Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Code for Teens

My oldest (12 yrs) is very tech-minded. He loves any chance he gets to work with technology, so he was excited for a review that meant he got to work on the computer for school. And this isn't just any computer work; this is for coding, his passion. His desire is to pursue programming as a career one day. He has a good grasp of Scratch and Python and has dabbled in HTML. Software engineering is one of the fastest growing career paths and technology is constantly changing. I believe it's good to give him a well-rounded foundation in programming, so he will be better prepared for his future job, no matter which language he will need.

He had no previous experience with JavaScript, so Code for Teens: The Awesome Beginner's Guide to Programming (Volume 1) from Code for Teens seemed like the perfect starting place for him.   

Code for Teens was written by Jeremy Moritz in order to offer a multi-purpose coding course specifically for kids. Though there are many such options already available on the market, Jeremy found none that moved at a proper pace without overwhelming the teen. He created a resource that needs no additional guidance, explanation, or review from a knowledgeable teacher. His book contains everything a young teen needs to learn coding by himself.    

Not only is Code for Teens written at a child's pace, but written at a child's level, too. The conversational style is easy-to-follow. He speaks directly to the student in a likable manner with some humor weaved in. Important terms are in bold print. Sometimes the definitions accompany the text, but every one of those words and their definitions can also be found in the back of the book in the glossary section. The chapters are marked by strips of color on the edges of the pages for easily finding your way around. Original artwork illustrated by his wife, Christine, enhances the pages, as well. 

The beginning of the book contains an introduction to the student, not only to explain the purpose of the book, but also to spark some enthusiasm. Next is a letter to the parents. This section explains the value of coding and the benefits the child will receive from learning it. After the preliminaries, the teaching begins. Chapter one starts very simply by explaining what the student need to code, important terms and command keys, and then gets right into the first lines of code. 

One thing that I really liked in this chapter is the attention drawn to the error messages. The author tells the student to appreciate them because they're helpful in finding mistakes. Coding is very specific, so spotting the errors is vital. The book then directs the learner to make mistakes on purpose and walks him through the steps to understanding what is wrong and how to fix it.

As the book progresses, so does the difficulty of the code. The student will learn data types, comments, functions, operators, arrays, and so much more. Each chapter is filled with hands-on exercises to get the teen on the computer programming. Much of the book is filled with simple type-this-code throughout the text because that is how it is learned best, but each chapter ends with a DIY section, too. This do-it-yourself project gives the student an assignment in which he is required to write his own code. There are easier projects such as finding the average age of your family and creating a personal bio, but the more difficult activities require the student to solve problems such as bug issues in a video game and logging messages and creating functions for a hypothetical allergy.

Each chapter ends with a ton of review. There is a quiz, a list of key concepts, code drills, and an aggregate review section, in addition to the DIY project. All of the answers are found in the back of the book.  

My son had an easy time with the beginning of the book, because of his prior experience with coding. I was surprised at his knowledge when I verbally asked him the quiz questions. He kept telling me how similar JavaScript is to Python. He didn't understand as much as he thought he did though when he found difficulty with one of the DIY projects.He had to go back and look at the information a little more closely. Once he took the time to follow along in the book, he realized just how well-written the instructions are.

The teaching throughout the book is so conversationally written that it's like having a personal tutor sitting there to help you. The writing engages the reader so well, in fact, that I even opened the console and wrote me first code! Anyone who knows us knows that my husband is the tech geek in our home and that I have no desire to learn these things in such detail. But this book truly is that captivating and makes the information easy-to-understand.

This first volume is all about JavaScript, but the second book introduces HTML and CSS and shows how it all works together to create web pages and games. If you have a teen that is interested in programming, Code for Teens is a fantastic resource. 

You can find Code for Teens on their website and Facebook.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews of this book.

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