It's that time of year: time to start thinking of summer tech camps for 2015. Here are a few ideas where to begin looking.
Summer tech camps range from one or two week sessions, either a day camp or residential, from outfits iD Tech and Digital Media Academy to local colleges and universities who sometimes offer summer tech camps. Tech Kids Unlimited, Black Girls Code, the coding club Coder Dojo, and other groups also offer technology classes.
If your child learns differently and has special needs, look into technology summer camps like Tech Kids Unlimited with additional staff and a low ratio of teachers and assistants to children. The ideal ratio should be two kids for each teacher or assistant to answer questions without disrupting the class. It's also important to know if the teacher has experience how to work with kids who may not keep up with the class.
How to Find a Summer Tech Camp?
Aside from asking your kids if their friends have gone to fun summer tech camps, and asking other parents, searching online with the phrase “technology summer camps” or “summer tech camps” plus your city name might reveal other choices to investigate. The local YMCA or YWCA also might have summer camps with technology options. Also look into local high schools, community colleges, technical schools, and universities.
If your child has a favorite program, for example, Tynker or Scratch, check to see if they offer summer tech camps. In 2014, Tynker offered courses for kids in the San Francisco Bay Area.
How to Evaluate a Camp?
The number of years in business is a great metric because a company that can successfully run camps over years suggests they have happy kids and parents. Definitely make calls to camps and ask for references. Another metric might be teacher and camp organizer turnover rate. Ask if teachers have a professional background with programming (many teachers are college kids with excellent skills, which is fine). I’ve also asked how a camp evaluates the skill level of their teachers and classroom aides.
What kids learn also matters: ask your kids if the technology or software taught interests them, especially if they learn a subject like game design instead of programming software like Minecraft.
You also might want to search the camp name online to see what people say about a specific technology summer camp, for example, “Camp X problems” or “Camp X fun”. Other factors to consider are the student to teacher ratio, the background of the teachers, and the ratio of computers per child. One computer per two children is not bad if the camp does pair programming, for example, where two kids work together to learn coding. Equally important, ask about the background of the camp organizers, the people who make the camp run every day and solve all the little problems that happen.
Also ask your friends with kids. We sent our son to an iD Tech camp at Adelphi University here on Long Island, New York last summer with great results. The camp organizer was flexible and pro-active while the teacher knew his stuff and loved kids. However, don't assume the experience of other people will be your own. Whatever camp you look into, do ask enough questions to feel comfortable.
Another important question to ask has to do with their emergency procedures. Most camps never have a problem. But it’s important to know a camp or group has a plan in place if the building is evacuated or a child needs medical assistance.
How to Pay for a Camp?
Some summer tech camps are very expensive because they have high costs for space, staff, and related expenses. Do not be afraid to ask if they offer scholarships, or breaks based on income. Many camps also offer discounts for paying early, or registering early. And groups like the YMCA or Coder Dojo have reasonable or no costs, depending on your situation.
Summer Technology Camps for Kids
The canonical list of camps maintained by this magazine which attempts to list as many tech camps as possible around the world.
iDTech Camps (Internal Drive)
One and two week camps at colleges and universities in US. Kids 7-17 plus Teen Camps. Registration starts November 1, 2013 for summer 2014.
Digital Media Academy
Includes Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal locations in Canada, as well as US. Ages 6 to 17 and adults.
Black Girls Code
Summer of Code 2013 was in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York, District of Columbia, Chicago, and Oakland, California.
An international coding club to connect programming professionals with kids 7-17 and their parents (if parents want to get involved).
Kids Can Code
Based in Southern California with a focus on Python, Scratch, and Raspberry Pi.
Tech Kids Unlimited
Based in the New York City area, this camp specializes in kids who learn differently with special needs.
The Flatiron School (New York City)
Five two-week summer terms for kids 13-18. Learn to write code using the same technologies used by coders at some of the coolest tech companies around, like Twitter and Hulu.
Tynker offers interactive one week summer courses for children to learn programming and game design at their own pace at home, in addition to their grade based curriculum for schools. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Fun Tech Camps
Java, Minecraft, Lego NXT, 3D Game Design, Drones, and other tech courses taught in Maidenhead, Hampstead, Richmond, Reading, Oxford, St. Albans, Northwood, Weybridge, Tonbridge, and Bristol (Clifton and Badminton) in the UK.
Also In The November 2014 Issue
Andrew created Bits & Bytes, a fun card game to teach kids computing skills: logic, problem solving, and critical thinking.
Tim describes how he created his game company, Glide Games, and with his young son created two video games, Elevator Adventures and Subway Adventures.
A 4,000 year old Chinese magic squares puzzle is both fun and a way to learn basic problem solving skills. Plus turtles.
Can you name the first video game? The first game likely was Tennis for Two in 1958 but it could be Space Wars! in 1962 or other games. It's complicated.
The story of an English-speaking person learning a little Japanese by playing the latest Harvest Moon game, Connect to a New World, in original Japanese.
Wendy Norman, the Director of Social Good at Microsoft, talks about the history and features of the Skype in the classroom service for teachers.
You can use the concepts of game play to turn almost any task or information into a game. Assuming you can define game play.
The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth turned out to be tons of fun for kids and parents, plus a place to wander and find new technology. Links and video.
Links from the bottom of all the October 2014 articles, collected in one place for you to print, share, or bookmark.
This language lets you modify the Skyrim game to learn game coding plus have fun adding objects and functionality to the game.
Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for the month of September 2014.
Three game creation software tools you can use to create games. Includes a brief description and lots of links to these and other game creation tools.