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Erin Gates

California State Parks
Hearst Castle Distance Learning Coordinator / Guide I
San Simeon, CA
The Hearst Castle Distance Learning Program has seen a 300% growth from the 2015/2016 school year, to the 2016/2017 school year. We have been pushing the limits as to what technology can do with increasing the # of interpretive offerings within our park, to an audience that otherwise would not be served. This dramatic growth can be attributed to the following:
-Through a collaboration with John Butterill, and Virtual Photo Walks, the San Luis Obispo Coast District Distance Learning Program has been "walking the walk for those that can't." By using a mobile cell phone, we have been providing live interactive programming directly from our parks since November of 2016. We are using distance learning to provide accessible interpretive programming to audiences that otherwise would not have the opportunity to visit certain areas of our parks.
- Joining Microsoft Edu's Skype in the Classroom in November 2016, we were the first CA State Park to offer a Virtual Field Trip to their international audience of classrooms across the world. We have been able to use our pre-established Ancient Civilizations curriculum focused programs to connect students from across the world, with real-life applications to their classroom learning experience. We have also been able to use this platform to offer additional programming that was not previously offered. This includes high school level subject focused programs on art and architecture, Early California History programs from WR Hearst Memorial State Beach, and many others.
-As a compliment to our on-site School Group Programs, we are offering "pre and post visit" distance learning programs, allowing the students of an on-site visit to have an extra educational component to their overall Hearst Castle experience. We have found that these pre-visit programs have a very positive effect on the students being better prepared for their educational school group program when they arrive to our park.