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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Summer Camp My Kids Can't Wait To Do

What do my kids want out of summer camp?

Fun. Friends. Freedom.

What do I want my kids to get out of summer camp?

Yes, I want them to have fun. But I also want them to learn things about themselves and the world around them. Get to know new people and build relationships. Maybe learn a skill they can't acquire in school. And it wouldn't hurt if it was something that also inspired their future career.

Does such a magical camp exist?

You bet.

Enter Hi-Tech Learning.

"Hi-Tech Learning offers technology focused programs for ages 7-14 using the programs kids love, such as Minecraft. In our programs, kids have a blast using technology, and parents can feel confident their children are fully engaged in an authentic learning experience that will help them prepare for success in the 21st century."

This magical camp isn't about magic, it's about technology. And kids love technology. I know my kids dream of summer break as a chance for unlimited technology use. But at our house, tech time comes after a Brain Boost (reading), a Jam Session (instrument practice), and a Show the Love (chore).

I was a little worried about signing them up last summer for Hi-Tech Learning. Were they just going to be staring at computer screens all day while summer fun slipped away?

Turns out I had no need to worry.

As part of their Minecraft camp and Video Game Design my children came away with this modest list of SOCIAL skills:

  1. Cooperating on projects - all projects are done with a partner and campers have to check-in with their partners
  2. Problem solving - Instructors don't provide all of the answers.
  3. Peer to peer instruction - If someone can't figure out how to do something, instructors will often ask kids to help each other.
  4. Public speaking - Each camper shares their project with other campers and visiting parents
  5. How to give and take effective feedback - When campers share their games, other campers give two positives, two suggestions, and a helpful comment to solve a problem. 
  6. Considering the perspective of the audience

They also came away with more experience in

  1. Design
  2. Sketching
  3. Planning 
  4. Using logic
  5. Mathematics
  6. Story-telling

Sounds academic, right? I can tell you my kids didn't think they were in school.

And in many ways they weren't - because they were doing MORE than what they get to do in school. In school, so much of their instruction is focused on meeting the requirements of standardized testing. Their ELA experiences don't allow them to explore how to tell a story, they are asked to show how well they can follow storytelling instruction. And their math doesn't exactly encourage creative problem solving when points are taken off for not showing their work.

But Hi-Tech Learning is all about creative.

Shawn Walk, Hi-Tech Learning founder, is a former math teacher for fourth and fifth grade. We had coffee the other day and talked about what we didn't have as kids and why we do what we do now.

"I grew up in Indiana in a working class family. I was the first to go to college," Shawn said. "I loved to mess around on the computer but I didn’t have a creative outlet. I had to find ways to do things on my own. I created this business to help kids get creative."

In Video Game Design at Hi-Tech Learning, my boys created two different styles of games that revealed their personalities. My oldest focused on scoring high points while my middle developed more of a journey in his game. They didn't have to do the exact same thing but could experiment, make mistakes, try again.

Do your kids get computer instruction in school? Mine do, but it entails keyboarding. Just keyboarding. Yes, as in how to use a keyboard. AKA typing class.

I personally feel keyboarding comes along with usage. I never took a typing class in my life, but that didn't stop me from typing out my very first stories (what I did on my sick day home from school) on my grandfather's old typewriter. And do my kids really need to know how to type? Probably by the time they are adult professionals, everything will be voice commands and hand motions anyway.

My boys loved these camps. I will never forget how proud they were to welcome my husband and I into their summer camp and show off their amazing games. My middle son still talks about the game he created on Kodu.

As we got ready for camp this summer, I asked them what they remembered about last year. Here's what they had to say:

"Learning how to use Kodu made me feel like I was in a different world. Also, it was challenging but that made me work harder. Our instructors were really nice and fun. We played tag outside and the instructors played, too, and that was awesome. I felt like I was doing things my dad would do." - The middle guy.

"Playing Minecraft at camp was different than at home because we were all on survival, and everyone had to work together and start off building a home. We worked with partners and on the last day we worked on a giant project like sports stadiums or movie figures. It was sometimes frustrating because we had to switch off, but we had to think about what other people were doing, too. If we decided to work on something the same way, it worked out for both of us." - My oldest.

We are SO ready for some Hi-Tech Learning this summer!

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