“Hi! I wanted to let you know what a great impact you are making on Ian with your coding class. On the ride home today he could not stop talking…Fred wanted to be an astronaut, Fred saw Star Wars, Fred started programming when he was a kid…” – Julie B.
This is why I do this. Period.
This past week, I had the privilege to work with 23 kids between 8 and 12 years old at a coding camp. Yes, by the end of the week, I was exhausted but in a feel good kinda way. I was thrilled to see the smiles of my students when it was all done as we shook hands and sailed off into our summers. Several kids even came up to me to grab a photo with me. It was a very cool and very humbling experience.
When schools let out and summer rolls into town, camps popup everywhere. Growing up, I really don’t remember going to any camps. All I remember is playing baseball for a few weeks and then the rest of the summer was spent riding bikes, building forts in the woods behind my house, swimming in my friends pool, and playing kick the can under the streetlight in front of my house until my parents called me inside. On rainy days, we would hook up the Atari 2600, sketch out a tournament bracket and play one of the few games we had. Times have changed and camps are available at churches, schools, community centers, libraries, and local colleges. This is great way to expose a child to new and creative venues which is why I love the opportunity to teach coding as a camp. It is also why I want to help any parent, guardian or teacher to setup a ‘coding lab’ in their own homes. Stay tuned for details. In the meantime signup for announcements at the www.getmecoding.com website.
I can’t tell you how many parents come up to me during camp week asking all sorts of questions about coding. Parents, unlock the mystery of coding here. I will be sharing my answers to these questions that may help you.
What makes a good coding camp?
- It should be fun. Remember they are kids and it is summer! Ask how the camp is structured and how the kids will be spending their time. How much time on the computer? What other activities? Ask for the instructor’s email and ask them directly. If they don’t have anything to provide or say, this may not be a well run camp. It is not the end of the world but good teachers don’t go into a learning environment without a plan. Chaos can often result and children get bored and frustrated. This may make the “drop off” when you bring your child to the camp even tougher on you! Kids know when something is not a good experience.
- Thinking and Creativity. A coding camp isn’t just about sitting at a computer for 3 or 4 hours. The camp should introduce them to concepts that introduce the process that surrounds our work in software programming. I use storyboards and simple algorithms that get them planning and thinking before jumping into coding. I also like to see them gain confidence in their ability to talk in front of other students by presenting their ideas. Ask the instructor how they will prepare them to create a software program.
- Interaction. I am huge proponent of teamwork as I have team projects in all my college level classes. Learning collaborative skills at any age is an excellent skill to develop. Now, teamwork is not mandatory but if your son or daughter is shy or introverted at school maybe they haven’t connected with many other kids or had an easy time making friends. A good camp should provide that opportunity for them to connect with other kids who have an interest in computing or technology.
- Challenge. I get many repeat attendees. When I identify them, I do my best to introduce something new to them. I don’t hold them back. Good instructors take that energy and experience and have the child help other children in the camp. Result, instant confidence. Ask the instructor how they handle a student who already has some kind of technology experience.
- Technology. Ok. There is a wide assortment of programming languages and technologies out there. You can’t have a kid learn them all in a few days. Heck, professionals can’t even keep up. All I have to say about this is when the camp is done, hopefully they used a tool they have access to for the rest of the summer and it isn’t just running on the computers at the camp. Languages come and go and if you talk to any programmer they will tell you, if you know one language you can learn any language.
If you are a parent and you are seeking new outlets for your child to learn coding contact me. I will be glad to help in any way I can. I know not everyone needs to be a programmer but I do think we can all use these experiences to become better problem solvers. And we all know our careers are spent solving problems.
What kind of camps have you had your son or daughter attend?
Let me know what kind of experience you had in the comments below.
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