Here’s a Walkthrough of How We Use Basecamp (for free) to Organize Our Publication Work [video]

My love for Slack and Trello came quickly after starting to use the applications, and my affection developed over time. Running news and yearbook is no walk in the park, and I found that it was difficult to keep up with my kids inside the classroom, let alone outside the classroom.

Slack functions for communication. “Hey, where’s that image you had on your SD last week saved?” “What’s the plan for Saturday?” “My battery is dead. Anyone have a charger?” “Kudos to so-and-so for that Instagram post with 200 likes.”

But Trello was for project management. “How far are you in your spread?” “Who is working on pages 22-23 today?” It worked, but the staffers never were as invested as the editors. Also, in all of this, there wasn’t good management of our shared files. We felt a gap in our program that grew and grew. Then, we met Basecamp.

We originally planned to have Basecamp replace both apps and simplify the processes we use. It was fine to leave Trello, but the kids begged for months for the return of Slack. Basecamp lacks a strong instant messaging system. It exists, but it isn’t built for the quick “Hey, emergency!” moments. We returned to using Slack for communication. The kids love Slack. It’s staying.

Basecamp was a hard sell at first (change is hard), but when used alongside Slack, we found and find that there are many functions that increase our productivity and communication. 

Our main usages for Basecamp:

  • File management and sharing
  • To-do lists
  • Scheduling class assignments & events

File Management:

We have a shared drive in the classroom. But what if you want to send a spread to an editor to look over at night? Or copy? Or you took an amazing photo of a cheerleader and social media wants to post it – How do they get it quickly?

The docs & files section of Basecamp allows you to organize all of this information in folders for easy access anywhere. I imagine a lot of schools use Google Drive for this (and we use it for some things, just not this kind of stuff) but it’s great to have two desktop apps with access to everything my students need. It also allows you to notify who you want.

Scenario: I finished my spread, uploaded a .pdf for review into the folder, and then had it notify my managing editor and the design editor it was in automatically.

We also keep our marketing graphics in here and submit assignments for grading.

To-do Lists:

This is hands-down my favorite part of Basecamp. Trello has checklists too, hence my first love. But Basecamp has fancy checklists.

You can assign a single task to multiple people or one, and it appears on their schedule. I love this feature. I can set up deadlines for editors for check-in points, and then it appears on their Basecamp schedule. I can even set it to notify me once it is complete. This helps me with the editors I don’t see every day.

Anyone can make a to-do list, so I often request all my staff and editors to create a goal list for work nights. Having a clear plan for what they want to achieve is helpful with keeping them on track during the hours I commit after school. I read over them and can ask them about the specifics after, if needed. It becomes another way I can check in on them and their independent work.

Scheduling:

We run two calendars. The first is on Google, and it has all the events and meetings happening around the school and community. That’s more so we can keep up with beats and spreads. The second calendar is on Basecamp and is just assignments and press events. All their photo days are on there, work nights, field trips and assignment due dates.

I like to know I’ve communicated all my expectations. What’s nice about this method for us is that we have it set up that all Basecamp events show up on our Google Calendar, and all events are fed into a Slack channel that updates daily. A kid has to go out of their way to ‘not know’ an event is occurring, or an assignment is due.

The Basecamp calendar also updates with those checklist items previously discussed, so they can see at a glance their expectations for the upcoming week or month.

Luckily, Basecamp is free for schools to use with students. Normally $1,200 a year, it’s an application that has a lot of functionality for our program.

Media Now Summer Journalism Workshops Drake University and Webster University

Courtney Hanks

Courtney Hanks is the journalism teacher at University High School in Orange City, Florida. She advises the UHSpress online news site and the Odyssey yearbook. In 2018, she was named a JEA Rising Star. She believes that Boston terriers are the best dogs, Netflix rules and that her students are capable of greatness. Follow Courtney @hankssaid on Twitter to see more journalism posts.

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