Scoutmaster Musings - Tech Chip

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Scoutmaster Musings

Tech Chip
How are electronics handled in your troop, pack, or crew? Are they banned, allowed only at certain times, or permitted? just scouts, or adults too? All electronics, including GPS, flashlights, watches? A specific list of devices that are illegal?

I noticed quite a bit of online discussion about electronic devices on scout outings over the past year. Some adults just ban them altogether. Others let the scouts decide. Others ban them from scouts, but not adults.

In our troop, each newly-elected Sr. Patrol Leader determines how electronics should be handled. Long ago, none were allowed on campouts because they were just radios and music. As cellphones became more common, scouts snuck them along. This caused friction between the scouts. More recent SPLs have allowed electronics, but only in the cars, or only at specific times, or only for certain uses such as clock or emergency light - which has been difficult to manage.

Most recently, we've reached the consensus that electronics are too integrated into our daily lives to toss them away for a weekend. Setting expectations on how technology should be courteously and safely used in scouting has been our direction. Over the past couple months, we've created a short training program called Tech Chip, in the spirit of Whittlin' Chip, Totin' Chip, and Firem'n Chit. It is about 20 minutes of skits and discussion to ensure everyone understands the expected use of electronics at our scout events. At the conclusion of the training, each participant receives a wallet card.

At this past weekend's campout, I presented the training to the SPL, ASPL, and a PL. They then presented it to 15 other scouts. Everyone that I asked was excited about getting to take their devices now and they all could recite the expectations to me. Some of them were just excited to have a cool wallet card even though they didn't own cellphones. :-)

See more about the Tech Chip, training outline, and wallet cards you can purchase for your Troop, Pack, or Crew at the Tech Chip Award page.

If you have suggestions for improvement, please email them to me.

Scout On
Posted: 14:11 01-27-2010 478
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 Jan 27, 2010 - Josh
That's a really cool idea!
I really like the name of the card and how it looks.
Jan 28, 2010 - Joe
Sorry, but his strikes me much like the new Cub Scout video game belt loop. I think I understand WHY you did this, but it strikes me as wrong. As leaders we be teaching them there is more to life than mindless video games, texting and surfing. And honestly, it is NOT difficult to throw away the electronics for a weekend or week for that matter. Keep the cell phones in the car for emergencies, other than that, dump it.
Jan 29, 2010 - Thomas Peel
Excellent idea! I have always taught my classes (I teach computers in 3rd to 8th grades for a small private school) about the proper uses of technology and the safety rules for technology. We do the requirements for the Internet Scout patch as well. The school orders them and presents them on award night. It shows that these kids are tech savy anjd understand the proper and improper use of technology.
Feb 11, 2010 - Debbie
I have to agree with Joe. In our unit, we make sure the adults attending the outing have a cellphone for emergencies. The boys are on outings to interact with each other and nature, not to be in contact with others back at home. Being "unplugged" for a weekend, or even a week, can have huge benefits. Yes, we are in an electronics age, but it is not necessary to have them at all the time.
Feb 16, 2010 - Mark
I will swing the comments back the other way. I like the teaching idea. Banning things only "teaches" you are not responsible enough to manage something yourself. I have had this happen at work, where a piece of technology (reserving conference rooms using MSOutlook) was rolled out, then people used it incorrectly, and the decision was made to take it away from the masses and only let the admins book the rooms. The message I heard was "you are not smart enough to get this right, and we do not feel you can be taught how to do this right, so we're going to take it away from you." Don't do that to kids. Teach them about when it is OK and when they should put them away - and why, not just rules. For example, they can participate in the group activities if they put them away, and the group activities are fun, so they should want to be doing them.
Feb 26, 2010 - Neil
I agree with the idea of teaching proper use and it has it's place; in normal troop meetings, on the car ride, etc. However, on an outing, we leave a lot of modern conveniences behind (indoor plumbing, soft and warm beds, electricity, the list could go on and on). That is the point of getting the boys outside, to interact with nature and learn things that can't on an ipod.
Jul 08, 2010 - Larry Geiger
Joe, you've already lost.

Maybe some of us might like to have it differently, but it's not going to happen. We don't use canvas tents. We mostly cook on Coleman stoves and not open fires. We don't trench around our tents. We wear nylon shorts and t-shirts. We use battery flashlights. Scouts call each other across summer camp on their cell phones. Scouts go to sleep at night listening to their pod thingys.

It's happening and it's going to happen and we aren't going to stop it. The technology is still fairly new and your older Scouts may not yet have begun deselecting your unit because of the "draconian" policies, but that day is coming also.

Funniest thing happened on our last campout. John has one of those phone thingys that has Apps. He has an App that does bird calls. He had a Chuck-Wills-Widow spun up so bad it almost landed on his head. I thought the stupid thing was just over my head on a limb and they all laughed at me when I started looking for it. Oh well.
Nov 14, 2010 - Greg
Tech training is important to youth and adults. Technology is not going away and will grow in youth and scouting. Many kids today do not wear watches; they use iPods or cell phones to tell time. We need to teach responsibility.

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