Saturday, August 29, 2009

Web Site Design for Kids-- Click Drag Solutions

In my home we have a simple system. I take care of the kids, the homeschooling, the house and my computer consultant husband takes care of the technology. When I received Web Site Design for Kids (...and Curious Grown Ups!) by Click Drag Solutions to review dread and fear crept into my heart. Web site design and HTML programming were not a part of my realm of experience or comfort zone. Feeling extremely inadequate, I quickly asked my personal computer consultant husband, John, if he was up to the task to help me.

John has been the proud owner of his own computer consulting company, PC Consultants, for 17 years. Making good use of his bachelor's degree in computer science, he has written customized programs, designed networks and solved hardware issues for a multitude of businesses over the years. If anyone could lend a critical eye to a curriculum designed to teach web site programming I knew John was the guy for the job.

Brian Richardson, middle school computer literacy teacher and founder of Click Drag Solutions, states on his website his reasons for creating his course which he now offers to families through DVD. He states, "I asked myself what one valuable thing could I teach kids in my classroom that would have the potential of staying with them for the rest of their lives?" Web Design For Kids (and Curious Grown Ups!) is geared toward an audience aged 10 and up and sells on Richardson's website, for $40.00 regularly, but currently is available for only $19.99.

Richardson believes HTML programming instruction is a valuable life long tool for kids because kids can see results of their work immediately, programming helps train kids to pay attention to detail and most importantly it is easy to implement as all necessary software for creating a web page is present on most typical home computers. Web Design For Kids requires a computer with a Windows operating system, Notepad and Internet Explorer. Richardson explains students with MacIntosh computers can also learn from his course, but will make use of Text Edit and Safari instead. All instruction within the video, however, assumes you are working from a Windows based operating system.

Web Design for Kids is a one hour and 22 min. DVD that has the feel of a typical "how-to" course. Richardson states he tried to make the instruction as friendly as possible by replacing some of the typical high-tech language with "Sesame Street language". For example, the term "nestled tag" is replaced with Richardson's self coined word, "sandwiches" encouraging comprehension for even the most timid computer phobic student. Instruction covers six different subjects related to HTML programming in six different lessons. Topics covered include:

*10 Basic Lines of Code

*Coloring background and letters

*Making letters move across the screen

*Designer backgrounds

*Changing fonts

*Adding pictures

Customers purchasing Web Design for Kids should note they are supporting a philanthropic company. Richardson states one of his reasons for creating his company is that he believes "embracing technology is an act that empowers people unlike any act in the history of mankind". He further explains he desires the company will "play a part in helping bridge the digital divide..."

Richardson created the Click Drag Foundation which provides DVD's and instruction to select at risk youth programs in urban neighborhoods across the U.S. and world. Additionally, the company donates a portion of their profits to five charities on a regular basis including The Smile Train, Ronald McDonald House, Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Children's Miracle Network and American Foundation for the Blind.

I sat down and watched lesson 5 of Web Design for Kids while my husband reviewed it with my 12 year old daughter, Micah. Micah's experience with HTML programming was zero so I was curious how well she would follow along. She and I both agreed that the tempo of the DVD was much too fast. Richardson's pace felt breakneck at times causing me to feel lost and confused. My husband agreed that students would definitely want to sit with remote in hand and make good use of the pause button in order to successfully comprehend instruction and keep up with the creation of their web page design as shown on the screen.

The sound and video quality of the DVD was superb. I thought the use of frequent screen shots to show students what their web page should look like as they progressed was an excellent visual instructional tool. In addition, sound effects and visual flip of video was used to signal transition from instruction to a more detailed explanation of a topic. Two middle school aged students appeared in the video with Richardson, but we all agreed their interaction appeared scripted and forced. The students questions and comments, however, did serve as gentle review for the student working alongside at home.

When I asked Micah for her final word regarding Web Design for Kids she said, "I thought it was a good program because overall it was easy to understand and he made it fun. It was sometimes hard to understand because the pace of the video was a little fast".

The real test however, was to find out Mr. Computer Consultant's expert opinion. He gave Web Design for Kids two thumbs up and said, "It's a very short course, but it does give kids a great start in understanding how to program in HTML. There is a lot more to it (HTML programming), but this is a good start. I think Web Design for Kids does a great job in demystifying the process of web page design while engaging kids in the process."


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Anonymous said...

Very thoughtfull post on HTML Programming. It should be very much helpfull.

Mark - USMLE Solutions & Absite