Thursday, August 6, 2009

Review: Web Design for Kids

Isn't that a great title?

What is it? A DVD that teaches kids *and* adults HTML, with about 1.5 hours of instruction in seven lessons, plus a bonus lesson on files and folders (13 minutes). You can visit the website here.

The lessons?
  1. Ten Basic Lines of Code (14 minutes)
  2. Sandwiches and Colors (10 minutes)
  3. Make Subject Stand Out (13 minutes)
  4. Stand Alone Tags (6 minutes)
  5. Designing Backgrounds (10 minutes)
  6. Fonts and Paragraphs (6 minutes)
  7. Pictures (9 minutes)
Brian Richardson teaches the class to two kids, who look to be young teens. He uses kid-friendly terminology (Sesame Street language, he calls it on the website), and the two kids ask questions as they go. Brian is friendly, sometimes a little silly, and we all found him pretty easy to listen to and learn from. What was really great was how often one of us would ask a question, only to either have one of the kids ask the same question on the DVD, or for there to be a little breakaway thing where Mr. Richardson (which is what the kids call him in the DVD, and I love that) would be sitting at a computer and inserting some additional comments or examples. It was obvious that he has not forgotten the types of really silly things that beginners tend to get hung up on.

My kids are reasonably tech-savvy, but HTML is not something they've ever worked with. I've picked up enough myself to go in and "edit HTML" on my blog entries when something really weird happens, but I don't truly know what I'm doing.

We put the DVD in, opened up our laptops (Macs), and worked along with the DVD. I'd estimate that we spent roughly double the times listed above in working through each segment, as we'd pause at play with what we were learning. And while I think my 8 year old could have handled this, he wandered off and did not participate. So those of us doing the course were 10, 12 and two curious grown-ups.

I know I should be able to put this directly in here, but I can't seem to figure it out. So, to see a sample from YouTube, just click here!

One quibble I have with the program is that it is explicitly taught for use on a PC, and even if you have another version of Windows, you will run into some issues. While I don't want to hear it over and over, mentioning at a couple places that you might need to do things a little differently if you are running different programs or other operating systems would be nice.

For instance, on the web site, there is a note about one major change you need to make if you are using a Mac. It would have been nice if that could have been mentioned ON the DVD, even just a statement that if you are using something other than Windows XP (I think), you should check the FAQ page of their website for modification information. We started off by doing as we were told, and found we couldn't bring our html file up as a webpage. That's when I went searching and found the following on their website (bold is the part I needed to be told, the rest was pretty obvious):

The programs that parallel Notepad and Internet Explorer are TextEdit and Safari respectively. A small change that's needed is to go to the menu on TextEdit, choose "Format", and choose "Make Plain Text".

I wish they had either a mention of this small change on the DVD, or even a slip of paper included in the DVD.

After doing the "Make Plain Text" thing, we really didn't encounter other issues. There were a few minor differences, but those were pretty easy to figure out. Such as:
  • To view the code on webpages, you need to hit View and View Source in Safari.
  • Instead of F5, you can command R instead.
One thing we discovered is that the newest version of Safari doesn't like some of the html code. We all put in the marquee behavior=alternate code, and it only worked on one child's computer... the one who doesn't stay current on software updates. He's running Safari 3, the rest of us have Safari 4. It worked in Firefox, which helped me, but nobody else has that.

Overall, we really enjoyed this. We all learned quite a bit and had fun doing it. I will repeat these lessons for my younger kids. Thomas (the 8 year old) may even get the chance to do this with just me starting this fall, as then we can slow down the pace a bit more.

One of the best things was that Mr. Richardson has you purposely mess up, and then look at what happens when you leave off a / or something. Each time, he emphasizes the need for attention to detail, and obviously, he steps you back through fixing the little error you just intentionally made. One aspect of this technique that I particularly appreciate for true beginners is that it teaches them that the computer isn't going to blow up if you make a mistake. When I did computer training, I was shocked at how many people were convinced that if they messed up, they would destroy their computer.

Rumor has it that a second volume is due out yet this year, and I'm happy to hear that. I think this is an excellent product, and I know I feel a lot more comfortable hitting the "edit HTML" tab on my blog now!

The DVD is available for about $24 right now including shipping, and can be ordered here or by calling them (800 number is listed on the linked page). The website (and the DVD) also list a number of charities that Click Drag Solutions supports.

And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about Web Design for Kids, and how it worked for their various aged children, at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

1 comment:

Kara said...

This sounds really interesting, Debra! I think my oldest and I would both enjoy it. I'm going to have to check it out. Thanks for the review!