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SUTHREN, Roger J. and KEARSLEY, Anton T., Geology, Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford OX3 0BP, U.K.

Paper presented at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Toronto, 29 October 1998, in Session 169: T13. Creating Learning Environments with the Internet and Multimedia II - NAGT and AGI

A flatbed colour scanner is an invaluable tool for converting geological photographs and maps into digital format for a variety of uses, including developing web pages for teaching and learning. A logical development was to try scanning flat geological specimens, such as sawn and polished rock slabs, and this works well. Not only can an overview image of the whole sample be produced, but high-resolution scans of small areas allow detailed views such as would be seen using a microscope.

The next step was to scan three-dimensional objects, such as rocks with rough bedding surfaces, and mineral and fossil samples. Perhaps surprisingly, this too works successfully, giving a depth of focus of around 15 mm. Again, it is possible to 'zoom in' on fine details, by scanning small areas at high resolution.

There are several advantages of direct scanning of geological materials: 1) scanners are cheap, and no film is needed; 2) publication-quality images; 3) quick, simple macrophotography, with minimal training needed - much simpler to use than a dedicated photographic set-up; 4) the image can be manipulated in a graphics package to adjust lighting and colour, and to add labels and emphasize features of interest; 5) if a compressed format such as .jpg is used, many images can be stored in a small space.

There are many possible uses of directly scanned rocks, minerals and fossils in teaching, learning and research, including: 1) web pages and paper handouts to support traditional and distance learning; 2) replacement of published materials (e.g. labelled fossil diagrams), which can no longer be used as multiple class copies because of copyright restrictions; 3) producing labelled images to help students know what they should be seeing through the hand lens or microscope - useful for beginning students or subtle features; 4) overcoming the problem of having only one good sample of a particular feature for a large class, or giving access to rare or fragile specimens; 5) 24 hour and remote access; 6) rapid production of images for publication; 7) rapid exchange of 'virtual samples' between research workers, either privately or on the Internet.

We have used scanned images of samples in web pages to support student learning, and in web pages written by students for course credit. Scanned rocks, minerals and fossils can never be a replacement for the real thing. However, used alongside natural materials they may play a valuable role in helping students to understand those materials.

This page is maintained by Roger Suthren. Last updated 14 January, 2019 3:57 PM