By Heather Kelly, CNN
(CNN) - Hey, young readers: Instead of another summer uttering the dreaded phrase "I'm bored," how about meeting a NASA astronaut or building a working potato cannon?
Maker Camp, which kicks off its second year on July 8, is different kind of summer camp for kids and teens. Instead of canoes and kickball, it has microcontrollers and robots. There are no bus rides or cabins; camp can take place anywhere there's a computer and an Internet connection.
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The camp is a free, six-week online program inspired by the maker movement - the trend toward do-it-yourself culture - and run by Maker Media in collaboration with Google. Maker Media also publishes Make magazine and organizes the Maker Faires.
The virtual camp guides kids through daily DIY projects and connects campers to each other using the Google+ social network. Each week has a different theme, and kids are encouraged to share their creations and ask questions during daily video broadcasts.
The lifeblood of the camp are daily Google+ Hangouts where makers, counselors and other special guests lead young viewers through a project. The day's project and supply list is posted in the morning and the hangouts start at 11 a.m. PT (2 p.m. ET). Participants must be at least 13 to have a Google+ profile, but many parents of younger kids use their own log-ins and do the projects together. They can also be viewed on YouTube.
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"It is like a camp. You go there, you choose an arts and crafts project or you choose archery and meet other people interested in the same things," said Maker Media founder and CEO Dale Dougherty.
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(CNN) - Forget tiny iPads – the classrooms of the future might turn entire tables into interactive touchscreens.
Given that many children can sit rapturously before a glowing touchscreen for hours, such gadgets seem like a natural for the classroom. But as with any new teaching technology, it's important to make sure it actually helps students learn and teachers teach before getting caught up in its "cool" factor.
A recent study by researchers at Newcastle University in the UK took touchscreen tables into the classroom for some hands-on tests and found the technology (and training) still have to improve before they are fully effective. The researchers say theirs is one of the first studies of this type of technology in actual classrooms, instead of lab situations.
The tables were used in real classrooms over the course of six weeks for lessons in geography, English and history. The five teachers involved in the study prepared the projects based on what the kids were currently learning in class. Each table was used by two to four students at a time, though the table's creators say it can hold up to six students. On the screen were a collaborative writing program and an app called Digital Mysteries, which were designed specifically for large tabletop PCs.
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