With companies decrying the lack of technology workers, many schools are encouraging their students to consider technology careers. Because schools often aren’t well-equipped to provide sophisticated computer courses, many private companies are supporting summer classes that are available to students who demonstrate an interest in the subject.

Here are some observations about creating a computer course for middle school students, offered by the developer of a computer summer camp sponsored by Federal Express:

  1. Choose the potential audience carefully. In this program, Fedex recruiters worked with the curriculum developer to choose schools from the Memphis community in which Fedex is located.

  2. Communicate with school principals. Fedex officials met with the principals of the schools from which the campers would be drawn. This increased administrators’ interest in the program and helped them understand which qualities they were looking for from the students they would be nominating.

  3. Communicate with parents. Parents received nomination letters and then follow-up packets when they accepted the offer. This resulted in a very high matriculation rate.

  4. Survey incoming students and build the courses around their needs. Before the program began, there was a question about whether students needed training in basic computer skills. By surveying the students before the course started, the teachers learned that students understood the rudiments of word processing but knew little about using the web or developing web pages.

  5. It’s camp; make it fun. The program included a scavenger hunt that required students to search the web. Winners got software as prizes.

  6. Create team-building exercises. The scavenger hunt was done by teams on the first day of camp, thus building friendships immediately.

  7. Build a web site. The camp web site provided information, available to campers and their parents, throughout the week-long camp. The site also linked to students’ individual sites and their schools. Working on the site was among the students’ prime learning activities.

  8. Discuss non-technical issues, such as copyrights, security, and privacy.

  9. Provide students with a take-away CD of their work.