Teaching Mineralogy with Crystal Structure Databases and Visualization Software
Integrating Research and Education > Crystallography > Physical vs. Virtual Models

Physical vs. Virtual Models

Do students prefer physical, hands-on crystal structure models (e.g., physical ball-and-stick and polyhedral types) or those generated by the computer? Does its depend on which concepts the models are being used to teach? Does student preference for a particular model type track student comprehension as determined by test scores? Does a synergistic effect result from using both physical and virtual models in complementary ways in the classroom? Unfortunately, little research has been done investigating the relative benefits of traditional physical models of crystal structures versus interactive, computer-generated structures for student learning and comprehension. This page presents a brief outline and commentary of some recent research results that are relevant to these issues.

Student preference and ease of use

Student achievement and understanding

Using different models to teach different concepts

A common theme of the available research is that different types of structural models can be used to illustrate different concepts. Some of those concepts are listed and discussed below.

Studies supporting the use of both physical and virtual models in the classroom

Cost considerations

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