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.