Bear Scouting and the LMS

Bear with me, this post is about the LMS.

Bear Scouting and the LMS

I’ve been a Den Leader for three years now. Each week we plan activities that will help boys earn achievements, make friends, learn essential skills and basic values. Many den leaders rely on the official BSA (Boy Scouts of America) supplied resources as a mechanism to deliver content-based activities. These materials come in the form of manuals, books, templates, printable content, digital content, based on a unified structure for delivering the content and activities.

My first year I made heavy use of these resources. Corralling a herd of 9-year-olds is difficult, and the templates made life easier. But engaging the boys to actually “learn” with some of the more abstract concepts like “civic engagement” and the “Flag” was difficult. I tried videos, candy, sports, games, rewards…..  All with varying degrees of success. I learned that simply facilitating content, no matter how high the quality, was boring and for them, irrelevant. The best I could hope for was to “check the box” with these sections and to move on to something more interesting, and hope that they remembered the highlights.  

I’ve since rethought my approach. This past Friday, the boys spent close to an hour having a meaningful discussion about civic engagement and patriotism on a personal level. What made this possible? Before painting, we introduced the ideas with a basic card game we designed to tee up the concepts. They then painted their own representations of the american flag overlaid on drawings and words that communicated their understanding of the concepts.

In both instances, I was attempting to use technology to engage learners. The difference, maybe, was in the intent behind their use. Might the same principle apply to both disastrous and successful applications of courses structured around the LMS?

Transition to Hybrid Pedagogy? Or Crutch?

I don’t think the LMS is going away anytime soon. Used intentionally, it can be very successful in managing scalable learning to facilitate hybrid learning and online courses. It’s a useful resource for managing transitions into online and blended learning, for example to flip preparation for discussion, assignments, and projects. Similar to the materials and systems given by the BSA, the LMS has given us a foothold to begin scaling programs into the online environment. Almost like a handy set of training wheels preparing you to take the next step, or a crutch we lean on too heavily – depending on your perspective.   

Bret Victor’s thoughts on not getting too comfortable as a creative spoke to me in this regard.

The most dangerous thought that you can have as a creative person is to think that you know what you’re doing……….. Because once you think you know what you’re doing you stop looking around for other ways of doing things and you stop being able to see other ways of doing things. You become blind.

As we dig deeper, I’m interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on the matter – is the LMS capable of transitioning learners into guided, thoughtful exploration? Or is it a crutch that may blind us?


Bret Victor. The Future of Programming. YouTube,

Accessed 11 Feb. 2018.

1 thought on “Bear Scouting and the LMS”

  1. I love the quote about creativity. If you ”know what you’re doing” it can close doors to problem-solving and improvements. When I was first learning about learning theories and pedagogy in college, my least favorite class was Digitial Media Instruction. I disliked it because I felt like I was being taught to ‘put a screen’ in between myself and my students. Though I think technology opens doors to knowledge and education, it will never be able to replace my favorite part of teaching – in the moment, human to human interaction. This cub scout lesson was good because of the learning design behind it, but it was great because of our ability to respond to the kids, change in the moment and be open to letting the kids take the discussion where they wanted to.

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