Monthly Archives: October 2012

Got an app for that?

I have been called a ‘luddite’ before. Luddites were those English textile workers in the 1800’s who protested because they were being displaced by machines for their labor intensive jobs. The luddites, as well as I, knew that technology can be a wonderful, time-saving tool, but we still somehow resist learning and using it. Yes, I am typing this on my Optiplex 390 pc and not an IBM Selectric typewriter, but only because I have to. I’d much rather be outside in the woods where there are no electric outlets around at all.

Then a new iPhone entered into my life. And it doesn’t need to plug into an outlet when I am out in the woods. All that I need is a signal (I actually prefer the places that don’t have good cell signals). The reason that I bought the iPhone was because I kept seeing my students fiddling with these things during my lectures. I figured if I can have my lectures made available on the smart phones, they can fiddle with it and maybe learn something at the same time.

So I made an app. Luckily, a company here in the southeast offered the chance to host an app at no cost for demonstration purposes. The app was to be used by visitors on a trail at a nature-based facility to provide information at certain stations. The process to create the app was pretty easy. I had to write the content and collect the information that would be on it. This included creating the route along the trail, writing the script for the individual stations, taking photographs or videos that would be part of the app, and even writing questions for a nature-based game. I entered the information into a template that the company supplied, and within a week the app was made available to be downloaded for free from the iTunes store.

How did this work out? Not bad. The app looked beautiful and professionally done and was pretty well received. It even was scored 4.5 out of 5 stars by the people who rated it. The problem was there were only 12 ratings. Yes, even though I am a luddite it is apparent that there are plenty more out there like me. Those are just the people who took the time to rate it, mind you, there were probably plenty of more people that used it. The facility that the app was written for didn’t have a free wireless signal for its visitors, and I am sure that this limited the numbers of people who would use the app. People don’t want to waste their cell signal minutes. I’m also sure that there are people, like me, who don’t necessarily want to use their smartphone when walking along a nature trail. But then there are people who don’t walk along nature trails because there aren’t any interesting technologies to use along it. One feature of smartphones that I have become reliant upon is the GPS technology.  Googlemaps (which is part of the app) shows where I am on the trail, where my next destination is, what the surrounding features are, and it keeps me from getting lost. It’s also very cool that if I find a plant, or a word on an interpretive sign that I am unfamiliar with, I can Google it very quickly. We are truly in the age of information. Smartphone apps are a current trend that will continue to grow. Web-based technologies have the advantages of being easily updated and it’s relatively inexpensive to provide a lot of information, as compared with traditional interpretive signs. Yes, I now carry my iPhone with me wherever I go. But that’s okay–because it has an off button. —Bob Brzuszek, Mississippi

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Get ready to Network

This is my favorite time of the year, the summer madness is over, the weather is cooling, and everything at works slows down just enough to make future plans. If you are on the field of interpretation or wanting to become an interpreter this is the perfect time of the year to jump in and get your feet wet; and what a better way than attending a National or a Regional Conference full of interpreters.

This year NAI’s National Workshop will be in Hampton, VA where interpreters from all over the country will gather to share skills, experiences, success stories, tools and techniques, and socialize for an entire week.

The first regional conference I attended was in Cleveland, OH and I had a great time, I met great story tellers, and people who are doing exactly what I do all the time. It felt like I found a group of people who understand that I am not joking when I mention the most asked question a visitor center: “Where is the bathroom?”

Region 3 is also gearing up our annual gathering at Wekiwa Springs State Park, where information can be even more relevant to the South East.

NAI Region 3 2012 Participants

If you have the opportunity do not miss any of these great opportunities to give yourself a shot of fresh air, new ideas, and go back to your work site full of energy knowing that people have succeeded at what you do and so can you.

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The technology is here, it is our turn to make it relevant

Last night I was watching Jack Hannah on the Late Show, I have always like trips to the zoo, enjoy spend time outside looking at animals from the other side of the world. If the zoo does a good job they will manage to keep things relevant to me and tell me not only why should I care about a primate or an elephant that I may never see in the wild but what can I do to help protect their habitat (like not consuming products with palm oil) or help researchers. Jack Hannah kept bringing one animal after the other showing how cool, scary, agile or friendly some of them are, spitting facts about the animals but failed to mentioned why these animals are relevant to me. Even worse he never told the audience what are common things that people do to hurt these animals that would require small behavioral changes on our end to help them along the way.

A day later I was explaining to one of my staff where technology is heading and why social media, cloud content and other technologies are relevant to us and how we connect with our audience.

Here is  video from Google, this is something that they are currently working on, it is a prototype but the technology is already here and the fact that our smart phones give is the ability to be connected to the grid and stream endless data until your battery dies we need to make sure that information to our nature center is where people are looking for it.

If you think this is the future, then the future is today and maybe tomorrow they will call this “old school”, in the meantime think how you can use all this technologies to enhance visitor’s experiences.

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You had me at ‘Hello!’

As an interpreter, we not only develop programs that have universal concepts which incorporate different perspectives, cultures, and ideas, but we also try to interpret for people who speak different languages. We can be what some feel is the definition of an interpreter, translating foreign languages.

            Now most of us in the interpretation field probably cannot speak a foreign language, but those skills are an increasing need, especially in the National Park Service. International visitors are as common as Americans to some of the most popular sites like Grand Canyon, Everglades, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. Those sites even have brochures in several different languages. As a former front line interpreter, I only spoke one language fluently, English, but conversationally in French, not interpretively. However, I found out that a great way to create an interpretive opportunity for international visitors was to greet them in their language.

            I start off with “Welcome to (Insert Park Name Here). Where are you from?” This produces the visitor’s country of origin. I would then say in their language, “Hello. How are you?” As a simple ice breaker, this greeting technique would certainly open up a conversation. Now the audience may seem less intimidated by the language barrier and happy to hear familiar sounds. Furthermore, I would have their attention and they seemed more engaged since I took the extra effort to know something about them, my audience. A simple ‘Hello’ can go a long way!

            If you have many international visitors, or just want to impress your friends and coworkers, here are a few common language greetings that you may want to consider using for your next international audience.  You may also want to search the internet for other greetings, sayings, and pronunciation guidelines.



One person – “Buenos dias. Como esta usted?” (bwen-O’s D-us. Ko-mo S-t’us ooh-sted?) GOOD DAY. HOW ARE YOU?

2+ persons – “Buenos dias. Como estan ustedes?” (bwen-O’s D-us. Ko-mo S-t’us ooh-sted-S)



Bonjour! Comment-allez vous? (bunh-jur! Comb-onh tally voo?)

or Bonjour! Ca-va? (sah-vah?) GOOD DAY. HOW ARE YOU?



“Hallo, Guten tag. Wie Geht es Ihnen?” (ah-low, goo-tin tock, V gait S ee-nen), HELLO, GOOD DAY. HOW ARE YOU 



One Person “Ni hao.” “Ni hao ma?”(Knee how. Knee how ma?), HELLO. HOW ARE YOU?

2+ persons – “Nimen hao” “Nimen hao ma?”(Knee-men how. Knee-men how ma?)




Informal “Czesc. Jak sie masz?” (che-sh-ch, y-ah-k shay m-ah-ch) HELLO. HOW ARE YOU?

Formal “dzień dobry” (jane doh-bray). GOOD DAY

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