Ideas that click: 11 ways to improve your unit’s website

If first impressions are everything, your unit website better be good.

These days, many prospective Scouts and their parents will research your pack, troop, or crew online long before they pick up the phone or visit one of your meetings.

An easy-to-navigate, well-designed, regularly updated website can mean the difference between recruiting a new Boy Scout and watching him join the troop down the street.

With that in mind, here are 10 ways to improve your unit’s website:  Continue reading


Download version 1.0 of the Jamboree app on Android and Apple

Updated, April 30: Apple iOS version now available

They say this summer’s National Jamboree will be the most-connected ever. Well, this is a great start.

Version 1.0 of the Jamboree Summit App is available on Apple and Android devices. The Android app clocks in at just over 10 MB and costs $0.99 in the Google Play store. The iOS version for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch weighs 15 MB and costs $0.99 at the App Store.

The AT&T-sponsored app, intended for use by participants, staff, and visitors to the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, provides up-to-date information on all programs and activities being held at the Summit this summer. See some screenshots below. Continue reading


Amateur radio operators: Wear your smarts on your sleeve


With apologies to the Buggles, I’m happy to report that the radio star is alive and well.

Well, the ham radio star, at least. And now the BSA offers a special patch for licensed aficionados of amateur radio. The Amateur Radio Operator Rating Strip, above, shows others that you’re available for communication services for events, like Jamboree on the Air, and emergencies.

The requirements for the strip couldn’t be simpler: You must be a registered youth or adult member with a valid amateur radio license, of any class, issued by the Federal Communications Commission, known to you and me as the FCC.

That’s it. If you’re eligible, grab the $1.59 strip (Supply No. 617431) from the Boy Scout Supply Group at 800-­323-­0736 or scoutstuff.org. The strip’s release date is Feb. 15, and you can’t preorder it. So mark your calendars to fire off an order the day after Valentine’s Day.

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The Scout Law for the Facebook and Twitter set

Seventy-six years before Mark Zuckerberg was even born, the original Scout Law appeared in Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys.

No need for a new set of 12, though. Turns out those words — which the BSA adapted and adopted in 1911 — still apply as 2013 nears.

That’s why the Boy Scouts of America just released a new pledge called “The Scout Law and Cybersafety/Cyberbullying” to be signed by a Scout, his/her parent, and a leader.

Consider it a new interpretation of those 12 points for the generation growing up with (deep breath) Facebook, Google, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Foursquare, SMS, MMS, and OMGs.

Check it out:  Continue reading


Radio-active JOTA participation reaches new heights

JOTA, I hear you loud and clear.

More than 18,000 American Scouts participated in the 2012 edition of the Jamboree on the Air last month. That’s a whopping 482 percent leap over last year’s participant total.

So let me extend a big Bravo Zulu (that’s “well done” in radio speak) to the 136 Scout councils, 41 states, and 18,537 Scouts who expanded their minds through long-distance radio communication. And even more kudos to Jim Wilson (K5ND) and the eight-member National Radio Scouting Committee.

Scouts from the U.S. contacted other participants in all 50 states and in 66 different countries. Max Siles, a New Jersey unit commissioner, was impressed.  Continue reading


Your life just got easier, thanks to these new online unit and district tools

Updating your personal info in the BSA’s database shouldn’t take an act of congress.

Fortunately, a just-launched suite of unit and district tools has the power to change your address, phone number, e-mail, or more—with just a click.

In the past, Scouters or parents who needed to make changes had to call their council. Now they can do all of it through the Unit and District Tools page on MyScouting (changes to your name and date of birth still go through your council, for Youth Protection reasons).

I suggest you log in soon and make sure the BSA has your most up-to-date contact info. Does someone in your unit lack reliable computer access? Have them call one of their unit’s Key 3 (unit leader, the chartered organization representative, or the unit committee chairman) to change it for them.

And simplified contact info is just the beginning. Phase 1 also offers an announcements page, a calendar, and a roster manager. You can learn about all the new tools and how to use them in the tutorial below. Or just log in and explore. I found it very intuitive.

I also want to draw your attention to the design of the new Unit and District Tools site. It’s clean and simple, with large icons and no frills. That’s a conscious, forward-thinking move by Debra Kendrew, Brianne Dondlinger, and other members of the project team.

“It’s designed simply for a reason,” Debra says. “It’s optimized for use on all mobile devices.”

Future phases will only make these tools better. Debra and Brianne gave me a sneak peek of these changes coming soon:  Continue reading


The Ultimate List of Scouting Apps

Once upon a time, we used maps printed on paper to find our way. We studied laminated sky charts to identify constellations. We counted seconds after thunder strikes to locate storms.

What were we thinking?

Today, thanks to the ubiquitous smartphone, we can do all that and more with a few taps.

As Scout leaders, we can now carry a library, GPS, weather radio, compass, map, camera, and field guide in our pocket. But which apps are worth downloading or — in some cases — paying for?

I tapped our Facebook friends to find out.  Continue reading


BSA dials in sponsorship deal with Icom America for amateur radio stations

Amateur radio: Fun but not free.

That makes the recent sponsorship agreement between the Boy Scouts of America and Icom America, a world leader in the amateur radio market, such big news.

The deal makes Icom the exclusive amateur radio transceiver and repeater supplier for the 2013 National Scout Jamboree.

And even if you aren’t going to the jamboree, you can still benefit from this sponsorship. Continue reading


With BSA’s new Cyber Chip, online safety’s the point

The patch comes in blue for Cub Scouts and green for Boy Scouts, Venturers, Varsity Scouts, and Sea Scouts.

Kids spend more than 7.5 hours a day using some kind of electronic device, according to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study.

In other words, if they’re awake and not at school, they’re probably online.

Whatever their reason for logging on — school project, merit badge research, socializing, games — safety is never guaranteed.

That’s why the Boy Scouts of America’s new Cyber Chip, announced last week, is a big step in the right direction in the effort to keep kids safe online. And because June is National Internet Safety Month, the timing couldn’t be better.

In developing this new Youth Protection tool, the BSA teamed up with content expert NetSmartz, part of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as training experts for different law enforcement agencies.

The Cyber Chip joins the Totin’ Chip and Whittling Chip as important safety tools your Scouts should earn and carry with them. Bonus: The pocket patch they get, designed to look like a smartphone, is unlike any official BSA patch I’ve ever seen.

Have your Scouts earn their Cyber Chip ASAP. Here’s how:

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First look: Game Design merit badge (and how you can help!)

A new merit badge rewarding you for creativity, fun, and strategy? I’m game.

Your Scouts will be too when the Game Design merit badge debuts next year.

Approved and listed on my Guide to New Merit Badges for a month now, the new badge is in mid-development. But lucky for you, I got a sneak peek from Janice Downey, senior innovation manager with the BSA.

And there’s more good news: If you’re attending the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, you can help get the Game Design merit badge off the ground.

Here’s the scoop:

Continue reading