If your kids have an interest in computers and you’re looking for a way for them to spend their time in front of the screen productively, I recommend some instruction in programming.
Whether or not your kids want to become coders for a living, learning about and understanding the structure that goes into computer code is extremely helpful in navigating our Information Age and in developing logical mental pathways. The company Youth Digital offers a variety of classes for kids aged 8 to 14 to teach different computer-related topics, such as mod design for Minecraft, app design, 3D printing, and 3D animation.
A few weeks ago, my 10-year-old son finished the lessons in his Minecraft Mod Design 1 class from Youth Digital. (Read our first impressions of the class after the first few lessons here.) He turned in his work for evaluation and got a thorough response. Though he’s completed all of the lessons, he still has the rest of the original 12-month period to access all of the instructional videos, as well as be able to upload his own mods or download those created by others. There are also some advanced topics to learn about designing mods in more depth.
Now that he’s done with the meat of the class, what do we think? Are we still happy with the experience? The answer is a resounding “yes!”
Inevitably, whenever my son was watching the video lessons, I would hear unbridled cackling laughter coming from the other room. I watched a few of the videos myself, and I will admit to many a chuckle out loud as well. Justin, the Youth Digital employee in the videos (and founder and CEO), packed the lessons with clear information, but delivered it in a very entertaining way, perfect for the intended age range. He’s both knowledgeable and charismatic, and obviously knew what he was doing when he made the videos. It’s not easy to create hilarious videos that are chock full of information and instruction that will keep students entertained while they are learning real skills, such as programming in Java and using Gimp for graphics creation.
The course starts out with some introductions and an easy walkthrough of how to install the Java software, as well as Gimp, the freely available Photoshop-esque program, which is needed to make Minecraft skins. It’s a very good idea to be at least familiar with computers to take these classes, but if you are already into Minecraft, that shouldn’t be a problem.
My son was so excited to just keep going and going in the class. He kept wanting to do just one more lesson. Just one more, Mom. One more. Though it is billed as a year-long class, my son got through it in a few months, which is probably a good pace. I hope he takes the rest of the year to interact with the other students and share mods. Students can also upload their own tutorials to share ideas. There is a great supportive community in which to participate, for those who prefer a more social way of learning.
Inevitably though, kids who take the class will make mistakes or get stuck. But never fear, the built-in help option is fantastic. It does necessitate the student’s ability to convey their challenge in words, though. Because of this, for the younger students taking the class, a parent’s help is sometimes needed—and certainly helpful. Also, parents who having a programming background or are just really good at following directions and solving problems, can help their kids on their own before contacting Youth Digital for help. If that doesn’t work, it is very easy to write for help, and the knowledgeable people on the other end will guide you through solving the problem. My son made a variety of mistakes along the way, some very basic, but two or three of them involved some serious help by the support staff. The issues were all solved quickly and efficiently.
Even when he didn’t feel like doing parts of the class, my son would still enjoy himself, learn, and giggle at the videos. He would find them so funny that he’d call everyone over to watch parts with him. By the end of the course though, he got mentally tired and was ready to be done, but it was the end of the school year and he just wanted summer break to start. Still, he got his mod finished, packaged up, and submitted to Youth Digital for assessment.
Within a couple of weeks, we had the results, a final assessment of his submitted mod. He was given a score (26 out of 30, not bad!), which was based on a number of factors, each of which were given a score out of 5. Each factor was accompanied by a lengthy comment by the assessor, praising all the things he did right.
With no hesitation or qualification, I recommend this class to any kid or adult, who has patience, a sense of humor, and an interest in Minecraft, and wants to make their own mods. Youth Digital also offers many other classes that would be good for kids interested in other related fields. Check out their website for the latest offerings. These classes are wonderful to sneak some education into your kids’ summer break, are useful for homeschooling, or are a great supplement to conventional schooling.
Youth Digital classes cost $249.99. This may seem like a steep price, but there is plenty of value included, and access to the class material is good for one year. This is plenty of time to go the slow route, or you can enjoy the fast route and take advantage of other class features. Youth Digital also periodically has sales on their class tuition.
GeekMom received this item for review purposes.