For years the only option for a kid interested in computers was to wait until summer and go to a camp. Today there are many more ways to get involved throughout the school year, but summer computer camps are still extremely popular. How does the Breakout Mentors approach compare?
The most obvious difference is Breakout Mentors believes computer programming should be a year-round activity. If your goal were to learn how to play the piano, would you practice with an instructor for eight hours a day for two weeks, then be on your own for the next fifty weeks? No, you would likely meet an instructor once or twice a week for shorter sessions. With this setup you would be able to practice on your own in between sessions, and the instructor would be able to continually challenge you with the next thing to learn. It is the same for computer programming.
A summer camp classroom full of students differs from the Breakout Mentors 1-on-1 or small group approach. A wide range of student ages and experiences converge, making it very difficult to match the instruction to the right skill level. For beginners, a class like this can be sink or swim, potentially turning the student away from the subject even though they would like it in an different environment. Another downside is that the curriculum must become more structured when teaching a large group, allowing for less student creativity in their programs.
And finally, these camps are more likely to focus on output rather than learning. Often flashy is chosen over practical or useful. Should a beginner start with making an XBOX game? Probably not the best approach for learning programming concepts. But it does attract many interested kids and give the parents a result they can brag about around the water-cooler.
Breakout Mentors occasionally does camps and classes, but our goal is different. We take a group of students of similar experience (usually none) and focus on having fun while learning. We create games that are “extensible”. Each student moves at their own pace to make the game – once they are finished with the basics, there are many additions they can do to make it more complex and fun. Such as adding a high score feature, making the game more difficult as you advance, or whatever ideas they come up with! This allows for some creativity and gives the student a solid programming education base to build upon.
After a summer programming camp (or Breakout Mentors class), it is important to take what you have learned and apply it to new projects. This is where a mentor is extremely valuable – to assist with ideas, teach new concepts, and review code. Contact us today to learn how you can keep advancing your computer programming education!