At home, we’ve created a parody on the Tim & Eric song/skit “All The Food is Poison”

Our version is called “All The Things Are Cancelled” and it goes like this:

All the things are cancelled, all the things are cancelled!

  • WGI – Cancelled!
  • Drum Corps – Cancelled!
  • Sportsball – Cancelled!
  • State Fair – Cancelled!
  • WordCamp – Cancelled?

WordCamp US 2020 was canceled, citing online event fatigue. But the organizers of WordCamp Minneapolis / St. Paul did not. Would we just be another notch in the bedpost of 2020 online event fatigue?

To be honest, the organizing team did contemplate canceling WordCamp Minneapolis / St. Paul as the Coronavirus pandemic continued to linger. But everyone agreed that pivoting to a single-day virtual event was a better idea – and we stayed the course.

KidsCamp goes Virtual

When we had a real-life venue selected, there was an excellent computer lab available with over twenty computers. Going virtual meant re-thinking the game-plan. With WordCamp US canceled, it looks like WordCamp MSP’s KidsCamp might wind up being the only virtual KidsCamp of 2020.

Since it was uncharted territory, we cut the attendance in half, to 10 available spots. We reserved them for locals only, as our regular in-person conference is truly supposed to highlight pillars of our local community. With 80% local speakers at the conference, I think our organizers nailed it.

Swag

SWAG – Stuff We All Get. Virtual swag? πŸ€” That sound silly – kids like real stuff. So we mailed the attendees some stickers and a KidsCamp Activity Book. Michelle from Marktime Media made amazing coloring books as attendee swag for WordCamp Minneapolis 2015. She repurposed that book into an evergreen KidsCamp Activity Book:

Check out the inside pages – including the first page which has a place to write down all of your new hosting and WordPress site details.

Dry-Run

To make sure things would run smoothly, I went through the entire curriculum with my 11 year old son. We did it the same day the rest of the team was doing their streaming dry-run, two days before the live event. I even had my son go to his grandma’s and log in there via Zoom so we could simulate teaching remotely.

What did I learn from that experience? While I can power through a 3-hour zoom call with no issues, kids need to take a break. When my son asked to take a break I realized that I also was hungry, thirsty, or needed to use the restroom. So I added TAKE A BREAK in all-caps to my schedule notes in various places.

The Live Event

The day of the event went off without a hitch. We had 8 registrants and only 6 showed up. A 25% no-show rate is typical for WordCamp, so I didn’t sweat it.

Safety

We talked about online safety – I cited a lot of information from NetSmartzKids – which is what the Cub Scouts Cyber-Chip merit is based on (also it’s a WordPress site 😎).

Brainstorming

We did some self-reflection and brainstorming. We talked about people we follow on YouTube and social media and what we like about them. My son cited DanTDM who plays a variety of games, not just Minecraft. When it came to self-reflection, I was pleasantly surprised that my son listed gaming as one of his interests, not just Fortnite. He wound up setting up a site with the central ideal of helping people with their gaming strategies. I likened it to Chris Lema’s mantra of Be Helpful – it warmed my heart 😍

Other kids chose different central ideas based on their interests: Animals, Music, Gaming – it was good to see a variety from the group.

WP Setup

We went with GoDaddy as our KidsCamp hosting sponsor, and they provided slick managed WordPress sites that didn’t require us to FTP any zip files to get started. This was one of the most important pieces of doing the camp virtually. We literally had zero technical issues to troubleshoot. πŸ’ͺ

One of the first things we did once we were into the WordPress dashboard was to reset our account password (GoDaddy generates a random one). We talked about password security and choosing something long-ish to make it hard to guess. This is my favorite reference for increasing password strength with length.

Then we were off, publishing an about page and our first post. Then customizing our themes to reflect our tastes.

Lessons Learned

Besides taking breaks, doing the event virtually was challenging because I wanted all of the kids to stay in sync. When you’re in a lab, it’s easy to see what screen someone is on and help them move forward.

My approach to doing it virtually was to share my screen and have everyone let me know when they’re on the same screen so we can all move forward together. It was challenging at times because some kids would give a thumbs-up on their camera, some would type “done” in chat, some would confirm aloud, and others wouldn’t respond. I left plenty of breathing room and we managed to stay together.

I’m glad we were able to put this event on, and I’m hoping dearly that we can do KidsCamp again in person at Metro State in 2021 🀞

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