Watch the Construction of the new Cooper River Bridge


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The Bridge Blog
A dialog about our new bridge and these web pages

Overview. As a pointy-headed university professor, my weekend project of bridge photography and building these web pages generated many questions and introduced me to just-in-time learning. I enjoy chasing my curiosity and want to identify ways to encourage younger learners to also enjoy curiosity chasing and learning.

Learning usually requires repetition while forgetting occurs when I infrequently use information. Many young learners do not understand the importance of repetition. Weekly visits to the bridge provided the repetition necessary to detect changes in the bridge and consequently generated many questions and opportunities for learning. Over the course of the bridge project, I had access to few experts for answering questions. Rather than a liability, this became an asset and pushed me to improve my search skills with Google. Soon, I found that answers to questions encountered during my weekly photo shoots were often only a Google-search away - (see Restoring the Joy in Learning). Consequently Google + Internet became dependable extensions of my memory.

The bridge story is a work in progress and is evolving from a simple collections of photographs to an experiment with Internet-centric just-in-time learning. Insights I gain from you will find their way into the learning centers of MUSC. Palmetto Bridge Constructors, a joint venture between Tidewater Skanska and Flatiron Constructors, as well as High Steel Structures, Freyssinet, the SCDOT and the Federal Highway Commission Office of Bridge Technology guided much of my learning. I also learn from many of you and from Google-linked resources. More important is the e-mail encouragement I receive from many of you.

Wed, 08 Jun 2005

June 8 2005: A short web lesson:
Managing a small web site is a challenge, a learning opportunity and an opportunity to explore my Google-Internet memory amplifier. In addition to the bridge web pages, I follow the lives of a few spiders in our garden and built web pages which reveal a bit of their lives (see Natasha or mating banana spiders). Every morning I review the web access logs to see what is happening.

This morning I saw that Google-directed hits to our banana spider pages are increasing and almost equal to the Google-directed hits to our new Cooper River Bridge web pages.

What is the software base that enables me to manage these web pages? I use the open source distribution of GNU-Linux from RedHat for my web server environment which includes Apache as the web serving software. For development, I use the GNU-Linux distribution from the RedHat sponsored Fedora project which also includes Apache. Finally, I use Google to answer technical questions that arise when I am building these web pages.

Apache writes an entry into either an access log or an error log each time a web page is accessed. Monitoring the logs helps track web site access patterns and identify errors that creep into these web pages. To analyze the logs, I use AWstats. This tracks where web page requests originate and more important, summarizes the search expressions used to access web pages. From these data, I can directly see what is interesting and what is never touched. This provides guidance for experimenting with different ideas and determining how to better meet the needs of readers.

Here is the table from the summary of web activity since Sunday June 5.

key phrases Frequency Percent
banana spider 160 4.5 %
cooper river bridge 128 3.6 %
new cooper river bridge 52 1.4 %
ravenel bridge 51 1.4 %
butterflys 47 1.3 %
banana spiders 41 1.1 %
forgetting 31 0.8 %
french wildlife 24 0.6 %
matrix calculus 22 0.6 %
charleston bridge 18 0.5 %
arthur ravenel bridge 15 0.4 %
nernst-planck equation 13 0.3 %
nephila clavipes 13 0.3 %

Note: I never know when I'll learn something new - and making this blog entry provided an unexpected surprise. When I first wrote the above, I had forgotten the HTML tags for a table header - so I used Google and the search words: how to make html table . The first entry: sorttable: Make all your tables sortable did not answer my question but revealed a way to enable browser-based sorting of columns within a table. Since this looked like a fun idea, I followed their recipe and suddenly the colums in the above table became sortable. The total time required for this experiment - 10 minutes. Curious about other tricks available from this site, I backed up a level and found a collection of interesting scripts for enabling other browser-based presentation features. This is a typical example of the positive impact associated with chasing curiosity within our Internet connected world.

posted at: 10:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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