Monday, December 22, 2008

A Review of Let's Make a Web Page! by Motherboard Books

My daughter and I were having a conversation the other day and the topic of computers was brought up. I mentioned I went through my whole school career, even college, without owning a computer. With a wide-eyed look, I was asked, "But Mom, how did you write your papers? Did you write them all by hand?" I had to explain that sometimes I did, but I usually used a typewriter, which is recognizable thanks to the American Girl Kit movie. On occasion, I went to the campus computer lab or found a rare lucky friend that actually owned a computer. The whole idea of functioning without a computer was completely foreign to her.

If the conversation and reaction of amazement weren't so entertaining, I would have wallowed in my feelings of being downright old. I grew up in a time when a computer for school-aged children was a neat machine where you learned to program how to scroll your name. However, my 11-year-old can't imagine life without a computer or internet access. Furthermore, computers are now a necessity for her and my son's future and it is my job to educate them on their use - without school computer labs and tech-savvy teachers. What a relief to have discovered Motherboard Books!

Motherboard Books, owned by Phyllis Wheeler, addresses the need for computer instruction for children learning at home through a variety of computer science instructional offerings. Let's Make a Web Page! is at 60-page ebook targeted at children ages 8-12. Upon completion of the ten short lessons, the user will have designed a web page complete with links, custom background, animations, sounds and photos. The final product will be ready to upload to the internet to a hosting site. Alternatively, the web page can be set as the home page of a browser, making a local website viewable only to those using that computer.

Let's Make a Web Page! has clear and simple instruction, directed mostly towards the child. An introduction to the parent discusses the course requirements, internet safety and CoffeeCup, the 30-day free trial software needed for the lessons. In Lesson 1, the student is started off with an assignment to interview someone and write about it as a topic for their website. Chapters and topics are:

Introduction for Parents
Lesson 1: An Interview
Lesson 2: Download and Set Up the Program
Lesson 3: Add Text
Lesson 4: Make a Table
Lesson 5: Add Photo
Lesson 6: From the Internet, Add Animations
Lesson 7: Browser Check, Backgrounds, Photos
Lesson 8: Sound
Lesson 9: Links
Lesson 10: Post Your Work
Appendix: How to Upload to the Internet

Kid Perspective

My daughter has been toying around with html and website creation for about a year now. Most of her experience has been using free hosting sites with templates, but her real desire is to start a business and have a custom web page. Her excitement to try out this ebook was no surprise. Because she already had a purpose for her site, the interview portion was changed to a product description complete with a photo. Because her product involves buttons, she even took a photo of buttons, learned to modify it with a photo editor, and used it for her background. The resulting basic web page looked impressive.

When asked what she thought, she had the following to say:
  • easy to use
  • clear step-by-step instructions
  • helpful dialog boxes and screen shots
  • liked how the lessons were broken down
  • lots of information
She had no negative comments. Even though she has experience with the internet, she learned quite a bit. "I didn't know websites were just folders with files in them," was one comment. The basic knowledge learned will be a great building block for further exploration and understanding to build more complicated pages.

Mom Perspective

Aside from the great-looking end product, I was pleased with the content, instruction, and ease of use of this ebook.

I really appreciated the portions on internet safety and the prompts to request help from a parent for certain steps. Internet safety should be a concern for any parent and Phyllis Wheeler was sure to address this topic. Also, it isn't assumed that the user has much computer knowledge, yet the instructions are not so remedial that those who do are irritated. Young children, and tech-challenged moms, can follow the steps to success. My 11-year-old was able to use this ebook completely independently. I intend to try it out with my 9-year-old, who will probably need a little help but will likely be able to do much on his own.

The ebook can be used again as a manual to create more web pages, making this a resource that will be referenced again. Suggestions are made on how to continue making pages without buying software once the CoffeeCup trial expires. There is no need to print this product since all the work is done on the computer and switching from ebook to software is convenient. Let's Make a Web Page will be used as a guide for more web pages in our household.

If you have a student that is wanting to explore web design but needs a safe and simple way to learn, Let's Make a Web Page! is a great introduction and can currently be purchased from Motherboard Books for $19.99 (reg. $29.99). If you are not completely satisfied, Motherboard Books stands by all of its products with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Be sure to check out the other computer science programs also available.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's Official Blog for more reviews on this product!

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