NAIINZ - Presenting overseas for the first time / by Lisa Tossey

I was both thrilled and honored when my session proposal was accepted for the International Conference on Interpretation in Wellington, New Zealand, this month. It was hosted by Interpretation Network New Zealand (INNZ) and the National Association of Interpretation (NAI), of which I am a member. NAI is an organization that focuses on the art of engaging instruction, and works with historical and natural heritage educators who work in nature centers, zoos, aquariums, parks, museums, and historical and cultural sites.

Nearly all of the delegates present at the conference.  Image courtesy of NAI  

Nearly all of the delegates present at the conference. Image courtesy of NAI 

This was truly an international conference, drawing in more than 130 delegates from over 12 counties. I was fortunate enough to be invited to present a 90-minute mini-workshop on my work using digital tools in informal science education. My session, Digital Storytelling – Engaging Others Using the Technology in your Pocket, drew over 25 participants who were eager to start incorporating social media and videos into their institution’s educational outreach plans.

My presentation focused heavily on the work I have been doing with the Delaware Sea Grant College Program and the related research I have undertaken as part of my Ed.D. portfolio work. In the days following my workshop I had several constructive follow-up conversations with participants, which progressed into email correspondence.

Shortly after the conclusion of the conference, I heard back from one participant, who works for the Department of Conservation in New Zealand, which manages about 40 percent of the country’s land and serves a similar function as our National Parks Service in the U.S. His role includes leading planning for their investment in storytelling in over 500 historic heritage sites throughout New Zealand, and he informed me that he was now looking at adding a digital outreach position due to what he learned in my session. That news and his kind words about my workshop really made the trip worthwhile for me.

Exploring a protected marine reserve during our field trip day along the southern coast of the North Island

Exploring a protected marine reserve during our field trip day along the southern coast of the North Island

In addition to concurrent sessions at the venue, the conference also offered a day of offsite sessions in several tracks. I was thrilled that one track was focused on marine science education, and joined the “Fishy Tales” field trip to a university coastal ecology laboratory, a local marine education center and aquarium, and a coastal interpretive site in a protected marine reserve. These site visits not only provided a chance to get out in the field and experience different educational venues in the region, but also offered excellent networking opportunities and a nice break mid-conference from being confined in the official venue.

I had visited New Zealand once before, and was awed by its natural beauty and welcoming people then, so I was eager to return. This conference both reinforced that first impression and built upon it, allowing me to experience its environmental wonders firsthand, but more importantly, make genuine connections with other educators and administrators who are working tirelessly to educate others about, and protect, the country’s rich heritage and natural resources.

Here's a short video of the traditional Maori ceremony that opened the conference. I shot snippets of audio and video throughout with my phone and pieced them together using iMovie as an example of editing video on the fly for my workshop >

The Prezi I used during my workshop to highlight examples of what we were touching on >