Friday, 11 December 2009

Cell phones, technology and Scout

Here is a post I recently made on the 2010 National Jamboree Group. The group was debating the whether or not youth should bring cell phones to the jamboree. I personally believe we should but then again many scouts are against it. I will leave it to you to decide. Please comment and share your side of the story it is very important.


As a new adult leader, just became a adult leader this april, I have seen how important it is for adults to allow electronic communications between scouts to occur for several reasons.

One it allows parents to keep update to date in regards to activities and what is going on in their scouting life. For many scouts this will be the longest time they have been away from home. Think about the parents wanting to call their son but not being able to because they had to wait for a phone booth call from the scout. For me personally at the 2005 jamboree, I probably called my mom over the 18 day trip, twice. Lets just say that was not very good for my parents but it all worked out. Lets now look to the world jamboree in the United Kingdom, I called her once but e-mailed her at least three times. This was only possible because a corporate sponsor, sponsored wifi cafe's. Obviously parents want to talk to their boys. Another type campout like philmont does not really require everyone to have cell phones because they barely work anywhere anyway. So, I believe that for back country trips or trips with limited cell phone coverage then the scouts should leave the cell phone bringing to the adults for emergencies and coordinating logistics.

Next, lets talk about in Troop communications. Personally for me I check my e-nail 2 to 3 times a day on a normal day, and if I am expecting something important this will increase. A fair amount of my email is scouting related whether it is just e-mail lists, in unit communications, out of unit communications, council information and events, training, Jamboree related communication or any other scout related communication is included. So obviously for me it is important to stay connected in scouts to keep up to date on the ongoings of this organization. I believe that instead of always relying on phone calls for communication a text message or e-mail may work better. Especially text messages, more and more teens have cell phones and use them habitually. These text messages/emails could be used to keep track of scouts, sending out activity changes, sending out updates, cancellations, or rescheduling, or just keeping people informed. We as the BSA need to recognize the importance of this technology and not fight it because when we do we LOOS MEMBERS. This is not okay, we should not be loosing members just because we can't keep up in regards to technology.

I want some day the BSA to become fully digital, what I mean by this is that instead of just Professionals having access at the council office to scouting reccords, there should be a Scoutnet for Scout volunteers and youth. This should improve efficiency and reduce the amount of errors. Of course there would have to be many levels of access depending on your position or role but this different access levels would allow scouts and leaders to have the most current information about the program and the requirements. This would also allow for efficient distribution of information. It would in the long run reduce costs for councils and reduce the amount of tedious work on professional staff has to do. Also more blogs, more webcasts, more virtual meetings, and more audiocasts, would reduce the gap between the professionals and the non-pprofessionals. These are only a few of the ideas that I have for increasing the digital communications with our units and councils.

Now lets get back to the subject, one argument against youth members having cell phones is that they will be used during the wrong time or inappropriately. The only reason scouts do this, is because we as the adult leadership have not set firm guidelines on when it is appropriate and when it is not appropriate to use our cell phones. In order to solve this problem we as a teaching organization which goods back to the fundamental methods of scouting, in case you forgot maybe this would be a good chance to review, need to teach them this important skill. This skill will teach our scouts skills that they can end up using the rest of their life. We also need to ourselves learn how to use this technology in scouting. A fair amount of leaders in the program, don't know how to use it, so we also need to teach them as well. I think that a new training course about implementing technology or incorporating it into basic leader training is essential if we are to continue to gain instead of losing members.

Technology is not the enemy here, it is people who are misinformed about what technology can do for our units. This will only happen if the leaders are willing too. We are going to have to learn ourselves and then teach our scouts of to use this technology efficiently and appropriate. Or maybe we should just listen to the youth and get back to want Boy Scouts in all about.

Yours in Scouting Service
Mark W
Assistant Den Leader Pack 69
Frontier District, Denver Area Council
NSJ '05 Youth Participant '10 Subcamp 7 Youth Staff
Eagle Scout OA Brotherhood Member
WSJ '07 '11 Philmont AA '08

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