Leveraging Technology to Teach Sea Scout Advancement

One mark of a true sailor is they are always teaching younger sailors how to sail.

There are many methods to educate Sea Scouts, either with visual aids (such as model vessels for Rules of the Road), verbal instruction (good old fashion explanation) or actual practice of a skill (nothing like actually taking a boat out).  Sea Scout volunteers deploy all of these methods in different degrees in working with youth.

Tablet PC’s offer a very innovative, portable and instant means of demonstrating nautical subjects to youth.  This post will focus on using the iPad 2 and several maritime Apps.  While this post should not be considered an endorsement of any product, there are many great new products on the market that can assist in educating Sea Scouts.

Visual Learning

Sea Scout volunteers can prepare Advancement presentations in either PowerPoint or Keynote and upload to their tablet.  Alternatively, the material can easily be given off a laptop.

For example, the following presentation on Able Requirement 9, Navigation Rules (Rules of the Road and Aids to Navigation), was prepared in PowerPoint, uploaded to the iPad 2 through iTunes and displayed in Keynote (the presentation also could have been loaded onto the device through Dropbox or Box.net).   The iPad 2 can connect to a project or TV with a VGA or HTMI adaptor.

Some volunteers might wonder, “why create a visual presentation?”

Research with jurors in trials has found that jurors forget 2/3 of what they immediately hear.  Worse yet, what jurors do remember is misunderstood.[1] Moreover, other studies have found that people do 85% of their learning through sight; hearing and other senses account for only 10% and 5%, respectfully.[2]

Sea Scouts have grown up with educational TV programing, from Sesame Street to the History Channel. Using presentation technology to breakdown detailed concepts such as Navigation Rules or the Racing Rules of Sailing, can only help a Sea Scout understand the material.

With that said, it is a good practice to build a presentation with slides that do not over-use text.  Slides filled with 200 words overwhelm students.  Additionally, including relevant graphics also helps increase memory retention.  A balanced presentation includes enough text for speaker talking points and images to keep an audience engaged, improving retention of the material.

App Advancement

There are numerous maritime Apps available for Apple and PC devices.  For example, the Apple drawing App Penultimate can be used to quiz Sea Scouts on right of way crossing situations with a quick sketch faster then the hypothetical fact pattern can be verbally explained (or devolve into hand gestures).

Piloting, Communications, Rules of the Road, and Navigation classes can be enhanced with Apps such as Navionics Marine, Marine Captain, Semaphore, Ship Tracking and Nav Rules.  These Apps that can be used on a Smart Phone of Tablet PC to enable an instructor to quickly demonstrate advancement requirements with relative ease, especially if a Ship is a new unit, landlocked or without a vessel.

Navionics Marine, US West

The technology and the cost are impressively affordable, however, such “Apps” are useless without an instructor who understands the core concepts. Moreover, while an App can help with the learning a core concept, nothing solidifies knowledge like being able to put it in practice on a boat.


[1] See, Jeffrey R. Boyll, Psychological, Cognitive, Personality and Interpersonal Factors in Jury Verdicts, 15 Law & Psychol. Rev. 163, 173-4 (1991).

[2] See, William C. Costopoulos, Commentary, Persuasion in the Courtroom, 10 DUQ. L. REV. 384, 406 (1972).

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