Technology-oriented summer camps have become common for kids, and now some school districts are providing that option for educators, too. The idea behind these programs is to immerse teachers and school administrators in computer networking and online activities for a week at a time to generate both computer skills and an enthusiasm for using technology.

The programs can take many different forms. Some are aimed at teaching practical skills that can be implemented into the classroom immediately, whereas others try to improve participants’ general understanding of computers and networks. Regardless of the format, the idea behind the programs is to create a learning environment free of other professional distractions that often undermine shorter computer training courses during the school year.

A program in Washington state, for example, takes the broad approach. In this program, teachers and school technology administrators literally go to a summer camp in the woods for a week in August to learn how to wire schools by wiring camp cabins. Working in teams, the “campers” first purchase equipment from the “camp store” (with a limited budget) and wire their own cabin. Then, they build a network for their computers in the cabin. By the end of the week, the campers have learned to network together all the cabins in the camp in a simulation of several schools linked through a school district’s central computer.

By contrast, Utah’s program, which is held in a computer center on a college campus, tries to help educators use computers in their curriculum. The Utah Education Network program gives teachers educational software called MarcoPolo, which contains generic lesson plans and curriculum material in many subject areas. Teachers are taught to use the program and its internet capabilities and are assisted in modifying the basic program to suit their needs for their individual classrooms.

The MCI WorldCom Foundation, which underwrote development of MarcoPolo, supports summer programs in 11 states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.