I teach a semester-long introductory physical geology course (lecture and lab) taken by non-geology majors at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a public, state university in Birmingham, Alabama USA. I use the AGI/NAGT Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology (current edition) to structure my laboratory course. And after some introductory topics, students study mineral identification during one three-hour laboratory session and take a quiz on mineral identification the following week.
My students are like those in many universities today, working at least part-time, with increasing demands outside of the university that reduce student access to campus and designated times for lectures and labs. Student absence is a significant factor that reduces academic performance and success.
One motivation for creating this website was the inability of students who missed the mineral identification lab to return to campus and access the mineral kit and facilities for study at any other time. Without access to the physical samples for study, most students would find it quite difficult to learn testing procedures and engage the repetitive practice needed for preparing for the mineral identification quiz the following week.
I designed (and continue to develop) this website for all my face-to-face students to use as a supplement to their on- and off-campus study of minerals. I created and assembled media that should provide the necessary information a student would need to learn even after missing the mineral identification lab, to prepare for the following mineral identification quiz. Of course this presumes the student engages sufficient study time needed for learning the required material.
I anticipate that this body of information may also be useful for deployment solely in the online instructional environment. However, I do not believe this website would serve as a standalone mineral identification lab without additional contextual documentation.
My underlying guidepath is a practical approach to mineral identification - hence, the title "A Practical Online Study Guide". In text, images, and short videos, I demonstrate how a test is done, what to observe, and how to interpret results. With a few exceptions, this website contains instructional text, images, and short videos that demonstrate most (but not all) of the activities that normally occur in a face-to-face introductory mineral identification laboratory. Additional resources are also included, such as supplementary activities that extend the importance of minerals to commodity resources and strategic minerals critical to our nation's technology.
I've arranged the presentation of mineral properties needed for identification largely in the traditional order of the laboratory manual. In mineral identification, this usually begins with luster, a property that separates metallic (a smaller subset of minerals) from non-metallic (a larger subset of minerals). In my experience (and I'd bet for many other instructors), novice students find it difficult to identify luster for some minerals. Beginning with a more difficult task is not good pedagogy. As a result of this experience, I have developed a simple and cheap electrical conductance test for separating most metallic from non-metallic minerals. All that's needed is a $1 flashlight. My students find it fun (gasp!) and they also learn a bit about electrical circuits that seems engaging.
I have created downloadable documents, such as the data form and identification charts and figures, and licensed them under Creative Commons. You are free to use and adapt my documents according to the license in the document.
I have utilized images from many sources, and I have tried to identify each with the relevant credit. I wish to specifically give a shout-out to Roger Weller, editor of the geology home page at Cochise College (Arizona). Although retired, Weller created and maintains a website archive of over 10,000 images that was reported in 2010 to receive more than a million hits annually. Over 3,000 mineral images are available for educational use. Thank you, Roger.
If you find that an image of yours is not properly credited, or that you believe it is inappropriately displayed, inform me and I will comply with your directive.
This is the first iteration of "Mineral Identification - A Practical Online Study Guide", and I can guarantee that typos, errors, and omissions abound (and even bad web design).
If you find this site useful and you want to see it improved so it serves you better, please contact me (also footer).
Scott Brande, 6 July 2019