6 Tips for Picking a Great Summer Tech Camp

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Categorized under: summer technology camp

Now that the kids are out of school for their summer vacation, it’s a great time to think about how to continue to engage them in learning opportunities that will further their development and growth to prevent the dreaded ‘summer learning loss’. One of the best options is to enroll your kids in summer camp. There are a wide variety of camps that cover many different topics.  With the increased importance of technology in the development of kids, camps that cover coding, programming, robotics , video game design and 3D printing should be a consideration as well. However, what are the key criteria that a parent should consider when selecting a summer technology camp to make sure that your child has the best experience and you get the best bang for your buck?

Read the Reviews

One of the best ways to figure out if the technology camp you are considering is worthy of your child’s time is to see what other parents have said about their experiences.  Yelp, Facebook and Google all allow current and former customers to both rate and add detail about a technology camp that they have attended.  Look for common themes across the different review platforms to get insight into how previous children have either enjoyed or not enjoyed their experiences.  While there will always be outlier reviews (super positive or super negative), it is important to see what most of the reviewers have said about the experience.  Since we are all different, keep in mind that one person’s experience may not necessarily reflect what is most important to everyone else. So, see if the less enthusiastic reviews actually are important to determining whether or not your child would have a great experience.

Limit Student-Teacher Ratio

In education environments, there can often be a tendency to replicate the traditional classroom environment with 20-30 students per instructor. However, at Digital Adventures, we have found that one of the main challenges in teaching technology to kids is helping them get unstuck through troubleshooting and debugging their projects. Sometimes, this will require providing a breadcrumb to help students get back on track on their own and other times this will mean really coming alongside the student to work through the issue.  Since the ultimate goal is to develop student independence and cultivate a lifelong love of technology, it is essential that kids get unstuck in a reasonable period of time. As a result, we limit our student:teacher ratio to 10:1. This ensures that kids are never waiting too long for an instructor to address their issue.

Explore A Variety of Technologies/Topics/Projects

Within the technology space, there are a multitude of software and hardware platforms that are available to teach kids how to build with technology - Lego Robotics, Tinkercad, Construct, Eclipse, Roblox, Unity and Scratch.  In order to make sure kids get exposure to the full breadth, it is important that they be exposed to platforms which they may not necessarily choose on their own.  We believe that there are key commonalities that are fundamental to building with technology. As a result, we do not do single topic camps on Minecraft or Robotics. We also don’t believe that we can perfectly predict which programming languages will be popular or useful with kids as they enter their professional careers. To counterbalance this, camps should expose to a wide variety of technologies while maintaining the real possibility that certain platforms may become obsolete at a future date.

Balance Screen Time

There are many different ways to teach technology and it doesn’t always require being on a screen. In fact, one of the forgotten arts of coding and engineering design is sketching out your ideas on a whiteboard to see if there are any gaps in your problem solving approach.  Just like you don’t start installing new cabinets without measuring twice and cutting once, technology projects should not just be jumped into without first establishing the why we are building what we are building.  In addition, there is also a risk of visual fatigue if all the time during camp is spent on the screen. So, it is important to not just include breaks when teaching technology but also to structure the learning so that not all exercises require being at a screen. 

Structured Classroom Environment
While one of the great parts about working with an experienced tech provider is instructor knowledge, another key element is engaging with your peers on the journey to learn how to build with technology. Pay special attention to the design of the learning environment at the camps you are considering to see if there are opportunities to learn from not only the instructor but also peers. At Digital Adventures, we group students in learning pods that enable them to not only see what their neighbor is working on but also reduces the physical distance between students so that if there is a student who understands a concept, she can jump in and help her neighbor.

Bring the Fun
Summer technology camp and learning in general should be fun. Time is a non-renewable resource that can not be taken for granted. If you are choosing to enroll your child into a summer tech camp, they should have a great experience. As digital natives, kids are naturally attracted to all things technology. Devices are all around them. Due to this natural curiosity to learn more about how to build with technology, there can be a potential to revert to traditional academic approaches such as lecture and call/response teaching methods. At Digital Adventures, we instead focus on a project-based approach that enables kids to generate a digital or physical artifact for each project they work on. This hands-on approach not only lets them reach key milestones that further stimulate their curiosity but also allows them to use their own robot or play their own video game. For kids who have primarily consumed content to become creators of this content is magical to see. Generally kids enjoy what they are good at and we’ve found that nothing is better than letting them bring their ideas to life in an interactive & engaging way.

Now that we’ve shared our list of tips for summer tech camp selection, what other considerations do you think are important when selecting a technology camp for your kids?

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About the Author: Omowale Casselle ([email protected]) is the Co-founder & CEO of Digital Adventures. Prior to Digital Adventures, Omowale led the development, launch & management of an interactive advertising & marketing platform, SAMPLEit (division of Outerwall, Inc.), in high traffic retail locations (Walmart, Meijer, HEB) that will help consumers trial, discover, and ultimately make more informed choices about their most important purchase decisions. Earlier in his career, Omowale was part of the new product development team that successfully brought industry-leading vehicles to market including Ford Mustang, Ford Fusion, and Ford Escape Hybrid. His passion for continuous learning and development has led to degrees from Harvard Business School (MBA), University of Michigan (MS Engineering), and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (BS Engineering).