Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Coder Academy Review: Online and Offline Activities Book


Coder Academy is part of a series of books introducing children to a range of skills and careers. Coder Academy is written by Sean McManus, an accomplished author in this field, who’s written other titles such as, Cool Scratch Projects, Raspberry Pi Projects and Earworm.

Disclaimer: Ivy Kids sent us a copy of Coder Academy for this review. Our opinions and observations are always our own.


Coder Academy is a bright and approachable book for children interested in exploring what a coder does. The book covers a number of professions that use coding as a skill, namely a software developer, website designer, digital musician and computer artist.

The book becomes your workbook as you complete activities in the book and using a computer. The book is divided into 4 sections (covering each profession) and you receive a certificate at the end of each section. My kids loved this and they were desperate to complete each task (to earn their sticker) and eventually be certified a “Qualified Coder” or one of the other professions.



The content is easy to read and written so that a child can read and understand it. My children (aged 6 and 9) are quite competent readers and were able to engage with the activities independently.

My 9-year-old was really keen to learn about binary numbers, there’s a whole task on this in the book. We worked through it together and we both understood the concept and enjoyed doing the task. He even went on for several days creating binary numbers for my age, his birth date, etc. and taught the concept to his little brother! Thanks Coder Academy, we finally get binary numbers!

Coder Academy also has an accompanying website with more online and downloadable content.

Code with Scratch

The computer tasks are completed using a programme called Scratch. It’s available for free online and runs in the browser. We recommend parents help their children create an account, so they can save their work and share it with their friends. Lots of children will already be familiar with Scratch as it is the go-to programming language for most primary schools.

The code blocks and instructions in the book are easy to follow but you’ll have to do some working-it-out-for-yourself if you’re completely new to Scratch. Exploration is a great way to learn coding skills, so try something and if it doesn’t work how you expected, change it and try it again.

Screenless Activities

There’s lots of opportunity for screenless tasks too with the Coder Academy book. The book comes with a matching pairs game and a board game where you need to build the dice and robot characters. My boys really enjoyed this craft activity and were able to make all the pieces independantly. We did have a little trouble attaching the head to the body, but you just need to push the tabs on the antenna forward and then it slots into place. Thankfully there’s a ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ robot!



There’s also colouring, designing, drawing, paper animation and papercraft, and group activities in the book.



The Board Game

The robot programming challenge game is a 2 player game where you have to code your robot to reach a target. It’s fairly simple, but helps children learn sequencing and following instructions. My kids have done a lot of this type of ‘programming’ so they were keen to make up their own game. They came up with a game that focuses on learning about coordinates. My 6-year-old has not yet learned about coordinates at school but using the game board and creating their own game, he now has a pretty good grasp on x and y coordinates and rows and columns - all useful skills for programming in Scratch! There is also a task in the book about coordinates!



Verdict

Coder Academy is a fantastic activity book for tech-loving kids and would appeal to children from age 6 and up. My 9 year really enjoyed it, although some of the scratch projects were quite basic for him. He’s been doing scratch for a while. He’s really interested in learning about designing websites and making digital music, so it’s nice that the book covers a range of topics.

We love the combination of coding, craft and design. Coder Academy would appeal to children with a wide range of interests and who are new to coding.

We wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a child who’s competent on Scratch, although there are lots of other tasks mixed in, which can introduce them to a new concept and develop different skills.

As it’s a workbook, you’ll probably need a copy per child, my kids were not keen for the other sibling to complete tasks in their book!

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