Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: Computer Science for Kids

You know those news stories that come out saying that kids graduating today don't know why we say "dial" a telephone or that at one time we had to get up and cross the room to change the TV to one of the other 5 stations we received?  I realize that my son has never known life without a computer.  His favorite activity is studying Google maps or watching YouTube videos of roller coasters.  But to get ahead in life, I want him to learn to see the computer as a tool, not just an entertainment device.  So I was excited to get a chance to review a programming course from Computer Science for Kids.    The beginning course is available in both a Secular and Christian format.  The first ten chapters (learning to use Microsoft Small Basic) is the same, but the games/programs differ.   We received Computer Bible Games For Microsoft Small Basic with Bible themed games such as Noah's Ark,  the Lost Coin, and Bible Scramble.

We received a .zip file with Word files for each chapter of the text book (26.5 MB). You can see the Table of Contents online.  Our monitor is wide enough that we could have had the text file and the Small Basic open side by side, but I found it easier to read the text aloud to my son, sometimes even dictating code keystroke by keystroke.

Typing while I dictate
 I ended up printing each chapter as we reached it and adding it to our binder.  There are over 500 pages of material and if you'd rather not print it out yourself, a preprinted copy is available.

The website suggests a chapter per week and that older students can work independently--they will obviously need good keyboarding skills.  Schnickelfritz is at the low end of the suggested age range (10 and older).  With all the technical information to cover and the necessity for accuracy we went slightly slower ( 4 lessons in 6 weeks).   I would try to read ahead on my own before covering the information with Fritz.  My only experience with computer programming was the original BASIC language on a TRS-80 computer, but I didn't find anything too difficult to understand.  When I read with my son I made sure to share the screenshot images with him (he's such a visual learner) or I'd devise visual aids like this chalkboard with labeled boxes to represent variables.

We haven't actually gotten to programming any of the Bible games yet, but the download includes coding for all the graphic elements and working copies of the games themselves so Fritz could see (and play) what we're working toward.  The games are nothing mind blowing, especially to a boy who's played Xbox, but there is a great deal of satisfaction in seeing a program run that you've entered yourself.    In Lesson 4, we built a program that calculated savings and we had to go back and find three typos before it would work--mistakes in our keying, not mistakes in the text book.  There was almost an Easter Egg hunt feeling to it as we scoured through the code for our errors.

The paperback version of Computer Bible Games is available for $59.95 with free shipping the Digital eBook version is normally the same price but is on sale for $34.95 until July 4th.


1 comment:

Tiffany DeOs said...

This is one review we weren't old enough to use yet. But my husband is a computer programmer so I am excited to possibly use this in a couple years. Thanks for the great review.


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