Ross Ramsay, Department of Geology, University of Ballarat
Mineral Master, an interactive learning package intended for use in teaching determinative Mineralogy (the recognition/identification of minerals), comprises two 3.5" diskettes and a CD-ROM. The package can be run readily on a PC Windows 95 format with - if possible - facilities to view 256 colours.
The menu comprises: a readily usable mineral data base; student tests of variable difficulty; a search-and-match facility for hand specimens and petrographic thin section identification; general mineralogical references; and a slide show showing images of crystals, crystallographic forms, and crystal lattice images.
The mineral data base is extensive, easy to use and contains a wealth of useful information. A welcome addition would be chemical or electron probe analyses together with structural formulae in the manner of the classical text by Deer, Howie, and Zussman (1992).
The test component has a number of useful aspects from the point of view of student teaching, especially the graduation in difficulty of the questions. However, in a number of instances one is required to identify minerals essentially from an image on the screen and in the absence of additional data (SG, hardness, cleavage, etc.) such images are unlikely to replace hand specimens.
The search-and-match facility has the potential to be very significant and I envisage that such files for cross-referencing will become more valuable with future developments in software marketing. This section is relatively easy to use, once one becomes accustomed to the abbreviations used.
The general reference section is useful whilst the slide show of various crystal models, lattices, and minerals, to my mind, is unlikely to be of significant help in the laboratory. Here I declare my prejudice in that we still have a long way to go to replace teaching using hand samples that students can hold and touch.
In summary I find the package to be a useful adjunct to hand specimens and text books. Possibly the more significant aspect of the package lies with the search-and-match facility which is likely to be helpful to both students and researchers.
UniServe Science News Volume 9 March 1998
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