell an exciting and informative resource. This is one teaching tool you’ll want to share with your friends – if they don’t share it with you first!
About the Creator:
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a 501c3 non-profit research institute located in Huntsville, Alabama. Their educational outreach programs reach more than 450,000 people each year, and include efforts to integrate inquiry-based activities into classrooms. They also support a series of middle school student camps, a summer student intern program, and workshops to update teachers’ genetic knowledge by highlighting recent scientific findings.