A Learners Meetup is an event aimed at everyone who’s learning to code, develop software, or anything tech-related. This includes both absolute beginners as well as developers who want to acquire new tech skills and get into passionate conversations about it. After all: lifelong, we are all learners!
The other purpose of this event is to help build a community around OTS and keep its members engaged, offering a regular event as reference meeting point for learners who want to ask questions or present their latest projects (sometimes as an OTS workshop follow-up: full circle!), coaches willing to offer their skills by joining the event’s discussions, and anyone interested in participating in a skill exchange.
It’s a 2-hour event, in three parts: two talks, a break, and either a Learn’n’Tell session or a Mini Barcamp.
Talks. Talks shouldn’t be longer than 25 minutes, including taking questions during the last 5 minutes. The topics covered should relate to programming and/or technology and should be suitable for people new to them, explaining even the most complex matter in a clear and engaging way. In order to make sure the talk follows these guidelines, we suggest asking the speakers to present their slides and talk for review in advance. We’re aware that this requires extra effort/coordination, but it can really make the difference for your meetup (and, most importantly, your attendees).
A barcamp is an “unconference”, where the participants come up with the sessions themselves. There is a brainstorming phase where all participants write on a sticky note a question they have or a topic they are interested hearing or talking about. Sticky notes are collected and stuck on the wall to form a “question cloud”. The host reads out each question and asks for clarification if necessary. The host, with the help of the group, categorizes the stickies into related topics. Then the host calls out each topic group and asks who is interested in talking about it. The people who put up their hands form an informal discussion group.
Reassure the group that it’s totally fine and normal if no groups form around a topic. It’s still interesting to surface all the topics. The purpose is to connect, share perspectives and learn something new.
If people want to be involved in multiple groups, they can join at the half way mark. After 20 mins, give people a reminder that they can change groups if they are interested in other topics. To close (after 40 mins or earlier depending on the activity of the groups), bring everyone back together in a circle and ask each group to share their learnings via a representative.
Make sure the event and its idea is in agreement with our values. In particular: * even though your event may be targeting a certain group of people (because of a talk’s topic, for example), it needs to be as open and inclusive as possible * you have to make sure that the event is enjoyable/accessible at a beginner’s level * always remember that the Learners Meetup ought to give beginners the chance to learn, (hopefully) get answers to their questions, and present what they have created or discovered * you are responsible for creating a welcoming learning environment, where learners are encouraged to ask questions and nothing is assumed to be “self-explanatory.” State this explicitly at the beginning of the meetup, to embolden the shy people and so everyone attending can help you create this environment.
Have an idea which topics you’d like to include: the clearer the idea, the easier it becomes to recruit speakers.
Get in touch with OpenTechSchool members (which you might have already done via the mailing list) and discuss your idea. Someone may already be working on something similar, so it makes sense to join forces.
In order to make the organization easier, once you’ve contacted the OpenTechSchool team, find someone who is passionate about helping you organise the workshop from within OpenTechSchool or who has at least done something like this before. We call this person “the co-host” and you are referred to as the “organizer”. Since this co-host might not have access to everything, this document refers to OTS as the organisational team in general.
Even if you already have a pretty clear idea of what you want to do, we strongly believe that more people working together yields bigger results. In any case, you want to have other people helping you with organization, so the next things OTS will do are:
Provide a mailing list for all discussion related to learners meetups (https://groups.google.com/a/opentechschool.org/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/team.beginners-meetup). Every message posted here will need to mention the city it belongs to. E.g. “Amsterdam. Call for speakers for the upcoming Learners Meetup in May”
Promote that mailing list via our social media channels, spread it in our mailing list, user groups, and communities.
Still, we also need to you to spread the word and convince people to join yourself - after all, it is your cause!
Once there are enough people who want to help organize the event (we suggest at least 2-3), you can set up a first meeting in order to get to know each other as well as figure out how to actually get things done.
Note: We recommend meeting on a weekday evening after work hours. Monday to Thursday work best in our experience.
The usual goals for the first meeting are: * Getting to know the interests, motivation, goals, and availability of the co-organizers. * Creating a plan for the next steps: this could be anything from a second meeting to talk more, setting up speakers line-ups, date and time for the event to take place.
People, venue, drinks, a projector: the organizer’s checklist!