Empty your backpack and leave everything behind. All you need on your next Scouting outing is your smartphone.
OK, so maybe that’s an exaggeration.
What is true, though, is that for the two-thirds of Americans who own smartphones, it’s now possible to fit reference books, a GPS device, a weather radio, a compass, a map, a camera, a field guide, a recipe book and more in your pocket.
But which apps are worthy of downloading (or even — gasp! — paying for) to enhance your Scouting experience? Your fellow Scouters helped me compile the ultimate list below.
First, though, a quick note on smartphones in Scouting. They’re here to stay; resistance is futile. When used properly, these technological tools can actually improve your Scout unit. The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, made a compelling case for viewing them as a cure, not a curse. Read his comments here.
With that out of the way, check out the best Scouting-related apps after the jump.
Your boss views your tailgating photos on Instagram, your Facebook friends see you complaining about your job or your Scouts read your tweets in favor of a politician.
You’ve just encountered context collapse. That’s the phrase for something intended for a specific audience that becomes seen by a much wider, unintended audience.
It happens in the real world, like if you run into a coworker, Scout or Scouter at church or a political rally. But it happens even more frequently online, where we can instantly share sometimes-controversial views with a few simple taps on the keyboard.
Eagle Scout Mark Ray, skilled author and regular contributor to both Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines, writes on his blog about this phenomenon:
Thanks to context collapse, your boss can see your vacation photos, your friends can see what you’re saying about work, and — most importantly for our purposes — your Scouts can see what you’re liking on Facebook, whether that’s Lolcats, a political cause or your favorite microbrewery.
We know that more than two-thirds (71 percent, to be exact) of online adults use Facebook, meaning chances are good you’re dealing with context collapse even if you don’t know it. So it’s a good idea to take a second to think about your online existence and who in your life sees what. That’s especially relevant when Scouts are involved.
Mark shares three strategies for dealing with context collapse and making sure you don’t reveal more about yourself than you’re comfortable sharing. Ranging from the most extreme to the simplest, they are: Continue reading
The annual practice of troops picking the perfect summer camp just got upgraded to the smartphone age.
Clear a spot on your home screen for Camp Scout!, a free iPhone app brought to you by Boys’ Life magazine and the BSA’s Outdoor Adventures team.
Let the iPhone detect your current location — or enter an address, place name or ZIP code — and Camp Scout! will show you the nearest BSA-owned properties.
Too many results? The “Things to Do” filter lets you see only camps with your unit’s favorite activities. Do your Scouts or Venturers fancy a place that offers boating, fishing and horseback riding? Tap all three activities, select “Find Camps” and voila!
Each camp’s page uses information supplied by the council. You’ll see a description, an activities list, driving directions, contact information and a link to learn more.
Roughly 500 camps are already in the app, and more are being added all the time.
In talking with Brian Gray, outdoor program coordinator for the BSA, I learned Continue reading
Before you tell your Scouts and Venturers to power down their smartphones at the beginning of your next adventure, I have something you need to read.
The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, penned a guest blog post that offers his nuanced opinion on the place that iPhones, Androids and devices of their ilk have in our movement.
Does Gary think they add to or detract from the delivery of a great Scouting experience? Read on and find out.
Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?
By Gary Butler, BSA Deputy Chief Scout Executive and Chief Operating Officer
I have heard lots of conversations recently on whether smartphones should be allowed during Scouting activities. One of our employees shared with me that when his son goes camping the leader takes all the phones away and returns them when the activity is over.
Does the use of a smartphone as part of Scouting’s activities disrupt the experience, or can it be a “cure” to make our current experiences more relevant to today’s youth? This comment really struck home and got me to thinking as to what is the right answer.
Sometimes to find the answer to these kind of debates on how to go forward, it takes a look backwards to find the answer. One of Baden-Powell’s most interesting quotes is, “A fisherman does not bait his hook with food he likes. He uses food the fish likes. So with boys.” Continue reading
April 2 Update: See an important message about VR Scouting at the end of the post.
Love Scouting but hate getting out in the fresh air?
You’re in luck! Today the Boy Scouts of America introduces Virtual Reality Scouting, a revolutionary alternative to regular Scouting that lets you experience all that the BSA has to offer without ever leaving the house.
The new program, debuting this fall, already has a catchy slogan: “Bring the Great Outdoors to the Great Indoors.”
To experience VR Scouting, families will want to purchase the Complete Home-Based Virtual Reality Scouting Starter System — or, simply, the CHBVRSSS (pronounced just like it’s spelled). It’ll go on sale this fall.
The CHBVRSSS will retail for only $1,999.95 — a bargain when you consider it’ll pay for itself after just six years of staying home while everyone else in your unit experiences outdoor Scouting adventures.
David Wilson, a Scouter from Michigan who got to test VR Scouting last month, said he’ll buy a device as soon as it goes on sale.
“I love going camping with my Scouts, but I’m not a fan of fresh air, warm mountain breezes or being outside in general,” he says. “So VR Scouting is perfect for me.”
I bet it’ll be perfect for you, too. Just imagine: Continue reading
For your Scouts and Venturers on Facebook, the reminder to “think before you post” just got a lot more important.
Yesterday we learned that Facebook has changed its privacy policies for users age 13 to 17, a move with real implications for the social media users in your troop, post, ship, team or crew.
There are two changes you as a Scout leader should be aware of. Continue reading
At the jamboree, no power outlet remains empty for long.
Everywhere you look — using official AT&T charging stations, orange Summit Bechtel Reserve power arrays (not to be used when raining), outlets inside and outside of shower houses, and solar chargers hanging from backpacks — Scouts and Scouters grab every drop of power for their devices.
It’s no surprise, really, given the age in which we live and the fact the 2013 National Jamboree has lived up to its billing as the most-connected in history.
I found Ryan, an Atlanta Area Council Scout who works on the Aquatics staff, charging his Samsung phone with friends at an orange power station this morning. For Ryan, an empty battery means no way to stay connected with friends and family onsite and off. Continue reading
The beeping on Bram’s handheld radio intensified, and then: “I’m getting something!”
Like a trio of bloodhounds, three Scouts from Troop A120 out of Durham, N.C., were off to follow the digital scent.
Eight minutes later, they found their prize: a hidden radio transmitter.
Welcome to ARDF Fox Hunting at the 2013 jamboree’s K2BSA tent. Volunteers there made me an honorary member of the North Carolina team, though I did little more than get in the way.
In fox hunting — part geocaching, part orienteering — Scouts use radios and homemade antennas to locate a hidden “fox,” or transmitter. I can definitely see the appeal.
Updated, July 11 | Added Sprint; Added Wi-Fi test in Echo camp
Everything’s bigger and better at the 2013 jamboree, even the Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
Early reports from staff members on the ground indicate impressive Wi-Fi data speeds for all, and impressive cellular data speeds for AT&T and Verizon customers. This goes a long way toward legitimizing all that talk about this being the most-connected jamboree ever.
But how fast is fast? Here’s the early scoop: Continue reading
As the Boy Scouts of America’s 12th Chief Scout Executive, Wayne Brock continues a solemn tradition that dates back to November 1911 when James E. West became the first Chief.
But let’s remember July 2013 as the moment when Chief Brock started a new tradition, one Mr. West never could have seen coming.
Yes, our Chief is now blogging and tweeting.
Over at the Chief’s Corner blog, which launched yesterday, you’ll get words of wisdom directly from the man who is effectively the BSA’s CEO. Through his posts, Chief Brock will bring Scouts and Scouters closer to the movement while showcasing the magic of Scouting for those who aren’t yet members.
I’m told the Chief will post once or twice a week and focus on issues relevant to the Scouts and Venturers with whom you work. That means leadership, service, adventure, health, and more. From time to time, Chief Brock will share updates on his travels across the country to visit packs, troops, teams, posts, ships, and crews.
And on Twitter, follow @bsachief for the latest dispatches from Chief Brock. The account has been used off and on since 2010, but along with the launch of Chief’s Corner, you can expect great insight and information on a more-regular basis.
Or, as the Chief himself tweeted last week: Continue reading