How DMA Gets Ready for Summer Camp

By Phill Powell

When students prepare to attend summer camp, they only have to grab a suitcase and pack for camp to get ready.

But when Digital Media Academy prepares for summer camp, there are many months of work and thousands of details that must be handled. And none of those details are more important than coordinating DMA’s high-quality classroom instruction and carefully selecting the teachers who will deliver that curriculum to our students.

dave-livingston-dmaDMA Director of Instruction Dave Livingston received his BA degree from California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo. In his personal time, he enjoys traveling and mountain biking, and spending quality time with his wife and two daughters.

Supervising and managing this mission is DMA’s Director of Instruction, Dave Livingston. Dave is a former trainer/teacher for Apple Education. He also is an experienced media arts/video production teacher with ten years of experience teaching at the high school and college levels. Dave has been with DMA since its 2002 inception, and taught during its very first camp season at Stanford University.

More than a decade later, Dave manages an extremely talented team of product managers who possess a unique combination of teaching experience and subject-area expertise that allows them to create fun, engaging and innovative learning experiences for our students. His team also selects the instructional staff at each of DMA’s locations and trains and prepares our instructional staff in “the DMA Way.”

We spoke to Dave about the preparations his team is now finalizing for DMA’s Summer 2015 camp season:

There are several tech camps for parents to choose from. What kind of young person do you think should be considering attending a DMA tech camp?
Great question. When we first started DMA back in the early 2000s, I would have said, “DMA is best for students with a specific and serious interest in one of the ‘tech’ topics we offer camps or courses in.” Today I would say that DMA is a great opportunity for any student.

Today’s youth are all “digital natives.” So, in addition to an amazing hands-on learning experience in a specific topic (such as Java programming or robotics), I see DMA as a place where students are able to explore, build and develop skill sets. And this helps them gain self confidence and the ability to solve problems, collaborate with others and thrive here and now in the 21st century.

continuously-improving-the-experienceDMA’s curriculum is constantly refined by the instructional team that Dave leads.

How is DMA’s curriculum developed? Who takes part in that process?
All of it here at DMA…developing courses, curriculum and learning experiences…is an ongoing year-‘round process. Each of our courses and their content development is managed by a member of the instructional team who has specific knowledge and expertise in that subject area. That person then works with one or more curriculum developer(s), who are also experienced teachers and DMA staffers.

DMA’s instructional team creates and delivers a fun, hands-on, project-based learning experience that’s carefully designed to spark student engagement and build student confidence and collaboration skills, all while staying focused on producing a creative outcome (through a project).

Project-based learning activities are the backbone of a successful DMA experience. From a 6-year-old kid learning about simple machines to a 17-year-old teen building a mobile app, “learning by doing” really works at DMA!

How does DMA ensure that it’s hiring the best instructors possible?
We employ a very thorough process and use a uniquely qualified team to find, interview, hire and train the best instructors possible. Our hiring team is large and passionate about recruiting qualified staff. And DMA is unlike most other camps in that one person doesn’t make all the hiring decisions. Plus, in our hiring process, our interviews are not “generic”; instructors are interviewed in-depth about their expertise in the content area they will be teaching.

Then, all DMA instructors are interviewed and approved by the same team that’s in charge of creating and developing our courses and curriculum. And, of course, we also run background checks on all DMA staff prior to hiring them. With nearly 15 years of experience running DMA camps and courses, we have been able to build an amazing network of instructors. Even better, we have an extremely high rate of returning staff each year!

Each class has a lead instructor (who has a college degree) who is assisted by TAs. This results in DMA having an older and more experienced staff that is totally dedicated to providing your kids with a great experience. DMA instructors have great skills in their topic areas, plus a genuine love of teaching and working with young people.

dave-livingstone-at-computerDave hard at it: “All of it here at DMA…developing courses, curriculum and learning experiences…is an ongoing year-‘round process.”

Is there anything my kid should do to prepare ahead of time for camp (besides registering)?
DMA is producing a new set of DMA Online “Fundamentals” courses that can help prepare students for a wide range of DMA summer courses. The topics (so far) include Game Programming, Minecraft and Game Development, and each can be bundled with a DMA summer course.

What is your personal background, both in terms of your education and your work experience?
I graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where I earned a minor in Education and got my first teaching experiences. Ironically, my first job out of college was at one of the original Apple-only stores.

I became fascinated with technology, especially as it pertained to new ways of teaching and learning. I was promoted to work with the local Apple Education rep in schools that were some of the first to use technology as a teaching tool. From there I was able to combine a variety of classroom-based teaching experiences with training and consulting work for Apple at schools and universities around the country.

Those experiences led to my hiring at DMA to teach (back when we only had a couple of hundred students). Today, we are building programs for more than 10,000 students each year!

Summer’s on the Way!
Look to hear more from our interview with Dave Livingston in an upcoming post! We’re now only months away from Summer 2015 and the upcoming DMA camp season. The time to secure your place in class is now, while the most popular camps and courses are still available. Plus, with more than 20 great DMA tech camp locations across the U.S. and Canada, what are you waiting for?