Video Conferencing Tools
Den meetings, unit meetings, Boards of Review and Scoutmaster Conferences don't have to be put on hold just because we're practicing social distancing. These Scouting essentials are critical when it comes to Scouting. While you might not be meeting as a unit, videoconferencing is a great way to hold den, pack, troop, patrol and crew meetings as well as Boards of Review and Scoutmaster Conferences. We've compiled a few resources to help you get started.
There are a lot of great options out there for hosting virtual meetings, but before we just plop a Scout in front of their PC, it’s important that your Scout has an updated Cyber Chip.
As you decide how to use technology to meet think: Can Scouts share their desktops to give presentations, use manners and show courtesy by muting their own microphones, and do leaders have an amount of flexibility and control over how the meeting is run.
Most units have a social media presence, and this is where Facebook Live could be the perfect option for your online meetings. Host a meeting live like you would in person… flag ceremony, Oath, Law, Outdoor Code, and activities. The perks of this free technology are that you can broadcast your meeting on your unit's Facebook group! You will want to have a group so that the meeting remains not open to the public. You can also see comments as they come in, allowing for question and answer time. The best part is that the Live broadcast will save as a regular post that can be viewed and commented on later! The down side is that you can’t share resources like files or presentations. If your unit has a Facebook page, you can and still should go live with maybe a special message from unit leaders or a merit badge counselor, but remember the privacy settings as you post publicly. Please reference the BSA Social Media Guidelines as well.
Skype is a very popular video conferencing tool used to connect families, classrooms, and businesses online. There is a free version that allows up to 10 guests on a video call, but there are interactive chats and you can record the video and share it later on social media. There are apps for both iOS and Android devices, and can be used on your Windows OS desktop computer. As the leader of the meeting, you’ll want to create a Skype Group meeting that you’ll invite people to via email, social media link, or text. You can record your meeting and share it later, and even click the paperclip icon at the bottom of your screen to attach images, files, or more.
If you need something similar to Skype but have more than 10 attendees, consider Zoom, which allows you to host up to 100 attendees. This would be great for a virtual Pack Meeting! Zoom also allows screen sharing, so you could have more than one leader in different locations running the meeting. Like Facebook Live and Skype, it’s free to use and allows for you to quickly and easily share a virtual meeting with your Scouts. You can record and share your video later, and even attach files for your attendees to view.
Recently, there have been news reports about people "Zoom Bombing" meetings - joining meetings they have not been invited to participate in and causing disruptions. There are settings within Zoom that allow you to manage how people join the meeting or by creating "waiting rooms" requiring the meeting host to approve the person to join the meeting.
Digital Safety and Online Scouting Activities
As Scouting moves to virtual and online platforms, we offer the following reminders to help keep kids safe. This guidance applies to all online Scouting activities and meetings.
Note: Some states may have legal requirements that differ from, and even go beyond, what is provided. It is your responsibility to check and abide by your state laws and consult your local council when reviewing and applying the following guidance, which is not comprehensive.
Go To Meeting
If you need something similar to Zoom or Skype and don't mind paying $12 a month, consider Go To Meeting, which allows you to host up to 150 attendees. Your attendees do not need a Go To Meeting account, all they need is your link or call in information for the meeting. Go To Meeting also allows screen sharing, so you could have more than one leader in different locations running the meeting. You can record and share your video later, and even attach files for your attendees to view. The largest selling point to Go To Meeting is that only the organizer needs to have a account; this is the reason that most of our Northern Lights Council meetings are held online using Go To Meeting. You can record and share your video later.
Many of us have a Google account, so Hangouts is a great option for hosting a virtual meeting. Most students are using this if they use Google Class Room. Like Zoom, Hangouts allows you to connect to up to 100 people (in chat) and 10 in a video conference. There are fewer bells and whistles, but the trade-off is that it’s extremely easy to use and connects directly to your Google account, so there’s no need to upload a contacts list.
Other Options for Staying Connected
A Facebook Group is a great tool for keeping your Pack, Troop or Dens connected without sharing your meetings, photos, or posts publicly. Many units uses this to keep families updated on changes to schedules and to share other options. We’re trying to keep our Scouts engaged by offering up different challenges to keep them on the advancement trail. Remember, thought that Facebook Groups are only good for helping to communicate with current members, any new members need to be invited to be a member and don't forget some individuals do not use Facebook. Do not let this be the only way you communicate.
Scoutbook should be your go to spot to not only record advancement, but is a great way of communicating. In Scoutbook you can send emails and texts to any individual or groups of individuals including, parents, leaders and even Scouts. Scouts and their parents can even mark advancement they have completed while attaching their own notes, images or videos as proof (these still require leader approval to be marked as complete). Scoutbook is a free service provided by the Boy Scouts of America and is our official unit management software. A complete FAQ and how to get started is available online.