Saturday, November 3, 2012

Online Rockhounding Adventure Update

Since I returned from the Mason show earlier this week, I had to work on three custom agate windows. Other than that, I am back working on "the project." I have completed the first draft of all nine segments that will be included in the launch of the pilot program. The first two adventures and their segments will include:

Adventure 1: The Basics
     Segment A: Building Blocks
     Segment B: Universe Formation
     Segment C: Solar System Formation
     Segment D: Earth Formation
Adventure 2: The Lake Superior Agate – Grand Marais, Michigan
     Segment A: Local Geologic History
     Segment B: Agate Genesis
     Segment C: Basic Rockhounding
     Segment D: Beach Rock Identification Guide
     Segment E: How to Find Agates

I hope in the years to come to have many adventures.  All of the rest will feature a rock or mineral found somewhere on Earth.

As many of you know, I started working on this project over two years ago.  The goal is to go where printed books cannot go.  In the fourteen years that I have operated the Gitche Gumee Museum, I have helped thousands of people learn how to find agates.  One thing that I have realized is that different people learn in different ways.  Some people enjoy and learn from written books, while others learn better in a hands-on, visual manner.

Although I am most comfortable creating educational materials in the written form, it is time to move forward into the digital age. When I initially designed the first two adventures, I did so in a word processing program. Then I started researching how I can convert written text into a web-friendly more dynamic format.   At first I spoke with my webmaster, but soon realized that hiring him to convert the information would not only be cost prohibitive, but the software options he has would  not accomplish the hands-on interactive format that I am looking for.

Next I spent many hours looking into various e-learning software packages. I finally decided to use ViewletBuilder7 Enterprise developed by Qarbon.  Founded in 1997, Qarbon is the leading publisher of innovative presentation software and the originator of patented Viewlet technology. Viewlets are a powerful, user-friendly, interactive way to effectively communicate information.  Over half of the Fortune 100 companies as well as many online educators use this incredible software worldwide.

The ViewletBuilder software allows me to use graphics, movie clips, animations, and interactive exercises to create the online rockhounding adventures  Basically the software works much like Power Point and similar presentation software.  At least the design process is similar.  The difference is that all of the internet codes needed to make sure that the design is web friendly are embedded and automatic.  I do not need to know the HTML codes needed to upload my project to the internet.   I can take the skills I already have using wordprocessing, PowerPoint, and Photoshop and design and publish the "project" to the webpage myself.  I only have to hire my webmaster to set up the subdomain pages as well as the password and payment buttons. 

I will be launching the first two adventures as part of a pilot program. During the pilot period, participants are asked to help edit and alert me if they find typos, grammatical errors, or other issues.  Each slide in the project will have a USER INPUT button that when pressed will create a popup screen with a user input form.  As part of the deal, the pilot program will be only $15.  The final cost for the first two online rockhounding adventures will be around twice the price.  Given the hundreds of slides incorporating fun interactive learning and endless hours of entertainment -- even the final cost will be a good deal!

The other beauty about this software is that it will be easy for me to make changes and upload new and improved versions.  In addition to incorporating changes suggested by participants, over the winter I will also add self evaluation quizzes for all nine initial segments -- all part of the original $15 pilot program launch.  Once I complete the first two adventures and their corresponding quizzes, then I'll begin work on the third adventure.  I have not yet decided what rock or mineral I will feature in this third adventure.  The pilot program will end with the launch of the third adventure.

When will the pilot program be launched?  I have given up on setting a firm date.  I have completed the initial design of all nine segments, but am in the process of making final changes and improvements to prepare for launch.  I am changing the video format for all the movies and changing the way that I'm storing the resource files -- so launch will be delayed longer than I would like.  I am hoping I can complete everything in the weeks to come, but even though the software is easy to use, the task of completing the design is still tedious.  Please be patient and keep watching this blog or the webpage for further information. 

Once I do launch the pilot program, I am hoping to provide a new way for all of you to learn about the formation of the Universe, Solar System, and Earth as well as about the Lake Superior agate, beach rocks, and the geologic history of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I am also hoping that the small fee that will be charged for these adventures will raise enough funds to keep the doors of the Gitche Gumee Museum open for many years to come.  Thanks for your support and your patience. 

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