The week long camp hosted by Albemarle County Public schools gives kids the opportunity to get hands on experience with technology and it is growing by leaps and bounds. Within the past two years the program has grown from 600 students to almost 1,000 this summer.
According to Ira Socol, Albemarle’s assistant director for education technology, increasing the diversity of participants has been a priority. .The camp reserved 80 spots this summer for families who do not own home computers.
“We realized that computer registration was leaving out a big chunk of kids who don’t have a computer at home or whose parents didn’t know how to navigate it,” Socol said.
Outreach efforts sought to broadly include all students – including female students and students from rural areas – and this year saw an increase in participation from English language learners, students for whom English is not their native language.
For kids whose families don’t own a home computer, building essential computer literacy skills can be a challenge, particularly as schools move to incorporate more technology into daily lessons.
“The ability to just play for four days with this stuff demystifies it and builds confidence,” said Socol.
In addition to the computer literacy skills CoderDojo emphasizes, students learning English as a second language received a dose of new vocabulary.
“We’re working with them and naming things and getting language into it,” Socol said.
Elaine Cecelski-Ayala, a family engagement worker, observed that language differences between children did not seem to pose obstacles to collaboration.