Wednesday, July 24, 2013

TeenCoder C# Series by Homeschool Programming : A TOS Crew Review

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TeenCoder C# Series by Homeschool Programming

From their website:
"The TeenCoder C# programming courses are designed for 9th-12th grade students who may be interested in computer science as a career, hobby, or who may need a computer course for high school graduation. Build your school transcript with a high quality technical elective that is easily recognized by college professors.

Utlizing the free Visual C# 2010 Express development environment from Microsoft, each chapter explains a programming concept in detail with corresponding sample code. In hands-on activities for each chapter the student will write their own programs based on the chapter topics. Instructional Videos for each course are perfect for your audio-visual learner! These videos do not replace the Student Textbook, but they do re-inforce every chapter and lesson in a fun, animated manner.

Cost - TeenCoder: Windows Programming and TeenCoder: Game Programming each cost $75 for the course or $90 for the course with video instruction.

TeenCoder C# Year Pack combines both the Windows Programming and Game Programming courses for $130 (courses only) or $155 (courses and videos).

The Bentz Test Laboratory has a high school student!  Yikes - how did that happen?  That means not only teaching the basics, but adding in electives.  Now what?

Here's a suggestion...why not ask them what THEY want to learn?  Computer Science is the perfect, self-directed (because I don't know any of this stuff myself) high school elective course.  So, when TeenCoder C# Series by Homeschool Programming  became available...we jumped at the chance!

Homeschool Programming, Inc. was founded by homeschooling parents who have degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering as an answer for curriculum to teach "real computer programming" to children who have parents that do not know it themselves... Horray!  

The TeenCoder C# series is designed for the 9-12th grade student.  A student DOES NOT need prior programming knowledge - this is a "start from the beginning" course, they assume some basic computer knowledge that all kids today seem to be born knowing :-) The course is composed of 2 Semesters:  1- Basic Programming and 2-Game Programming.  You do need to work from the beginning, as the skills build upon each other.

The program is delivered as 2 "meaty" PDF files.  For our ease of use, I went ahead and printed them (250 pages - draft quality) and put them in a binder.  You could also access them directly from your PC, or E-reader if you wanted to instead.  We are very visual learners, so a hard copy was good for us.  A printed version would be a nice purchase option.

We also took advantage of the Instructional Videos.  These are a MUST HAVE in our opinion. (check out a sample of the videos here)  Programming is like learning a new language, and it's very helpful to have a guided tour!

Semester 1 begins with TeenCoder C#: Windows Programing
Topics Covered in this Course
  • Introduction to the C# programming language
  • Creating graphical Windows screens
  • 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 - the student will create a graphical chess game! This project will demonstrate many of the Windows and object-oriented programming skills the student has learned. It's also a great lead-in to our second-semester course, TeenCoder: Game Programming!

My soon-to-be 10th grade tester tackled this program completely independently ("self-directed", to quote Homeschool Programming's description).

He worked through a chapter or topic a day, several days a week.  At first, it was easy to read the chapter, watch the instructional video and complete the activity in one sitting.  As he progressed, the material became more difficult - and he needed to spend more time on each chapter and topic.

Each chapter walks you through learning with step-by-step instructions and even screen shots to illustrate.  An end of the "Chapter Review" goes over key points and the "Activity" actually implements what you have learned to complete another programming step. 

Homeschool Programming has included tools - i.e. 16 chapter tests, to help you assess your student's progress.   Our final assessment was the completion and testing of the end of the chapter activities plus his final project chess game.

Here are his impressions of TeenCoder's Windows Programming:
  • The step-by-step instructions were easy to follow. 
  • The video was VERY helpful in being able to "see" what I was learning. 
  • The activities at the end of the chapter are a fun way to put what I've learned into practice.  I've even been able to expand them. 
  • Sometimes, the video explained an example - but, it didn't match what the text had.  It could be confusing.  I couldn't really read along with the video.
  • I liked learning a new language, that my mom doesn't know!!
  • Working on this, has made me want to learn more about computer programming, and given me a new appreciation for what goes into building a program. 
  • I can't wait to program my own games!
 Semester 2 continues with TeenCoder C#: Game Programing.

Topics Covered in This Course:Homeschool Programming
  • 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 -  the student will create new arcade game called Bumper Cars! This project will demonstrate many of the game programming skills the student has learned throughout the semester. Once completed the student will have the confidence and framework to write new games on their own!

My tester did not get to the Second semester in our 8 week review period, but the TeenCoder Game Programming looks every bit as challenging and rewarding as the Windows Programming course, and he can't wait to begin creating his own games! 

Together these make a very solid HIGH school level computer science credit.  The self-study format makes it possible, even if you don't know the subject (the beauty of homeschooling through high school).  If you are wanting to learn more about programming...this would be a great course for the parents too.

This well organized, easy to follow along, course has sparked a new interest in computer programming...who knows where that will take him? Best of all, it's a skill he can use for the future. 

 Other members of the TOS Crew reviewed several other products by Homeschool Programming :
KidCoder Visual Basic Series , KidCoder Web Series, & TeenCoder Java Series
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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