Thursday, July 25, 2013

Web Design with Homeschool Programming, Inc. {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

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For an elective credit last year, Addison learned Java programming using TeenCoder materials from Homeschool Programming, Inc. I was so impressed with what she had done that I eagerly volunteered to review their KidCoder materials.

Brennan has been using the KidCoder Web Series this summer to learn HTML coding (and other programming skills) and to create his own multipage website from scratch.

KidCoder contains thirteen chapters, each one with three or four lessons. Based on our experience, there is so much information packed in each lesson that it might be difficult to do more than one lesson per day. In addition to the written lessons, the chapters have summary review pages, printable activities (quiz-style worksheets), and complete solutions to all of coding exercises.

The first chapter starts with very basic computer information such as how the Internet works, how web browsers function, and how HTML code is written. From there, the lessons work in a step-by-step manner to show a student how to create their webpage. I like the way nearly all of the lessons incorporate "Work with Me" activities. Students follow specific directions to complete the "Work with Me" assignment and build their raptor website. Here is what Brennan has created on his webpage so far:

I particularly appreciate the way these lessons are spelled out for the student so that he doesn't have to come up with an original idea for what sort of website to build, what information to include, etc. For Brennan, it works much better for him to focus solely on creating the website in these lessons. Later, once he has developed his programming skills, he'll have an opportunity to create a website with his own original content.

When we began this review, the videos for Beginning Web Design were not yet available. Brennan tried to read through the materials, but he sometimes got bogged down with all of the technical details. He did much better when I sat down with him and helped him work through the lessons. It worked even better when we received the instructional videos that correspond with the lessons. The videos make the reading assignments a lot less daunting. They do not follow the written materials exactly word-for-word, but they present all of the information clearly and with easy-to-understand illustrations. The "Work with Me" parts of the lesson are shown being completed step-by-step on the videos. After seeing what he needs to do, he can then refer to the written directions in his student text to make the changes to his own webpage. Although the videos are not required to complete the coursework, they make it much easier for a student to work independently.

According to Homeschool Programming, KidCoder is appropriate for students in 4th-12th grade. I initially feared that a class suitable for elementary students would be too simple for me to use as a high school-level course. After working through several lessons and skimming through the rest of the book, I think that it would be very appropriate for highschoolers to use for computer programming credit. Beginning Web Design could count as a single semester course and the combined Web Year Pack would be worth a full credit. Addison has already planned to use TeenCoder Android Programming materials next year, but I'm going to suggest that she do the web design series before she graduates. I'm probably going to work my way through the course as well. I can obviously manage enough HTML to publish blog posts here, but there's a lot left for me to learn.

KidCoder Web Design is available either as two individual courses (beginning and advanced) or as a discounted bundle. KidCoder: Web Year Pack costs $145 for the coursework with instructional videos or $120 without the videos. If you'd rather purchase the classes separately, Beginning Web Design and Advanced Web Design each cost $85 with videos and $70 without. The Advanced Web Design materials are scheduled to be released in August.


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