Topics: College of Sciences and Humanities, Immersive Learning

May 12, 2015

A new phone app produced by an immersive learning experience at Ball State leads visitors on guided tours that highlight the cultural history of Indiana State Parks.
A new phone app produced by an immersive learning experience at Ball State leads visitors on guided tours that highlight the cultural history of Indiana State Parks.

Visitors to the Indiana State Parks may create their own driving or walking history tours through a new phone app developed by students at Ball State University.

Indiana State Park History Tour allows people to find historic sites, historic photos, stories and maps interpreting the history of 23 state parks. The app was produced by Ball State students through an immersive learning experience under the direction of Ronald Morris, a history professor and Presidential Immersive Learning Fellow.

“Each state park has a story of Native Americans who lived on the land, settlers who farmed or protected the land from development, and of people who decided to preserve or restore the land to what it might have looked like originally,” he said. “The state parks are beautiful memoirs of nature and of history, and continue to serve as a constant reminder of our heritage as Hoosiers. The Indiana State Parks phone app will help preserve these parks’ unique stories and give their visitors an increased appreciation for Indiana’s public lands.”

The app features both historic and contemporary photos of park sites, allowing visitors to compare past and present.

“We hope to enrich the visitor experience by providing visitors with another way to experience the park by exploring its cultural history,” said Ashton Hampton, a Ball State junior. “Sometimes these are hidden stories with most of the evidence erased from the land, and other times these are existing buildings in plain view. This app gives visitors another way to learn those stories.”

People can either deliberately investigate a park seeking historic sites or they can wander through the park and wait for the geofencing to alert them with a tone or a pulse that they have discovered a historic site, said incoming Ball State senior Samantha Harsh.

“Instead of building signs for the parks that would obstruct visitors’ views, we thought an app would be a more convenient and fun way for visitors to discover unique places in the parks,” she said. “Along those same lines, the app’s audio features allow the visitor to actually look at the site and experience it without having to stare at their phone screen the whole time.”

Background music composed by Ball State music composition students accompanies the app.

Through the support of a Ball State Provost Immersive Learning Grant, the project began in the summer of 2013 with the incorporation of the first six state parks into the app. The project was completed in cooperation with the university's Building Better Communities and Digital Corps.

“This app will be a great resource for our visitors and a fantastic way to reach people who enjoy both technology and the outdoors,” said Benjamin Clark, chief of cultural resources for the Department Natural Resources Division of State Parks and Reservoirs. “At Indiana State Parks we are very proud of our 100 years of history and we are thrilled to have another avenue through which we can engage with our visitors about the past."

The app is part of series of digital products created by immersive learning classes under the direction of Morris. Other titles in the series include the Battle of Perryville and The Underground Railroad in the Ohio River Valley.