We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Rachel D., the winner of the Youth Digital Mod Design 1 Giveaway!

Thanks to all who participated.  I wish everyone could have won!

For those who did not win, it looks like Youth Digital is running a 20% discount on either (or both) of their Amazon offerings:  Mod Design 1 or 3D Animation 1 with coupon code “YDPLU20”.

They are already listed at $199.99.  If you take the additional 20% off by adding the coupon code, each course comes down to $159.99.  Not bad!

If you do take the 3D Animation course, I’d love to hear about it.  We bought the App Design 1 (which, sadly, is not on discount) course for Molly, which she will be starting after Christmas.

 

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Whether it is online or off, I hope you all build something really great this year!

 

 

 

A Gentle Reminder That The Youth Digital GIVEAWAY ends Friday

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If you are not interested in entering, then please just enjoy this moment with my favorite 6-year-old.

 

If you are interested in entering the Youth Digital Giveaway for Mod Design 1 (value $250) click on the Rafflecopter link on the right side of my blog (the one that says “a Rafflecopter giveaway”).  There are two ways to enter:  you may visit Youth Digital’s Facebook page for one entry and/or follow them on Twitter for a second entry.

If you win, you will be emailed a voucher for the course that you will be responsible for redeeming for your completely FREE course from Youth Digital.

I will be drawing the winner on 12/12/2014.  If you win, you’ll be contacted by email.  If I do not get a response within 48-hours, I will draw another winner.  Good Luck to everyone!

 

Youth Digital Mod Design 1 Course GIVEAWAY!

The Holiday season is upon us!  I am beyond excited to share one of my favorite homeschooling experiences of 2014 with you! All of my children love Minecraft.  When Molly started asking me to buy mods for her at the beginning of the year, I told her that if she wanted a mod, she would have to make one herself.  As I looked for how to make that happen, I stumbled upon Youth Digital.  Soon thereafter, Molly was lucky enough to take Youth Digital’s Mod Design 1 course.  I have written about our experience with Youth Digital here and here.  I am pleased to say that while completing of this course, Molly has made her very own Orange Bucky Mod!  Plus, in addition to learning Java, Molly learned an exceptional amount of patience and self-discipline with this course.  Invaluable!

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Back in the day, just hanging out, eating pizzelles, with Orange Bucky, before he became a Mod.

Youth Digital represents all that I’d like in a learning experience for my kids:  they are passionate and enthusiastic about sharing their expertise in a funny and understandable way.  Moreover, their customer service is phenomenal.  We will definitely be taking additional courses when the time is right.

In the meantime, I am giving away the $250 course that Molly took and loved and actually learned Java with this year (thank you, Youth Digital for sponsoring it!).

Get entered to win Mod Design 1 by clicking on the Rafflecopter link on the right side of my blog (the one that says “a Rafflecopter giveaway”).

If you win, you will be emailed a voucher for the course that you will be responsible for redeeming for your completely FREE course from Youth Digital.

I will be drawing the winner on 12/12/2014.  If you win, you’ll be contacted by email.  If I do not get a response within 48-hours, I will draw another winner. Good Luck to everyone!

You can also purchase the course on Youth Digital’s website here or at 20% off at Amazon here.


I have not been compensated for this giveaway.  As I mentioned in my first post about Mod Design 1, I contacted Youth Digital to ask if they would be willing to let us try it out in return for a review on my blog.  They haven’t asked for any additional reviews, nor did they have any control over any content I have published.  I just think this has been a great find and want to share it with you.

Molly’s Mid-Way Update on Youth Digital’s Mod Design 1

We are about halfway through Mod Design 1, which I wrote about starting here.

As I wrote in my first post, Youth Digital promises this course will teach kids to program their own Mod (an alteration of the program code of a video game in order to make it operate in a manner different from its original version).  In doing so, students also learn the fundamentals of Java Programming.  Yay!

As I also mentioned in my first post, Youth Digital gives students 365 days to finish a course, which has really made this whole course stress-free.  Molly really likes that she is in complete control over when she does the sections and how quickly she moves through each section.  She thinks it is especially cool that she can do them later at night (her best time of day), in her pajamas, wrapped in Bucky (her special blanket/BFF) with a Ninja-Turtle mask on, if she wants.

Time for coding class, Kiddo!

Time for coding class, Kiddo!

Here are our mid-way impressions:

PROS:

  •  The videos are very entertaining.  There’s an appropriate amount of humor targeted to her age.
  •  The videos contain suggested times to pause and carry out coding tasks.  These are generally well placed – not too short or long a time between pauses.
  •  Molly has enjoyed the selected modding tasks.  They are small and thus, simple to do.
  •  The difficulty of the tasks seems appropriate so far.  The structure is well thought out, with each lesson building on the previous.

In sum, Mod Design 1 is a very practical, task-based, learning activity. It’s building Molly’s practical computer science skills, like being careful with typing and syntax (computers have no mercy for typos), cutting and pasting, window/graphical user interface management, mouse skills, etc. She is also becoming comfortable with basic coding concepts like using named variables and objects to define how things work.  She’s learning how to be creative, while also being careful with her coding.

CONS:

  • The quizzes are occasionally too GIMP and keyboard-shortcut centric.
  • The templates have contained two coding errors so far.  These were straightforward to fix with adult help, but were frustrating for Molly alone.  She really doesn’t like to ask for help!  Back on the PRO side, though, Youth Digital offers excellent customer support.
  • The fact that Molly is already eying up App Design 1 and Game Design 1, reminds me that Youth Digital courses are, although worth it in our opinion, pricey.

ONE LAST COMMENT:

So far, as billed, this is a “show me how, then I do it” class with little “20,000 foot view” discussion.  We like that.  It is actually teaching Molly Java.  If theoretical discussion of computer science fundamentals is what you’re looking for, another course might be better.  For learning the Java basics in a fun but structured way, this course is the way to go.


Wondering if this is an advertisement?  It is not.

I have not been compensated for this review.  As I mentioned in my first post about Mod Design 1, I contacted Youth Digital to ask if they would be willing to let us try it out in return for a review on my blog.  They haven’t asked for any additional reviews, nor did they have any control over either review.  I just think this has been a great find and want to share it with you.

Youth Digital, Learning Java with Minecraft Isn’t Just for The Kids!

Like so many others, my children are obsessed with Minecraft.  They learned how to play the game on the Minecraft PE App (which is a lighter version of the game made for the iPad) but discovered the full version at their cousins’ house about a year ago. Since then the two of them have saved every penny they were given or earned so that they could buy their own computer to play on.

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Homemade Minecraft Bank, circa 2013.

Some people think Minecraft, a sandbox game, is the ultimate educational tool. While I do worry about screentime, I also agree that Minecraft is an awesome vehicle for learning almost anything.

Here are just a few of the areas I’ve watched my 5 and 7-year-old develop in as players roaming freely through their virtual worlds:

  • reading
  • spelling
  • grammar and punctuation
  • keyboarding
  • math
  • problem solving
  • governance/citizenship
  • geography
  • telling time
  • engineering
  • science
  • art
  • goal setting
  • discipline
  • time management
  • conflict resolution

The reason Minecraft is such a powerful learning tool is that it offers so much freedom to players, limiting them, mostly, only by their imagination. They can pretty much build or create anything they wish using the tools that Minecraft gives them.

Is that you, Leonardo?

Is that you, Leonardo?
Pixel Art from Minecraft Pixel Art von Higgins

Minecraft does have limitations, though, and in January of this year, Molly found one of them.  She wanted to change the color of an item (her sword) to look like her beloved blanket, Bucky.  But she couldn’t.

Orange and Pink Bucky, from the olden days.

Pink Bear and Orange Bucky on the left, Molly, and Striped Bucky on the right.

As I scoured the internet for instructions on modifying the game that even I could understand, I came across Youth Digital, which offers online programming and computer classes for kids.  They offer a course called Mod Design 1, which promises to teach kids to program their own Mod (an alteration of a program code of a video game in order to make it operate in a manner different from its original version) from scratch.  In doing so, students also learn the fundamentals of Java Programming.

Molly could learn to change her game as she wished, all while learning to code?  At her own pace?  And Joe or I could sit along with her?  Sounds good to me!

The course costs $249.99.  It’s recommended for ages 8-14.  Without knowing more than what I found on their website and from a few brief reviews online (Youth Digital was only started in 2010), I was hesitant to spend that kind of money on my 7-year-old.

I contacted Youth Digital to ask if they would be willing to let us try it out in return for a review on my blog.  After checking me out and deciding we were a good fit, they said yes.

We started the course right away.

Added benefit - - learning to code in your pajamas, with Dad, at night after he gets home from work!

Added benefit – – learning to code in your pajamas, with Dad, at night after he gets home from work!

So far we’ve gone through all the introductory steps like installing software and defining “Java” and things like that, plus, Molly learned how to make her own sword and modify its “recipe” for it.  We still have a ways to go but here are our initial impressions:

  • Youth Digital gives students 365 days to finish a course, which is good, because we blew 35 of them immediately after we signed up in tending to my Mom in NY.  The ability to work at your own pace is critical to making learning fun and possible.  It’s awesome to have the flexibility that time allows.  Yay, Youth Digital for making this pretty stress-free!
  • It is best to designate one computer for this course, as it will have several downloads on it.  I had hoped to bring the course to NY but it was too hard.  It may have been easy if I knew anything about computers, but I don’t, so I was afraid to try.
  • I watched the introductory videos with all three kids and they literally laughed out loud at Justin as he ran across the screen.  They loved his style!  He made a lot of jokes and he constantly reminded us of how to get help if we needed it.
  • You do not need any previous programming experience for this course.  You can even follow the lessons if you are a computer cooler, like me.
  • This is real Java programming.  As such, it is challenging, even for a 39-year-old.
  • Molly says the explanations make it “very easy”.  I agree, although I did need to hear some of them more than once.  We just replayed the videos as needed.
  • The site is easy to navigate.
  • The course is divided into segments and each segment includes a video, task(s), and a quick quiz at the end.  Each segment has taken us about 30-45 minutes, mostly because we like to play around with the game.  Sometimes we do only one segment.  Others, 2 or 3.
  • The review questions at the end of each lesson are, according to Molly, “just right” in difficulty.
  • So far, and we are really just getting started, there are no negatives.  I do wonder though, why this is just targeted at kids.  Learning to code Java through playing and changing a game like Minecraft is a great way to teach adults too!

I will write additional updates as Molly works through the course.  Let me know if you have questions and I’ll try to get them answered!