Technology in Scouting: Are We As Connected As We Think?

Does it seem as though every Scout and Scouter has a smartphone? Despite what it looks like in the mall or at some troop meetings, a 2010 study (Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2010) revealed that only 36 percent of Boy Scout-age students have a smartphone. The number of Venturing-age youth jumps to only 44 percent. A similar, wide gap occurs when urban vs. rural and ethnicity data is segmented.

As part of the 2010 U.S. Census, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration reported that only 66 percent of urban, and just over half (51 percent) of rural households had broadband access in 2009. That was a huge increase over the 2000 Census but not as widespread as most of us think.

Further, while 68 percent of white and 77 percent of Asian-American households had broadband, only 49 percent of African-American households, 48 percent of Native American households, and 48 percent of Hispanic/Latino households had access.

As for adults, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project report released this July, 35 percent of us have a smartphone. Rural adults are half as likely as suburban and urban adults to own one. But unlike the other reports, non-Hispanic whites are less likely to own one: 44 percent of African-American and Hispanic adults have smartphones.

These reports make it even more alarming when we hear that districts are dropping instructor-led training, especially for Cub Scout leaders, because some or all of the training is online. There is no doubt that e-learning has a place for some Scouters, but in a program where fellowship, mentoring, and personal interaction are so important—and adult learning theory includes the need for experiential activity—instructor-led training is still the preferred method for most of our courses. Worse, by eliminating instructor-led training, we are also eliminating training for a large segment of our population.

The Volunteer Development Team and task force are seriously looking at the best platforms and content for youth and adult training. There is no question that we need to be prepared with the most effective training for a future that may indeed include interactive e-learning. Regardless of where we may be headed, in today’s environment we cannot forget the Scouters and Scouts who need face-to-face training. Nor can we forget—even if we do have universal access someday—the value of interactive, instructor-led, Scouting training.

5 Responses to Technology in Scouting: Are We As Connected As We Think?

  1. John Erskine says:

    We severely curtailed the number of “live” Cub Scout trainings in our districts as we found that as the National office is forcing everyone to online trainings (and online records) attendance at the live courses dropped severely. People feel why should they come out for training when we tell them how easy it is to do training at home. the online trainings are helpful but it is hard to convince a scouter to come out for a three hour training instead of half an hour at home.

  2. [...] check out this post on Scout Wire, which told us that “only 66 percent of urban, and just over half (51 percent) [...]

  3. Bill Nelson says:

    Our experience is the same. Our district Cub Scout class sizes went from an average of 35 twice a year to 5 students once a year. There isn’t an incentive to go to instructor led training if they can take it at home, no matter how good it may be. And our training was considered one of the best courses in our large Council.

  4. Mike Thomas says:

    Live trainings are still viable and should be encouraged. The information in the article still shows a majority of individuals are not equipped with all the newest electronic equipment. E-trainings are a good solution for individuals needing a refresher as well as for those who cannot attend trainings at specified times given work and other commitments. I hardly feel the National office is forcing e-training but is rather doing its part to stay relevant in a growing electronic age. This is a great thing. I still get the sense that live trainings are encouraged as they provide more detail than what a few slides and videos can capture (plus they offer more detailed information on such programs as roundtable and supplemental trainings to enhance leader knowledge).

  5. Bill Louree says:

    On Sunday afternoon, July 20,1969, we had a district Cub Scoutleader training scheduled. Unfortunately, no one but the trainers showed up because Neil Armstrong was landing on the moon. We continued to offer training, and sometimes no more than 6 people attended in this rural district. But the training team believed in training and offered training as often as possible, sometimes one on one. Training is the key to quality program and membership retention.

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