Monday, July 23, 2012

Up and running

Driving Cars in a Traffic Jam
(Photo credit:
I wanted to do a quick post to thank everyone for the positive feedback I've been receiving with the new incarnation of The new site is up and traffic is running smoothly. So far, so good.

 I had some apprehension over blocking part of the site off with password protected pages. My concern mainly stemmed from the fear that teachers wouldn't want to explore the site further than the first page. It needn't have worried, as the password requests have been coming steady and strong. I think my response time has been good as well; I usually get a reply out within 1-12 hours.  The added bonus for me has been the words of praise and encouragement I've received with the requests.

 This brings me to the main thought of this blog post. I've often been asked why I bother to put so much time into the site when I don't receive any compensation for it. It's a question I've asked myself, but truthfully, it's the intrinsic value of producing something for others that keeps me going.  Daniel Pink hit the nail on the head in his book Drive.  In Drive he examines what it is that motivates us as humans.  Based on scientific studies of the past, he concludes that there are three essential elements that will encourage us to accomplish things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  I can affirm that all three are present in what I do.  I have complete autonomy with Real World Math.  It is my creation and I am my own boss.  I have a personal investment in it.  I've strived to what I do well, and so the idea of mastery is also evident.  From learning the Google Earth application in the beginning to using HTML formatting and video production, I've found the work holds my interest and challenges me to do better.  Perhaps most importantly is purpose.  As Pink describes it, "the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves".  Most assuredly, I would not keep up the site without the response and interest from others.  I feel that I am providing something others want.

And so, I would like to thank all of you who have visited the site, requested the password access, and especially for the kind words you have shared with me.  You have encouraged me to do more and to do it better.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The new site is up!

The new site is up and running!  The entire staff here at Real World Math (me) has been working around the clock transferring files from the previous website and adding polish to the new one.  It's still the same URL but it has a new look and features for teachers and students.

The biggest change is that the site is now built to accommodate teachers and students.  Whereas the old site was intended as a resource site for teachers only, the new site allows students to retrieve the necessary Kmz downloads.  They can also view the Google Earth tutorials, videos, and additional content I'll be adding in the future.  The teacher portion of the website is now password protected.  The material on these pages includes the lesson write ups,  teacher downloads - such as lesson notes and answer keys, and a link to the blog.  My main intention for setting up the site in this way is to make it easier for teachers to share material with students.  I anticipate making some adjustments throughout the next year, so please let me know if you would like to see some feature added or improved.  The website, password and all of the materials are still free.  I hope it looks like a pay site, but it isn't.  To receive the password to the site, simply fill out the Contact form listed in the menu.  It would be helpful if you include a note with your job description.  I realize this isn't a fool proof deterrent for students.  I'll just have to rely on my teacher 6th sense.

Another reason for the format changes is that the website material is now in it's fifth year.  We all know that technology waits for no one, and so I'm trying to modify the content to better fit the times.  For instance, the browser feature in Google Earth's main window was not available when I constructed the majority of RWM activities.  I think the browser can be utilized even more in Google Earth lessons and serve as a connection to Real World Math from within the application.  I'm also trying to consider how to format activities so that they can be performed on tablets or smartphones.  Devices like these weren't available when I first started the website.

While transferring files to the new website, it became obvious to me that some of the material needs improvement.  A lot of this has to do with my improved skills with HTML and video work, but mainly it's because of outdated material.  Some of the files are over 4 years old and so I'm finding a lot of dead links in the Kmz's.  I've spent the last four days editing The Iditarod Challenge Kmz.  It seems that one of the resources I relied on heavily is no longer on the Web so I had to find a lot of new material.  While I was at it, I reformatted the placemarks with HTML and new image links.  I think it's one of my best activities and now it looks awesome.

In parting, I'd have to say that it was strange watching the old website fade away.  It was something I invested countless hours on and so it was kind of like saying goodbye to an old friend.  The last time I saw the visitor count the final tally was 184,772; which is at least 184,000 more than I'd thought I'd have.  I can't tell you how much your visits to have exceeded my expectations and driven me to do more.  I sincerely hope the new incarnation will have as much success and be the start of something better.  Thank you.
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