Friday, July 24, 2009

Product Review: Web Design for Kids (... and Curious Grown-Ups!)

Have you heard the joke about the secretary whose computer screen was covered in white out? That one could be based on me, folks. That is just how computer illiterate I am! I have been a member of the blogosphere for a little over a year and have been learning as I go. I can handle the writing part, but when it comes to the technical side, I have to call a friend for help and then call for my dh to fix my mistakes.

I now know how to design a web page using HTML all by myself thanks to Click Drag Solution's Web Designs for Kids (…and Curious Grown-Ups), an instructional DVD hosted by middle school computer literacy instructor, Brian Richardson. To be honest, when the DVD arrived, I really had no idea what lines of code or HTML were. I had heard these terms before, like during the Y2K craze, and knew they existed… like we all know that radio waves are out there and that's how the music gets in our cars. Other than being able to explain that they are the stuff that makes the Internet go, I really couldn't say more.

I'm no Bill Gates now, but do you see the green "TOS Homeschool Crew" badge in my sidebar? It used to be white, but I changed it… COMPLETELY UNASSISTED! No "HONEY, what do I do now?" And all thanks to what I learned from Web Design for Kids (…and Curious Grown-Ups). I was able to look at the code, read it, and determine how to change the background and text colors. Thank you, Mr. Richardson!

Okay, so it worked for me. But what about my children? It is Web Design for Kids, after all, though I am thankful they decided to include us computer illiterate, ur… curious adults, too.

My boys, ages 8 and 9, really enjoyed the DVD and assignments, as much or more than anything we have ever completed in school. I was able to play the DVD on my laptop and easily bring up separate windows for Notepad, Paint, and Internet Explorer, the only programs needed to complete the lessons (these come free with every Windows operating system, btw). Internet connection is only needed during the final two chapters in order to access two recommended websites for free background and picture options. Each boy was able to pause the video and navigate from window to window to perform the needed functions. They were completely engaged throughout the entire learning process and were sad when the DVD ended. My nine-year-old even asked me to buy the second DVD when it is available.

The DVD is broken into seven chapters plus a bonus section. For a beginner, like me, I recommend starting with the bonus section. It gives instructions on how to create a file folder, how to save to it and how to cut and paste if you mistakenly save in an incorrect folder. The seven teaching chapters break the process of web design into very manageable chunks. It begins by teaching the ten basic lines of code. From there, it explains the code in terms of a "sandwich". Mr. Richardson has many good teaching techniques, demonstrations, and visuals, like the use of the "sandwich" concept, that make an otherwise complicated subject very easy to understand. The remaining chapters demonstrate how to make subjects stand out, write "stand alone" tags, design backgrounds, change fonts, and add pictures.

One thing to keep in mind… accuracy is a must in programming. This was a bit of a problem for my son who is a reluctant speller and younger than the program's target age of 10. However, designing his web page demonstrated to him the necessity for good spelling habits and for accuracy in work. I really like what it promoted and how it motivated him. On the other hand, he was not able to complete this program entirely independently and needed some assistance from his dad or me. This is something to consider if purchasing the program for a reluctant speller, a younger child, or a special needs child.

I only have two additional and minor criticisms. At the beginning of the DVD, Mr. Richardson seems a little nervous in front of the camera. However, he also seems to relax within a few scenes and is very personable and likable. He seems to be a very caring teacher. Also, there are two student helpers whose responses are a little repetitive. I tired of hearing "sweet" and "awesome". However, nothing inappropriate was said and having children on the video helped to draw my kids into the learning and demonstrate that kids really can accomplish this. It did not interfere with the learning process either.

You can view a sample of the DVD here. Now is a good time to buy since the DVD, regularly priced at $40, is on sale for $19.99 plus $3.99 shipping. There is a money-back guarantee, and part of the proceeds will be donated to five different charities. Overall, I give Web Design for Kids (… and Curious Grown-Ups) two BIG thumbs up and encourage you to check it out!


argsmommy said...

Dawn, did your boys have any computer experience prior to using this program? We have not done any computer science or typing, so I wonder if I need to address that first. Looks like a great program!

Homeschool Dawn said...

They both had a lot of point-and click type of computer experience from game play. Nine-year-old has had a little keyboarding experience. He types his own blog posts on Write Brothers. Eight-year-old had no keyboarding experience. That is probably another reason we had to help him. He was still able to do about 60% on his own. It really is good and do plan to buy the second dvd when it is released.

Homeschool Dawn said...

I meant I do plan to buy the second DVD... oops!

CookieMonster said...

What a very helpful review! You did much better than I did. :) I think I'm gonna go edit my review now - add in a little bit about how I actually used it.

It's funny. The kids on the DVD didn't bother me. They reacted just like many of the kids I know.

tjsb said...

Thanks Dawn the product sounds GREAT! I believe my 11 year old would really benefit from it. About how long do you think it would take to set up a basic site?

Homeschool Dawn said...

It took us about 8 hours to complete the curriculum. That included taking time to experiment with different fonts and colors, etc. However, this DVD does not take you all the way to a completed website or teach you how to launch your site. I am hoping that will be covered in the 2nd DVD when it is available.
You can contact Mr. Richardson through the Web Design for Kids website, and he could give you a much better answer than I have. That site is built through the techniques he teaches so it will give you a good idea of what a finished site looks like.