4/2/13

Computer Science for Kids {Crew Review}

A long time ago, when dinosaurs roamed the world and computers were still a novelty, I was one of the few privileged students to be allowed to use the school computer. This was in the days of DOS when dial up meant actually plugging the phone receiver into a modem.  I remember playing Oregon Trail. I also have this vague memory of a short course in computer language.  I do not remember which language. It was fun.  I enjoyed it but never pursued it.

Now we live in an “age of technology” and some foundational or fundamental knowledge of a computer is required for almost everything!  Of course computer programming has come a long way but still learning a programing language and running a program you wrote yourself can be exciting and fun.  Recently, Turtlegirl began to express more interest in all things techno science related. Colleges are recommending Computer Science as an elective, so when Schoolhouse Review Crew offered Computer Science for Kids as a vendor, I knew I would want to try it. We could choose either Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic or Beginning Microsoft Small Basic.

We choose the Beginning Microsoft Small Basic. This tutorial is:

  • Interactive
  • Self-paced
  • Written for the absolute beginner!
  • Can be used with kids ages 10+ and even adults
  • Consists of 11 Chapters
  • Includes separate file with the programing codes (Think of it as an answer key!)

The download version is not an e-book per se but rather a collection of files. The Beginning Microsoft Small Basic version contains both Microsoft Word Documents and PDF versions of each chapter. Each of the 11 chapters is one “class.” Students work at their own pace but Computer Science for Kids suggests a pace of one chapter per week.  Each chapter will take between one and six hours to complete depending on the age of the student and previous programming experience.

Using Computer Science for Kids:

I assigned Beginning Microsoft Small Basic to my three “big” girls. They were told to work for 45 minutes to 60 minutes daily.  I expected that they would complete a lesson (chapter) a week.  Because each of them worked independently, setting their own pace, they were each able to spend as much time as needed on each Tailorbear, the youngest of the three, moved at a slower pace, needing more time for each concept but was still able to move at the suggested pace of at least one lesson per week.

I originally thought that I might move the PDF files to the NOOK so that the girls could work from the NOOK with just the Small Basic Application open but the girls had no problems whatsoever with switching between windows so we did not use the NOOK nor did we need to print out any of the pages. I love that we could use this as a paperless resource!

Thoughts from Tailorbear (14, 8th grade):

I have... wondered about computer programing for a long time, but I never found the materials needed for doing it. I liked this curriculum.  It taught me how to do cool programs that make it like you’re actually “talking to” something! Put your name into a paragraph, or sentence, (input) and the computer responds! Over all this program teaches me the basic computer programming language!

Screen shot of Tailorbear's program running

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (15, 10th Grade):

I have really wanted to try computer programming, so I was thrilled when we got this. The Classes were easy to understand (except for some typos) and I really enjoyed doing this. I like how they encourage you to play around with the programs and experiment. I enjoyed typing the code and seeing what it would do as a program. I had a lot of fun using this program. For the most part, it’s simple and easy. They start you off with the most basic of the basics and then start introducing more difficult concepts. I highly recommend this for those who wish to begin their study of computer programming.

Screen Shot of Turtlegirl's program running.

Thoughts from Boobear (17, 12th Grade):

I enjoy giving the computer commands and seeing them followed. It is very satisfying to see that I made that. This curriculum makes it very easy to understand how this particular computer language works. It is also interesting to know the history behind it as well. I like creating things and seeing that they are successful, and work. It is fascinating to create programs and this curriculum makes it easy to do.

BooBear's Program

My Thoughts:

I don’t know that I would have grasped the programming language as easily as my daughters have but I think I would still be able to use this program myself to learn this programming language. It is easy to use and takes you step by step through writing a code for different applications.

I loved how much fun my girls were having and I loved how much they were enjoying learning. They enjoyed this program so much that during non-school hours they would be in the Small Basic application trying to write new programs based on the coding they had previously learned.  Sometimes they would go back to an older lesson and expand the program to include coding ideas from their current lesson.  They are all a tad bit obsessed with Doctor Who and each of them just had to create a program for which the computer would respond with Doctor who?

I was afraid this program would have been too simplistic or young for my teenagers; however, it has been an excellent fit. Challenging enough because it’s new material but simple enough that they are having fun and building their confidence.  Each of them has stated that they want to learn more about computer programming and learn more computer programming languages!

Details Summary:

  • Vendor:  Computer Science for Kids
  • Product: Beginning Microsoft Small Basic
  • Requirements:
    • XP-SP2, Vista, or Windows 7
    • Microsoft Small Basic development environment (Version 0.9 or higher)(This is FREE and link is included in the Start Here file)
    • no programming experience is necessary but student should be familiar with “common computer operation systems” such as file maintenance.
  • Recommended Ages:  Ages 10 and up
  • Price: Single User License:
    • Regular Price: $59.95
    • Sale Price: $34.95 (Sale price available until July 4th, 2013)

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Computer Science for Kids.

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All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

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