September 7, 2012

Is Technology Sending Mixed Messages?

by Nona Capps from Eppley Institute for Public Parks and Land

In 2010, an estimated 281,303,769 visitors experienced our national parks. Although that number is staggering, what about those people who didn’t visit a national park because of lack of access or ability? How can they learn about the hardwood forests in Shenandoah National Park or the journey of the Corps of Discovery at a site along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail? And how can students in Florida learn about the Hagerman Horse fossils at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Idaho?

The Advancing the Education Mission theme of A Call to Action includes actions to bring national parks to people in their homes and their schools. For example, this year park partners, Yosemite and Sequoia and Kings Canyon staff, attended a two day social media workshop held in Yosemite National Park to learn how to best use social media to communicate interpretive and informational content to visitors, stakeholders, and each other using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. The result? Yosemite has organized a social media team who is developing a strategy to use these tools to effectively leverage social media tools and to prepare to support new media.

While non-traditional, these formal and informal learning methods are nonetheless advancing the education mission of the NPS into the next century. However, because most these mediums are accessed from work or home, are they actually sending mixed messages? On some level, is the use of these technologies saying to the public that actually being in nature is not so important? Join the conservation in the Message Board forums.

3 Comments

  1. I think it is critical that we provide a variety of ways for people to engage with national parks. I may never get to Denali or Chaco or Women’s Rights but I love that I can introduce my son to these places and the stories and history associated with them from our home. If he never visits these places it is OK, he will have a deeper sense of the richness of our country- both in terms of its natural and cultural history- because we can learn about them through social media as well as through our more traditional websites (and even books.)

    • Your probably right that some visitors might never visit our sites and still gain valuable information. I think that we should be encouraging the visitors to our computer based media to actually visit the parks if possible. When you can experience our parks in person you can get a better understanding since you are using all of your senses at once. ” asense of place”
      Standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, under a redwood or at the seashore is much different when experienced in person.
      People still need to visit our great National Parks

  2. Although I agree that social media and the internet is a valuable tool for any organization, and that it’s a great opportunity for NPS to get the word out about it’s parks, monuments, and historic sites; I also believe that in order to learn and retain, nothing is better than going out and seeing these first hand. There are a lot of parks that I will never have the opportunity to visit myself and the internet is able to give me a small piece of that park to understand and admire. But in today’s society more people are introverted and glued to their screen than ever before. The internet allows many of us to “experience” things without ever leaving the comfort of home. Having virtual parks at one’s fingertips might hinder their visitation. Watching a virtual tour of Yellowstone is not the same thing as seeing Old Faithful and exploring the park for yourself.
    Getting the word out there is important, and I think that social media and other online resources can help do that. But it’s also important that we stress the importance of going out into nature for yourself.

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