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National Parks Views



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First created to bring our national parks to those who might never get to visit, NPS Views is now using multimedia to add entirely new dimensions, spatial, multicultural, interdisciplinary, and more--to the experience¦


Hi, I'm Bruce Nash, an ecologist with the National Park Service. We're pleased to have our work featured in NSF's Media & Informal Science Learning website, and hope this discussion will lead to useful feedback for us on it, as well as to new potential collaborations/partnerships for us as we continue to develop our new media presence. We are especially interested in ways to help students across the country as well as all Americans make connections with their parks. We would like national parks to be an important part of life-long learning for all Americans.

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Jan 19, 2010 08:21 am
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Bruce--This is a huge program--wow! I was wondering if you might direct our attention to some of the highlights more, e.g. some of the modules you'all think represent especially well what you're doing with multimedia, the ones you think best represent what you're trying to achieve with interweaving art and science--I take it from what I've read in the case that the Wilderness module is the current standard for multiculturalism in the program. Congratulations, in any case, on stunning work to date--on behalf of other readers, I look forward to any further guidance you can provide.

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Jan 20, 2010 05:43 pm
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Bruce--Have you'all considered adding games to the mix? I don't mean literally going out and spending dollars to create games, but adding some kind of point system for participating in and/or accomplishing something in various parts of the program to what you've already got. If you do that, and then have some kind of leaderboard system (by state, by age, by x, by y--the more leaderboards, the better, so everyone has a fighting chance to get on one), you've got a game, tightly integrated into what you're already doing. If you include team leaderboards (which combine individual scores of team members without removing those scores from their individual totals), you've not only got a game, but an incentive for users to get their friends to come to the site and get involved. Based on the quality of your offering, you'all probably have thought about all this, and there may be some reason you can't do it, but with all the moving parts in this business, I figure anyone can overlook anything--I know we do, all the time--that's part of what's so great about online services; there's always ways to grow them!

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Jan 21, 2010 07:22 am
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Hi Noah. Thanks for the great suggestion. We have talked about some ideas similar to what you suggest. One big plus for your suggestion is that it might give users a reason to come back to the site (to try a different "game"). We are constantly adding new material and new modules and this might be a way for users to discover these new materials. We've also kicked around the idea of developing training materials to go with the modules that teachers could take and become "certified" in that area. Or, have classes do module activities and have their class become "certified." Hopefully teachers and/or classrooms would want to keep coming back to get "certified" in another area. Yet another variation - we have developed a "scavenger hunt" for Views..where the user has to go through the program to find answers to questions. We saw it as a way to get the casual user to look at different parts of the program. We'd be very interested in partnering with someone who could help us implement some of these ideas. Thanks for the suggestions - we'd be interested in a dialogue to develop them further.. --b

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Jan 22, 2010 09:55 am
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Hi Mike. Hmmm...direct your attention to highlights. That's a hard one to answer...it's like when folks ask me, "What's your favorite national park?" They're all great and each is unique! I think one of the reasons Views "works" is that each module is produced with park or theme experts and educators - all of which come to the table with a different point of view. So every module turns out a little different, reflecting that. We think it makes things more interesting. Since you mention multiculturism, I'll offer some suggestions there... The Wilderness module (over 130 people were involved in the production!) does have a alot on multiculturism. But check out the Sonoran Desert module...there are some wonderful interviews with a Native American woman who talks about conservation of the desert and growing up in the desert. There's also a short interview with a Mexican resource manager, and a virtual walk through on a ethnobotanical trail (in English and Spanish) where you can learn how the Native peoples used the native plants. In the Badlands module, there is a section (Prairie perspectives/people) on the Lakota. Fort Bowie is one of the smaller modules, but there is some info on the Apache. In Grand Canyon, go to Discovery/Archaeology/ for some info on the native peoples. The Petroglyph NM modules provides info on ancient petroglyphs and pictographs. Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is loaded with information on the Hawai'ian culture. The Tonto module discusses the Salado people (and has links to other park websites on the Salado). I'd like to point out that we feel presenting multicultural perspectives is essential. We wish we had the resources to do much more of this. One module that has been discussed repeatedly is "The Ancient Puebloans and Their Ties to the Land." "Buffalo Soldiers" has been mentioned. We started a module on "Ft Sumter" (it's on "hold" right now) that would include info on the Gullah-Geechee cultures. In the National Park Service we know that we need to reach ALL Americans. "Views" is a small project, but we're trying to help with that goal. Let me know if you want me to suggest some other explorations in Views. And thanks for your comment! --b

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Jan 22, 2010 10:21 am
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Curious about any plans to add social media to Views. At the most basic, a Facebook group or a MySpace page, but ideally something more specific to the Park Service and the goals of the program. For example, a few years ago we were talking to another part of the Park Service about a concept we called Vision Quests. Vision Quests were/are virtual trails through parks where the trails were collectively built by users out of pictures they had taken. Each picture added to a trail had to have some kind of connection to the picture before; trails could branch as well, and ultimately would be named when they reached a certain length (by taking nominations from and polling the user community). We were thinking we might even give users the tools to make their trail sections interactive, e.g. by including questions about their pictures that had to be answered before a traveler could continue on the trail, or by letting them make something "happen" on the trail (in the picture) that travelers had to or could respond to.

Building on what NHermes has said, users could earn points for traveling on these virtual trails, contributing images to them (which incents Park visits in order to take the pictures), managing them (or the Park Service's adult volunteer community could manage), etc. As they accumulated points, users could become "visionaries" at different levels (each level would be named after an historic America visionary, providing opportunities for additional learning in the process). This is just an example, of course--social media's possibilities have expanded dramatically since then.

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Jan 25, 2010 04:26 pm
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Very cool stuff. Great images, and very good connections. I looked at the caves piece, since I have experience in that. It would be great to have a photo of Lechuguilla Cave on the page where you are talking about it. the photo that is there is of the Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns. Perhaps a photo of the Chandelier Ballroom, since it is a huge gypsum formation, and the sulphuric acid connection is discussed later in the CAVE page. I have a concern that some of the terminology needs definition if the target audience is younger. As written the text and terminology would be fine for adults and upper level students, and some of the pages would work for middle school. Unfortunately there is a mix of this, like different pages were written or edited by different people. Writing for younger people doesn't have to be watered down, and you don't have to avoid technical terminology. If you stay away from the twenty dollar words unless you need them, and create a definition link for those you do need, your audience will expand exponentially. That is my initial comment. I'm sure I will be revisiting this and making more comments. Generally it is an exciting prospect.

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Jan 26, 2010 09:38 am
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Adding social media to Views? I'd love to do it. The Vision Quest idea sounds great. Our goal is to help Americans make connections to their parks - and finding a way for them to add their pictures or impressions or thoughts or questions would be a great way to forge those connections. And as you suggest, a great way to encourage citizens to visit their parks. I think we'd need some partners to make this happen. We partner with the Univ of Colorado Denver School of Education and Human Development and are looking at cooperating on a research proposal that probably will include some social networking... As you suggest, there is alot of potential in this area. A Facebook group or MySpace page is also a good idea. As far as I am aware, the NPS is still figuring out how to implement social networking in the workplace. We do need to be ready when they say, Go For It.

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Jan 29, 2010 12:28 pm
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Hi Bill. Thanks for the comments on the Caves/karst module. We'll have to update some of those images. This module was one of our earliest "thematic" modules and we were still figuring things out (as opposed to now, when we're still trying to figure things out).. The text was developed by Ron Kerbo, then the National Cave Coordinator for the NPS (now retired, but still working with Views on some projects) and a contract writer (Katie KellerLynn) who has written many of our modules. We try to write for a middle school level, but I know some of our modules end up above that target and some a little lower. I agree some definitions would help. That's why in the original version, we had a glossary. Technical terms were highlighted and you could right-click and go to a definition. We dropped the glossary in the new version, thinking it would be less restrictive to let the user type terms into the Search window (lower right). But, to be honest, I think that approach still needs some work. I think somehow we have to make it clear to the user which search result is a definition, rather than another window using the term in question. BTW, I sent your comments to Ron and we'll try to revisit the module images and terminology.

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Jan 29, 2010 12:42 pm
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Thanks for the invitation to come and review the Views modules. I'm Jen Kobylecky of the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Wisconsin. We currently have a virtual tour of our green visitor center (The Leopold Center) on our website, but no virtual tour of the Leopold Shack and Farm. Over the years, I've looked at various online modules created to connect people with places over the web. I find it a very interesting, yet challenging idea. As I was exploring the NPS modules, I was trying to imagine underserved or unreached audiences doing the same. I'm not sure if those groups are at the top of the target audience list or not, but I know when we've discussed online modules, our reasoning has been linked to the idea that this is for people that would not otherwise get to see/explore the resource in person. And honestly, I'm just not sure I can envision an inner city urban child finding this website and being motivated to click through all of the choices. Right now the info is presented as essentially a series of nested interpretive panels. Great for me, who is already interested and motivated to click through all of them... but might be overwhelming for someone out there just doing this on their own. I agree with the other commenters here-- this needs some kind of interactive component or incentive to make it more vibrant. I love the idea of user-submitted photos and challenges, or a points system. I also will re-raise the question about the target audience: is this written for kids or adults? It reads at a very high level in my opinion. Overall I think this is a beautifully designed and thorough set of modules, so I don't want to come off like I am completely negative about the website. I just think that even when people do come to our places, what we know about them is that they are less often seeking information than they are seeking experiences or social interactions. I think you need to add some of those elements into the modules to really broaden their appeal and future use. Here's an interactive module that was developed by Oregon State University that also happens to include references to Aldo Leopold, just to show you another example of how virtual tours can be structured/tackled. I had no part in creating this, but thought it would be a useful resource regardless: http://www.fsl.orst.edu/geowater/wheresaldo/demo/

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Feb 18, 2010 11:27 am
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Hi Jen, thanks for the comments on Views. I guess I can understand some of the confusion regarding the target audience for Views. Views began life as an informal educational website. Later, we began partnering with the Univ of Colorado Denver School of Education with the hope of adding a formal education dimension to the program. That partnership has been so successful, that perhaps we have not only added a formal education aspect, but perhaps we now lean more in the formal ed arena than in the informal ed arena. As for target age, we aim for middle school. But I would admit that some of our modules probably ended up a bit higher than middle school. Our highest priority is solid, engaging content. When we begin a new module, we sit down with appropriate experts, be they park staff or scientific experts, and together we plan what info to present and how to present it. We always try to involve NPS or university educators or interpreters. The hope is by always bringing in new points of view, the approach will always be "fresh." But even with this approach, we seem to be drifting towards formal education and a higher level target audience. Adding more interactivity and a social context would be great. We've discussed ways to do it over the years, unfortunately, we have neither the budget or expertise to do it now. I think to make this happen, we would need a partner with experience in this area. I also like the idea of users adding their own park images and/or experiences. It would be a great way for park visitors to share their park experiences and would entice them to return to the website to see how others reacted to their postings.

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Feb 26, 2010 10:01 am
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Hi Bruce and others. First, I am a bias commenter. I regularly make use of the national parks and take great delight in access to public lands. I have always felt that the NPS, NFS, and BLM could improve their public support (and as a result funding) through a stronger education program. Park interpretation while useful is often too static and, in my opinion, does not take advantage of the natural curiosity of the visitor (especially children). This looks like a great start to engaging potential visitors to visit and learn about our parks. My concern is that the online product may create unfulfilled expectations for the visitor. What will be developed for in-park use that will compliment this effort? Doug Haller, Ed. M. Haller Education Consulting

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Mar 09, 2010 10:23 am
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--Doug



Hi Doug. Thanks for the comments - and I'm glad to hear you make regular use of our public lands. You suggest a stronger educational program for the NPS. Our new Director, Jon Jarvis, has identified Education as one of his top four priorities for the NPS. To that end, the NPS is currently seeking applicants for a new high-level position - Associate Director for Interpretation and Education. In addition, a "blue ribbon" panel, the "Second Century Commission" has offered a report on where the NPS should be headed in the area of "Education and Learning." If you'd like to see this report, go to: http://www.npca.org/commission/ Once on that page, look at the right-hand side. You'll see the full commission report followed by the committee reports. Select the "Education and Learning" committee report. I recommend reading it. Now back to your question... You stated, "My concern is that the online product may create unfulfilled expectations for the visitor. What will be developed for the in-park use that will compliment this effort?" I'm not sure what you mean by "unfulfilled expectations." Expectations in interpretive/educational materials at the park? Wouldn't it be great if our educational products could all dovetail at the national, regional, and park levels?! I can only speak for the Views program, but when we develop a park module, we do it in partnership with park staff. Our philosophy is that they know the park resources and they know (through experience) what are the best ways to present resource information. So we sit down together, from the start, and plan what the module will say and how it will be organized on-screen. This gives us a better product, it gives us immediate "buy-in" from the park, and avoids duplication. Hopefully, this starts conversations on how to expand/extend the Views material at the park (as you suggest). But all educational and interpretive materials at the park are the responsibility of the park's interpretive staff. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with park staff during the production of the Views modules and I would like to see more opportunities to do this and more interaction following completion of the modules.

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Mar 16, 2010 09:26 am
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Hi Bruce, thanks for your response and resources. I will check them out. To clarify my comment on unfulfilled expectations... The quality of the online resource outstrips any interpretive resources I have seen at the many parks and public lands I have visited. My experience is that the visitor may attend a program or encounter a sign while on a trail. The visitor centers generally have static diorama style presentations. The challenge I anticipate is that by creating a strong Internet based resource you may find that visitors are disappointed by what they can learn on site. Again, I am bias. I was and still am the kid who treads on the heals of the ranger, asking questions about every new critter or plant or answering the question before the next guest has a chance to respond. For example, now that you have an online presence, will the next step be to create smart phone apps that are triggered as the visitor passes a point of interest on the trail? If only we can get people out of the gift shops and beyond the first 20 feet of the roadside. ;) But, I am happy just to see them outside and away from the TV/computer. D

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Mar 25, 2010 08:53 pm
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