4 Stars By Debbie Lee Wesselmann on 2017-10-20
Frustrating At Times, But Still Great for Learning (4- Stars)
I'm at a loss on how many stars to give the Kano Computer Kit -- sometimes I hate it and sometimes I love it, but three stars seems too low for something that can teach young and old alike how to code. The kit comes with a Raspberry Pi 3, a clear plastic case, a memory card. a power button, an HDMI cable, a power pack, a wireless keyboard in a kid-friendly size, and instructions on how to assemble the computer. "Assembling" is a better description than "making your own" because it's basically snapping a few parts together without needing to understand to components of a computer. It takes about five minutes to put together. The real power of this kit is the building-block coding challenges.
I'd rather talk about my frustrations first so I can end on a positive note. I first tried to hook up Kano to an HDTV set, but the set kept saying that the computer was an incompatible component. Kano's website is barebones in terms of support, and it was no help once I followed the instructions to reboot everything and to reconnect in a specific order without success. I finally carried it to another TV where it worked right away. (Apparently, not all HDTVs with HDMI inputs can handle a computer.) Until you set it up, complete with an account, you won't have access to the coding challenges. The story board in the guise of a game will be greeted by any kid over eight with an enormous sigh because it looks like it was created for six-year olds; it prompts the user to discover facts about power and computers by finding people who will give (in writing, so parents may have to help) information. Older kids probably won't want anyone seeing them explore this "baby" section. I wish the graphics were better and it looked less like Candy Land. The coding challenges, under the "Make" categories, are good, but it isn't always obvious how to clear certain levels. If your kids start playing around with values and ordering to see how the code blocks work, they may get stuck not clearing a level without access to the next. Sometimes blocks of code end up hidden on the screen behind the menus, and you can't clear the level with them floating around. The Kano website seems more devoted to selling their products and troubleshooting the hardware. If you can't figure out the software, you won't get help.
The other frustration I find is the keyboard itself with its touchpad. Sometimes, such as in the Storyboard, you have to use the arrows, and other times, such as in the Make sections, you have to drag and drop, a feat that isn't easy with a small pad. You are never told which to use. Kids who don't have great fine motor skills may get impatient with the lack of responsiveness. Older kids should be able to adapt fairly quickly.
But when the Kano works without roadblocks, it's a great tool to learn how to code. It has building blocks of code that you drag and drop in interlocking pieces to create small programs. As you're learning to code, you also learn about computers themselves. From the first steps (levels that you can't clear until you master the code blocks), kids learn about basic syntax and values.The coding is as instructive for adults as it is for children, and it wouldn't be a bad excuse to learn alongside your child. The best part of this kit, however, is the inclusion of a Raspberry Pi, which can be taken completely outside the Kano coding environment once advanced users are proficient with coding. The ability of this kit to address the needs of novice and advanced user alike should not be underestimated. The Pi is WiFi-enabled with a LAN port, two USB ports (one for the wireless keyboard), a HDMI port (used to hook up to a TV or monitor), and an optical cable port.
The Kano portion of the computer does not work unless it is online, either wirelessly or through an Ethernet connection. For most people these days, that's not an issue; however, it bears mentioning.
This computer kit is a great learning tool if you can get past the frustrations. It costs a lot more than a Raspberry Pi 3 does on its own; however, you are paying for the coding challenges that really help understand how to control computers. Older kids, even young teenagers, might balk at the toy-like look of the keyboard and challenges, but, if you can get them past that, they will be well on their way to coding on their own.
-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
5 Stars By 2DayDeliver Customer on 2017-10-19
The kids love it
It's pretty cool the kids love it it's definitely worth the money.