Monday, March 28, 2011

Teen Coder by Homeschool Programming, Inc.



I know my way around the computer, but I'm not a programmer.  The tiny bit of code I learned in high school is now obsolete.  I know I'm not alone.  Many homeschool families want their children to have an adequate computer training, but they may not be able to provide that education themselves.


Homeschool Programming has created computer curricula designed for the homeschool family:  KidCoder and TeenCoder.  Their TeenCoder series can provide a full year's curriculum for 9th - 12th grade students,  with a semester of Windows Programming and a semester of Game Programming, using the C# programming code.   Each course is a semester's worth of work and credit, but the Game Programming course builds on the lessons taught in the Windows Programming course.  


We received the first edition of both semester's courses to review.  The student textbook comes with a CD-rom that contains the installation instructions for the free Visual 2010 program, as well as files that will be needed during the course.  The non-consumable textbook is written directly to the student, intended for independent use.  Although this is designed to be used independently, my daughter did need help understanding the instructions at times.


The teacher's guide includes the following information for each chapter:  a chapter summary, the activity solution, an example of the completed programming project, as well as tests with answer keys.  The teacher's guide comes with a CD-rom which includes the tests for easy printing, as well as a hint file.  The hint file is very helpful, because it can be printed and given to the student if they are stuck on a certain activity.  It uses pseudo-code to walk them through the activity without giving away the entire activity solution.


Student prerequisites:

  • Understand how to operate the mouse and keyboard

  • Be familiar with the Windows operating system

  • Be able to store and retrieve files

  • Be familiar with browsing the internet on a web browser

  • Be able to navigate Windows Explorer and a file directory

  • Have experience with text editors


Basic Computer Requirements:

  • A CPU of at least 1.6Ghz

  • At least 1024MB of RAM

  • A display monitor with 1024 x 768 or higher resolution

  • A graphics card supporting DirectX-10 or later

  • A 5400+ RPM hard drive with 3GB or more free space

  • A DVD-ROM Drive

  • Windows XP + SP3 or above (except Starter Edition)

  • Windows Vista + SP2 or above (except Starter Edition)

  • Windows 7 (all versions)

  • This course is not Mac compatible


The TeenCoder programming course FAQ's can be found HERE.  You can also view a demonstration video at the Homeschool Programming website to help you further understand the curriculum.  Each semester's course sells for $75,  or they can be bought together for $130, saving $20 over the individual prices.


Windows Programming, semester 1, covers the following topics:

  • Introduction to the C# programming language

  • Creating Windows Forms

  • Using dialog controls

  • C# data types and variables

  • User input and flow control

  • Math functions and string operations

  • C# debugging and exception handling

  • Object-oriented programming concepts

  • Classes, inheritance, and polymorphism

  • Collections, sorting, and recursion

  • File Input/Output

  • Final project:  graphical chess game


Game Programming, semester 2, covers the following topics:

  • Introduction to the XNA Game Studio

  • Game design, game engines, and timer loops

  • Screen coordinates and color concepts

  • Drawing, scaling, and rotating images

  • Handling keyboard, mouse, and XBox 360 Gamepad controller inputs

  • Creating Sprite objects

  • Collision detection

  • 2D animation techniques

  • Playing music and sound effects

  • Game physics

  • Maze generation and solution algorithms

  • Menus, overlays, and deployment models

  • Multi-player scrolling games

  • Game artificial intelligence (AI)

  • Final project:  a bumper cars arcade game


TeenCoder also sells instructional videos that can be used to supplement the textbook.  NOTE:  they are not a replacement for the textbook.  I did not receive them, so I can't review them.  They are available for $30 per semester, or for $45 for both courses together.


Final Thoughts

I like how the Homeschool Programming TeenCoder series are designed.  I love that they are non-consumable, and can be used with multiple children.  However, my daughter found the textbook to be confusing.   If my husband and I had been less computer-literate, we might have found it more difficult to help her with this course.   Unfortunately, we had to push her to do her lessons, which we hadn't expected.


This is a comprehensive curriculum, but it isn't written in a conversational style.  If your student struggles to understand technical lessons presented in a text format, then they may also be confused by this textbook.  I wish I'd had a chance to review the instructional videos, to see if they helped my daughter understand the lessons more quickly.  She was able to complete the lessons, but it didn't come naturally.  I am still impressed with this curriculum, but it isn't the best fit for my daughter.


Visit the Homeschool Programming website to learn more about TeenCoder.


This item was provided free for our review as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew.  We received no other compensation, and this review is our honest opinion.  Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to read more reviews on this product by other Homeschool Crew members.

Trusting In Him,

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