Time marches on, and technology comes along for the ride. It’s true of the Boy Scouts of America, which a couple years ago unvelied Scoutbook, a unit recordkeeping software package initially developed by a Scouter who had a better idea. Available to units at a reasonable cost (or free in some cases), Scoutbook is a step forward in terms of integration with the BSA’s own databases.
For the past several years, paper advancement forms took a back seat to Internet Advancement, which allowed units to enter advancement data directly online instead of having to complete forms in triplicate and hand-carry them to the council’s service center. An adjunct to the Internet Advancement program was the ability to upload data from the popular software packages or your own spreadsheet in comma-delimited format (CSV, or comma-separated values). It was clunky, but it worked, and saved a lot of duplicate typing.
With the arrival of Scoutbook, however, its integration with the ScoutNet database was even more seamless – data could be transferred directly, without having to export files and upload them. Fewer and fewer units (only around ten percent) are still using CSV uploads, so the BSA has announced that CSV, and Internet Advancement, will no longer be supported starting in the second quarter of this year.
Replacing Internet Advancement is a new online tool called Scoutbook Lite. It’s an all-new cross-platform application (computer, tablet or smartphone) that will allow units to quickly and easily enter advancement data. Everything that’s in the current Internet Advancement program will still be there, and they’re saying it will be easier to use. It sounds like a small price to pay for doing away with CSV uploads.
In addition, the BSA will be releasing their application-programming interface (API) specifications only to volunteer Scouters, so those skilled in software development will be able to write their own apps to do just what they need to do.
Everything is still under development as this is written, so dates and features could change, but once it’s implemented, Scoutbook Lite should be a welcome tool to make our lives a bit easier.
In other advancement news:
- The 2018 edition of Boy Scout Requirements is being revised and should be available by the end of January at Scout Shops. It contains the official updates to merit badge requirements, the new language on awarding Eagle Palms for merit badges earned up to a Scout’s Eagle Board of Review, limited exceptions to certain swimming requirements, and revised camping requirements for Second Class and First Class. These changes were announced over the course of the last year, but are made official with publication of Requirements.
- With “Family Scouting” (the inclusion of girls in our core programs) coming over the next couple years, there’s a clarification that ranks and merit badges are for registered Boy Scouts and Lone Scouts, which suggests that the program they’re developing for girls will deal with advancement in a somewhat different manner. We’ll have to wait and see what they come up with.
- And in the “Youth shouldn’t suffer the mistakes of adults” department, we’re reminded that errors committed at boards of review don’t prevent future advancement. If a Scout was missing a requirement, a merit badge or a month of service in a position of responsibility but was granted a rank by a board of review, he can’t be made to “make up” the missing requirement in order to earn subsequent ranks. It points up the need for better training of the adult volunteers, but the Scout can’t be penalized because the adults didn’t catch something in a timely manner.
As always, check the official word and use your resources, including your commissioner and professional staff.