Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM
USING CELLPHONE CAMERAS TO ENHANCE STUDENT LEARNING OF MINERAL IDENTIFICATION AND TEXTURAL CHARACTERISTICS THROUGH MINERAL/ROCK THIN SECTIONS
Identifying minerals and textures in thin sections is often challenging for students, especially in sophomore/junior-level mineralogy and petrology courses. To help with these efforts and also to foster student engagement in lab exercises, we suggest integrating the use of cellphone cameras into mineralogy/petrology lab exercises that utilize petrographic microscopes and rock/mineral thin sections. Students take photomicrographs directly through a microscope ocular using cellphone cameras in any setting (e.g. plane/cross-polarized light, etc.), giving the student an excellent way to document a specific mineral or texture. Image quality depends on the camera quality and user steadiness; images taken with smartphones are higher quality than “flip-style” phones. In a typical lab exercise, students were asked to take images for three to four questions and e-mail them to an instructor prior to the exercise due date. Feedback was given only when the mineral/texture in the image was incorrect. Having a photographic record made assessment easier because there was no ambiguity about what a student was looking at for a specific question. From the student perspective, helpful aspects of taking these images included:  the images are a nice record (e.g. resource/study tool) of lab activities;  the images made asking questions easier (e.g. instructors could be shown the image outside of class);  students had to know exactly what they were looking at, which resulted in more time spent on the thin section and a better understanding of the lab exercise. Problems centered on:  picture taking, quality, and transfer to a computer could all be less than ideal for students lacking smartphones;  lack of instructor feedback (e.g. was the image appropriate, etc.);  too much of a reliance on comparing images taken to existing images from internet resources (instead of actually obtaining optical characteristics for mineral identification). In the future, students will work in more formalized groups with at least one student who can transfer images easily from their phone to a computer and more feedback will be provided. Overall, student feedback was positive; we highly recommend using cellphone camera photography in similar laboratory exercises elsewhere.