Where tradition meets the future of Scouting
I am the Dir. of IT at Elizabethtown College. I've been asked to do a presentation for parents and scout leaders at our Scounting University and I'd like your input. What do you feel are the best technologies for planning outings and organizing the business of a scout troop?
First, congratulations for being asked to present at a University of Scouting. What a great opportunity to reach and educate so many people who will impact Scouting, maybe for decades to come.I think that the best tools will be the ones the leaders are willing to use. I know that sounds obvious, but many leaders are hesitant to use new tools--and some are even resistant to it.The BSA has made great strides to reach the public. You'll find multiple websites, Twitter accounts and Facebook connections. New uniforms and equipment take into account the technology--pocket on the sleeve for an iPod or mp3 player, downloadable handbooks, and even a portable solar recharging system for backpacking in a recent catalog. Perhaps stress the need to know their audience. Some units will be wired. Everyone will have a cell phone, routinely use email and social media, and be completely comfortable in taking advantage of new ideas.Other units and leaders will be "the woods are no place for a laptop" minded and prefer to hand out printed newsletters and use phone trees.Personally, I find that for the leadership to establish the "official" mean of communication, and then sticking to it is the best approach.The pack and troop I work with use YahooGroups (free) for the email and calendar functions. Great archives, links and room for photos. All Scouts and Scout families know that it is "the place" to go for information or to ask questions. Everyone sees and benefits from the same information. The technology can be accessed from my phone, a library, at home or on the road. I can use someone else's equipment to get to it, safely and securely.For our routine documents, like sign up sheets and tracking expenses, you really can't beat Excel. Create some reuseable templates and you are off and running.There are a number of companies out there that provide commercial packages as well to track advancement, dues, membership lists, and more. They are available in freestanding and online versions.I think the best approach is to have an "official" way to communicate--like a YahooGroup, but be flexible and use other tools like Twitter and Facebook to share information. The more exposure you create, the more folks will see and retain. Of course, your audience is important, too. What works for a pack, crew or troop, might not be the best way to reach the other members of your district roundtable.Email probably still has the widest reach, and seems to have the greatest acceptance across the diverse ages of users.