There are so many tools available to us to help make our jobs easier, yet I bet half of all Scouters don't even use email on a regular basis.
This weekend, take the plunge. Become electronic. It is mostly, if not completely, free. Just like a Cub Scout belt loop, stick your toe in the water--it won't bite you and you'll be glad you did. In no time, you'll be swimming like a shark!
- Email--get it and use it if you don't already. Force yourself to communicate with it. I've known people who could only type via the "hunt and peck" method, go to 30+ words a minute in a year. Yahoo mail and Google mail (gmail) are free, have tons of storage, and great spam filter capabilities.
- Instant messenger--AOL AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and others are available. If you have Yahoo mail, you can use the same ID to run Instant Messenger. Your Scouts use IM all the time (when they aren't using their cell phones to text).
- Text on your cell phone--you can almost always upgrade your account with a cell carrier to add texting cheaply to your cell phone. For $5 a month, I get 200 text messages. Not a lot compared to what your Scouts use, but great to reach them in a pinch.
- Blog--Google has made blogging fool-proof. Anyone can have a blog, and it seems like everyone does! Maybe it is something your troop's historian can take charge of? See last week's Patrol Box for blog ideas. Even our BSA camp has one.
- Facebook--be available to your Scouts. They are on here! So are their families and tons of fellow Scouters from your council. Ten minutes a day goes a long way to staying on top of what is happening in their lives.
- Twitter--this new tool gets easier and more intuitive everyday. Everyone says the same thing--at first they don't get it, then suddenly a light bulb goes off, and it makes sense. The amount of information waiting for you is enormous. Come see me on Twitter to see what I mean.
- Hootsuite--this allows you a great way to watch your Twitter account. If you already use Twitter, and need a way to organize it better, try Hootsuite.
- Youtube--again, your Scouts can help you find relevant material. Search for Boy Scouts of America to get your feet wet.
- YahooGroups--keep one for your pack, troop or crew to stay in touch. Email archives, links, databases, picture archive, polls, and best of all you can set it up to be private--only people you allow to view it and participate in it can do so. Everyone else is shut out. Look for "Cub Scout Talk" and "Boy Scout Talk" first for high caliber information and help.
- Something new--be open to try the new stuff that comes along.
Put that Betamax away. Step away from that 8-track. Get a phone without a cord.
What tools do you use to make your more effective as a leader? How do you communicate with your busy Scouts and busier families? Comment away!