We’re navigating some seriously uncharted territory right now, trying to find ways to maintain some normalcy and keep the kids from physically turning into the Fortnite character they’re obsessively playing. It’s been pleasantly surprising to witness the outpouring of knowledge and generosity in the last week; the sharing of wisdom and resources is truly inspiring.
Guys! We’ve got this!
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking up ways to keep my Scouts on track. My den of AOLs was expecting to bridge in April, and I’m hopeful we still can, but not meeting in person has put a huge damper on the last of our den plans. I had all these great ideas – a fireside program, s’mores, reminiscing on the years we’ve spent together, encouraging them to be brave as they take the big leap into a boy-led Troop. As it turns out, social distancing has been the perfect catalyst for creativity. Through the tremendous brain trust over at the Cub Scouts Volunteers Facebook Group, I’ve learned a lot about virtual meetings and the technology that make them possible. As I plan out ways to use this to my advantage for both Scouting and schoolwork, I wanted to share what I’ve learned in the hopes that it saves someone else the time and energy.
There are a lot of great Scout Tech options out there for hosting virtual meetings, but before we just plop a Scout in front of their PC and use that hour to take a breather, it’s important that your Scout has an updated Cyber Chip.
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 Pack Facebook group or page for up to four hours! 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.
How Do I Use Facebook Live?
- Go to your Facebook group on your smartphone and tape the red “Live” icon under the “write something” box, as if you were about to type a new post.
- Give Facebook access to your camera and microphone.
- Switch to “Live” on the bottom of your camera screen.
- Choose your privacy and posting settings.
- Write a subject or description.
- Set your camera’s orientation.
- Click “Start Live Video” and you’re broadcasting!
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.
I just sat in on a Skype den meeting tonight and was absolutely floored by how cool it was! The Scouts were sharing their desktops to give presentations, used manners and showed courtesy by muting their own microphones, and the leader had a tremendous amount of flexibility and control over how the meeting was run. I will, personally, use Skype to host my meetings.
How Do I Set-Up a Skype Group Meeting?
- Launch your Skype app or desktop program and sign-in.
- You can change your online status by clicking on the colored circle next to your profile picture.
- Using the left-hand menu, click the “New Group Chat” icon.
- Add an image and chat name. Click Done.
- Add up to 10 attendees to your meeting OR create and share a link to your group meeting by clicking the icon at the top left that looks like a person with a plus sign.
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.
How Do I Use Zoom?
- Visit zoom.us and sign-in.
- Click the “Host a Meeting” button at the top of your screen, choosing to have video on or off.
- It will prompt you to join with computer audio, or you can click the check box to automatically join audio by computer when joining a meeting. You can also test your speaker and microphone.
- Click the “Invite” button at the bottom of your screen and send an email OR copy the URL using the buttons on the “Invite people to join” pop-up window. Make note of the meeting password.
- Share your invitation and get started!
The “Zoom Meeting Settings” (PDF) by Helen Son is an EXCELLENT reference for Zoom-specific settings to help lock down your meetings.
Most of us have a Google account, so Hangouts is a great option for hosting a virtual meeting. 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.
How Do I Use Google Hangouts?
- Visit hangouts.google.com and sign-in.
- Click “Video Call” on your home page.
- Invite specific people OR create and share a link to your group video.
- You can chat with your meeting members by clicking the chat icon.
Other Options for Staying Connected
A Facebook Group is a great tool for keeping your Pack and Dens connected without sharing your meetings, photos, or posts publicly. My Pack uses ours to keep families updated on changes to Pack and Den schedules, and at the time of this posting, changes to our overall plan for our Year in Scouting due to social distancing because of the spread of the coronavirus. We’re trying to keep our Scouts engaged by offering up Rank Challenges to keep them on the advancement trail and off the XBOX. Please visit these two posts to learn more and use the resources I’ve made available to keep your unit on track.
- Cub Scout Activities: Webelos/AOL Adventures to Complete at Home
- Cub Scout Activities: Adventuring from Home Rank Challenges
Additional Security Measures
Not everyone is a Scout; there are people out there in the world looking for opportunities to create havoc wherever they can. Unfortunately, it’s becoming commonplace to have a meeting hacked by someone with ill-intent, which is inconvenient at best and extremely upsetting at worst. Virtual conferencing programs have security measures available to protect the youth in your meetings from these types of attacks.
- When you create your meeting, choose a one-time unique ID.
- Require a meeting password.
- Create a “waiting room”.
- Select “only hosts can share screen”.
- Establish and share etiquette rules and kick out unruly attendees.
Learn more about virtual conference hacking (‘Zoom Bombing’) at CyberGuy.com.
Free Cub Scout and Scouts BSA Backgrounds
If you’re looking to switch things up in your next Zoom meeting, and hide the piles of Scout Stuff stacked up in your room, consider virtual backgrounds. I’m sure you’ve had Scouts floating in space or enjoying a tropical vacation in recent meetings, and maybe you’ve wondered how. Learn how, and help yourself to my collection of FREE virtual backgrounds! Download yours at Scouting Tech: Free Cub Scout and Scouts BSA Backgrounds for Virtual Meetings.
Visual Aids for Virtual Meetings
Google Slides provides you with almost limitless opportunities for pulling together eye-catching, interesting, fun presentations that can be shared and passed down to other leaders. Having all of your virtual meeting materials in one place will make your job as den leader that much easier – it won’t be necessary to juggle clicking around to find materials on the web or trying to remember where you found something on the fly. It will also help you to stay on track and add resources to your meeting, like You Tube links and interactive games, that will keep your Scouts engaged. Read more at Scouting Tech: Visual Aids for Virtual Meetings.
How to Run a Virtual Pack Meeting
Well, if you’re doing your part to flatten the curve by sitting on your couch and brainstorming all of the ways you and your Pack can Scout in these difficult times, welcome to the One Hour A Week Club. We’re starting campfires with our Den and Pack meeting plans for kindling, looking for a spot among the dining room table to safely store the Arrow of Light plaques, picking at patch corners to see what could use a new stitch, wearing our uniforms around the house because we’re starting to miss the itchy shorts. Read more at Cub Scout Activities: How to Run a Virtual Pack Meeting.
Using Zoom Breakout Rooms for Survival Situation Games
Foster Scout Spirit and team work by dropping your patrol into survival situations and seeing how they would react. By using Zoom Breakout Rooms, you can split your patrol into separate groups to discuss their found items and strategies for survival before presenting to the full group. It’s a great opportunity to use the tech you have available and teach them a thing or two about being prepared for anything! Scouting Tech: Using Zoom Breakout Rooms for Survival Situation Games
Look Wide, and When You Think You’re Looking Wide, LOOK WIDER STILL!
If you’ve planned out something clever that other families can benefit from, share your work! Go to your Facebook page, find online groups that share your interests, and put it out there for others to use. We have an opportunity to be helpers in a difficult time, and we can use it to start a groundswell of giving. How cool is that?
Stay healthy! Yours in Scouting,
22 thoughts on “Scouting Tech: Online Conferencing Tools for Virtual Meetings”
Hello Rebekah, found your blog postings today thanks to another Boy Scout council’s link. Your work is very impressive. My Council based in Findlay Ohio, is discussing wanting something to share with our Scouting families and your work seems perfect for such to me. Can I share my Scout Executive and ask about sharing your work with our families? it would probably be from our facebook page and link directly to your pages. And credit will be fully given to you. I would also if we do this, like to use your artwork in the facebook posting for the article because photos catch people’s eyes as you obviously know from the looks of our blog and postings. Thank you – Jim Mason, Development Director.
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It would be an honor for me to have your Council utilize these materials to keep your Scouts motivated through this difficult time. I am thrilled that you see value in the work and would be genuinely happy to see it put to good use.
Thank you for reaching out! Good luck to you and the Scouts in your charge.
Yours in Scouting,
Rebekah, I am the webmaster (and a volunteer) for our council’s website (https://sequoyahcouncil.org) and I am building a new page to help our units deal with the Coronavirus Pandemic and continue with scouting at home. I came across your blog and also would like to link your site to our website. You have some really good information that would help.
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Please feel free to use these posts however they are helpful to the Scouts in your Council! I shared them in the hopes that they would save other Scouters time and energy, and keep our Scouts engaged and on track. It makes me happy to know they’re useful!
Yours in Scouting,
Rebekah, I am the webmaster (and a volunteer) for our council and I am putting a page together to help our units work with scouts and parents as we get through this Coronavirus scare and I came across your blog and we would like to put a link in our website to your blog
I have created a facebook event that is gonna be a virtual camping experience either in your backyard, living room, bedroom, etc. I made it a private event so that only invitees could attend. I encouraged folks to sing songs, watch movies, roast marshmallows. Be creative.
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I love this idea! My AOLs meet on Monday and I’m thinking of going with a camping theme since our last camping trip as Cubs had to be canceled. I was definitely planning on some jokes and skits, but I wonder if I can get everyone to be prepared to make or have a campfire snack. HAVE FUN WITH THIS and tell me how it goes!!
Good morning and Happy Labor Day. I think it is only appropriate to say thank you for the many hours of labor you have put into thinking of our young men. I began pondering the time that has past with my youngest son and how I have neglected to invest in him. My middle son was very active in cub scouts but then life happened. So I thought I want my youngest to do scouts too. He is a bit older (9 years old). I am not sure what group of scouts he falls under. We also live in West Virginia. How do I find a troop that is as organized as you? Or are you willing to virtually accept our family as distant members of your organization? Thanks in advance for your help.
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Hi Jennifer! First, mamma, you haven’t neglected to invest in your youngest son. Like you said… life happens. At 9, your youngest son is in the 4th or 5th grade, so he would still be a Cub Scout. That age group are Webelos, which in my opinion is the most fun anyway because those Scouts are learning a lot of very interesting skills and have some independence the younger Scouts don’t yet have.
You should definitely check out https://beascout.scouting.org/. This website will help you find a local unit that will best suit your Scout. Make sure you click on the button for Cub Scouts to filter out the units, then enter your zip code and click “Find and Apply.” This will give you a listing of local Cub Scout units, including leadership and contact information. Many will have a website associated with them that will give you an idea of what their culture and community is like! My next steps, before committing to any specific unit, would be to ask if you could join in on their virtual meetings as a guest and let your Scout get a feel for their activities and programming. What you’ll find is that each unit is different but that they each have something great to offer – and I would think most are going to be very organized and exciting for your Scout.
In the meantime, if you’d like to attend a future virtual meeting with the Pack I just graduated from, I would be happy to put you in touch with the new leadership team for more details. I admit I’m out of touch with their program plan this year as my youngest bridged into a Troop this year. But I know they’d be happy to have you so you could, if nothing else, use their program to compare with others.
Thanks for reaching out, and I’m so glad my blog is helpful to you! It’s a labor of true love, that’s for sure.
Have a great holiday,