How to meet when you cannot be in the same room.
With the reactions to try to get ahead of the COVID-19 virus, most meeting locations have been closed. This is understandable, yet it poses a challenge to organizations like Scouting units. How do we still do Scouting when we cannot get together? Remote meetings may be the answer for you and your unit.
Corporations over the years have wrestled with a similar challenge. Not for the same reason, of course, but to become efficient at supporting remote users and cutting the cost to travel. Corporations have been using systems like Skype, WebEx and GoToMeeting. Many other communcation tools have surfaced in the commercial space like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Your Scouts have likely been using tools like Discord and may be more familiar with this kind of communcation than many of us Scouters.
So, here is an opportunity to use these tools in our units to facilitate our Scouting program while the world is hunkering down.
My Troop's planning team has been using Skype for a couple years now to enable us to meet on a more regular basis. It has surely helped my Scout leader team be better prepared for running the program of the troop.
My unit is investigating the use of other tools for communicating with a larger audience: for our committee, our mentor team, for our ASM team and for our PLC.
I'll cover a couple of the tools with which we'll be experimenting and I'll provide feedback in updates to this post as we learn more.
Skye has been around for a number of years and offers a pretty nice service. I've used this with my planning team for a couple years and it has worked well. Each participant does need a Skype/Microsoft account to participate. You create a conference group in Skype and add particpants to the group. Then you video call them or audio call them through the platform.
Video conferencing, chat/txting, file sharing via the chat window
Desktop and Mobile supported.
Participants do need an Skype/Microsoft account to participate.
Pros: Free. Unlimited time. Closed Captioning. Accessible via web browser on computer.
Cons: Requires a google account for all participants. (can sign up for one HERE). Phone-in option not available unless you have a business account. (If you have a G Suite business account, you can also share a phone number for people to call into the meeting if they don’t have access to a computer or smartphone. GSuite accounts are free till July 1.)
Capacity (25 Participants/Devices)
How to use:
Open Google Hangouts in web browser or mobile app (apple device , android device, chrome web browser extension)
Click “Video Call” button
Click “Invite People” and type in their email address (If they don’t have a google account it will send them an invite to setup an account)
You can also schedule a meeting on your google calendar and send an invite to join you at a specific time, including a link to your online meeting. (See Instructions)
Watch 6 minute youtube tutorial.
Pros: Free. Only hosts are required to have a Zoom account. There is a phone-in option.
Cons: Limited to 40 minutes unless you have a paid account ($14.99/mo). Have to download Zoom application to phone or computer.
Capacity (100 participants/Devices)
How To Use:
Watch tutorial videos in Zoom video library.
Facebook Messenger Groups
Pros: Free. Accessible via web browser on computer. Can access without a facebook account. (If you don’t have a facebook account you’ll need to download the app to your phone and use phone number.)
Cons: Phone-in option not available.
Capacity (50 participants/Devices: 6 video, 44 audio)
How To Use:
Open facebook messenger on web browser or mobile app
Login (with facebook account or phone number)
Click “New Message” button to add facebook friends to group chat (see image below)
After adding contacts, click the “Video Call” button to start video chat. (see image below)
Watch 2 minute tutorial.
This is a solution that has been around for a long time. There is a free level that supports up to 100 participants. You can meet as long as you want and have an unlimited number of meetings a month. We tested this out over the weekend and it looks to be a nice option. We'll be trying this tonight in 3 meetings that we have scheduled. The free level is limited on the control of users. And its interface is a little clunky (in my humble opinion).
Video conferencing, screen sharing, chat/txting, call-in phone number. File sharing is a little more difficult with WebEx.
Participants do not need an account to join in a meeting.
I've used GoToMeeting with my company for years and we'll be using it for 3 of our upcomming planning meetings for a multi-unit campout we have comming up. There dosn't look to be a free level with this platform.
Video conferencing, screen sharing, chat/txting, call-in phone number.
Participants do not need an account to join a meeting.
To share content, check out my post about Sharing Content via Google Apps.
Remember to adhear to the Guide to Safe Scouting and the policies of Youth Protection when using remote communication tools!
- Two-deep leadership. Always have at least one other adult in the meeting.
- The parents of Scouts who are participating in remote communications should be notified when meetings are occuring.
- Never share anything that is inappropriate through the remote communcation mechanism.
- It should go with out saying, but I will anyway... always be dressed appropriately when video conferencing is utilized, even if your entire person is not in view.
Here is an extract of the Youth Protection Guidlines in Digital Communication:
Youth Protection Policies in Digital Communication
With the recent suspension of Scouting Activities, there is a strong emphasis on the use of electronic and virtual technology for our units and committees. As a reminder to everyone Youth Protection Guidelines still are applicable to electronic communications. This means that any email, text, social media messaging and video conference must be done so no one on one contact is had between a youth and adult. You must include another adult, preferably a parent/guardian or another unit leader, for all communications.
Guide To Safe Scouting:
- One-on-one contact between adult leaders and youth members is prohibited both inside and outside of Scouting.
- In situations requiring a personal conference, the meeting is to be conducted with the knowledge and in view of other adults and/or youth.
- Private online communications (texting, phone calls, chat, IM, etc.) must include another registered leader or parent.
- Communication by way of social media (Facebook, Snapchat, etc.) must include another registered leader or parent.
- Family Scouting
- Sea Scouts