Many Paths for Understanding

March 29, 2016 Posted by: Dr. Allison Druin
You don't really understand something if you only understand it one way. -- Marvin Minsky (1927-2016)

This is a bit of wisdom my graduate school advisor, Marvin Minsky shared with me and many others. Marvin chose to understand the worlds of computing, artificial intelligence, learning, and even music in many different ways. He built new technologies, wrote a number of books, and sent so many graduate students out into the world based upon the knowledge that there is always more than one way of understanding something. Through these different ways, so many new areas of research and knowledge were better understood. But what could Marvin's work and his words have to do with the national parks and the digital paths we take?

Today's digital tools can be an important paths to helping so many more people understand, appreciate, and truly be inspired by our national parks. But it is critical, as Marvin's words remind us, that the digital paths not be the only way for visitors to experience our national parks. Touching the dirt, walking in the footsteps of a past leader, or smelling the wildflowers of the west, are all important experiences of our parks that can be combined with digital paths. Before touching the dirt, imagine you can use an app on your mobile phone to tell you about the animals that make their home there. Imagine after you walk through Ellis Island, you take a virtual tour to learn more about the people that passed through on their way to new lives, new experiences, new ways of learning.

There are so many digital paths that can spark your curiosity before you enter a park;or add historical context as you spend time there;or enable you to go back and relive and explore more deeply what you just experienced. Some have asked "is a digital path always necessary?" To this, yes, even I would say-- maybe not. But I would contend, as Marvin has taught us, there still needs to be more than one way to understand the park. Perhaps it's exploring the park through an onsite interpretive hike, after first exploring on your own. Perhaps it's taking the time to draw a picture of something you've just seen. Whatever your paths, experiences, or resources, please know that we will work hard on bringing you many ways to understand our national parks.

Ellis Island Screen Capture

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Last updated: March 29, 2016

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