The summer heat is still around in these parts, but the season is basically over with our kids finding their way back to their desks and after-school activities. This particular break just seemed to fly by way too fast, especially since a vacation just wasn't in the cards for us this year. (Bummer, right? Don't worry ~ we're about to make up for it). Instead, the boys took on challenges of their own here at home. The oldest worked over the summer at college. Our middle son took on some high level classes so he could get ahead before his senior year. Now, the youngest? Well, he planted himself in front of a computer and worked on his tech skills! He was given the chance to work with an on-line academy called bitWise in an effort to sharpen his self-taught programming techniques.
We were provided a complimentary year-long subscription to bitWise Academy in exchange for our honest review. All opinions in this post are 100% mine and my son's alone. This post does contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information
Wondering what bitWise is?
Okay - yeah....it's probably important to share the facts first. So, here we go. bitWise Academy is an award-winning Top 10 Company. They have been recognized as a pioneer when it comes to bringing innovative eLearning courses to the table. The academy focuses on topics such as emerging Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and is said to be a next-generation AI-driven eLearning platform. The program enables adaptive and personalized eLearning experiences for students of varying levels with an integrated Applied CS curriculum that blends computer science with several topics in the fields of STEM, art, music and games. It also introduces students to a variety of tools and programming languages, as well.
At current, there are over 5000 students enrolled within bitWise Academy. Students represent all grade levels and come from every nook and cranny of the country. In fact, bitWise can now be found in over 400 schools across 30+ states and the numbers continue to grow every month.
Students enrolled demonstrate a variety of learning styles and interests. While some are interested in the arts, others are highly motivated by learning computer languages. The point is, if any aspect of STEM is a part of who your child is, it may be worth taking a look at this online opportunity.
With over thirty courses offered, students can select from such classes as: computer programming, game programming, art, design, space exploration, data science, statistics, drones, Raspberry Pi, python, Java, AP Computer Science and so much more!
What makes bitWise courses different?
The experience is immersive and interactive and designed to be fun! The courses are geared to be self-paced, allowing the student to work as quickly or as slowly as needed. It's also meant to be easily adaptable and can be personalized to each student’s learning style and progress.
One of the unique features is that students have the opportunity to become highly engaged, socialize and learn with their friends using features such as the Friends Circle. They can also interact with Beem, a friendly and knowledgeable chatbot, and participate in the larger bitWise Community by posting questions and receiving answers.
Our personal experience with bitWise Academy
The youngest is our computer genius. He is fascinated by coding and really enjoys teaching himself various computer languages. In light of that, when this opportunity arose for him to work with this new program, we jumped on it.
He chose to work on a course that was centered around computers called AP Computer Science A. This course emphasizes object-oriented programming methodology with an emphasis on problem-solving and algorithm development. It is meant to be the equivalent of a first-semester course in computer science and is the first of a four course series. This particular course also includes the study of data structures and abstraction.
In addition, AP Computer Science A is designed to enhance students’ logical problem-solving abilities and increase student understandings of the Java language, but it also builds analytical skills that are valuable in the field of computer science.
To be honest, he was pretty psyched to be taking it at first.
What Our Son's Honest Review:
As noted above, our youngest eats, drinks and dreams computer languages. He loves to code like it’s a game!
What did he like?
It teaches the basics, in case the student taking the course is starting from scratch.
The structure of the lessons is organized well (the course is divided up into lessons and those lessons into topics).
Each topic ends with a small Q&A to check what the student learned on the topic.
Some topics have interactive parts to make it easier to learn something.
It provides friendly graphics to encourage and help young people to learn.
bitWise Academy ~ Table of Operations[/caption]
What does he see as needing improvement**:
Some of the graphics/charts seem confusing.
Some of the graphics (at least in this course) are geared towards younger children and may not appeal to those who are older.
It may be a little difficult for people who read faster than the voice dictates, as they may have finished reading the text, but need to wait for the voice to finish in case any other graphics show up.
There are some grammar issues in different parts and, at some points, communicating the opposite of what may be intended ("IMO" ~ per the youngest).
For instance, to illustrate the last statement, this graphic shows an if/else statement that pretty much as a "true" concluding in a "false."
bitWise Academy ~ example of an if/else statement[/caption]
Those are straight from his heart, my friends. No coaxing, no pushing ~ purely our son's review.
**As a side note, these are all things that have brought to bitWise Academy's attention and adjustments are being made, so I anticipate these will be fixed in the near future.
So, was it worth his time?
I would say it was and he's glad that he had the chance to work on it. It certainly sharpened some of the skills he already had and taught him a few things about the hardware, which gave him insight into how computers work. It also gave him something fun to work on this summer.
Of course, there are so many other courses he could take and he has the year subscription to try them out. Taking the computer science course first just made the most sense for him.
What parents need to know about bitWise
During the course, parents receive insights and reports on their student’s progress. In fact, it's the parents who establish the connection with bitWise, though the student does receive emails. It's easy to stay as connected as you would like and work with your student as they go through their course.
At the end of the course completion, the student receives a certificate stating such so they have documented recognition of their accomplishment!
Now, I'm not a personal fan of Common Core, but that's because I know how my children's brains work and Common Core did nothing for them. However, some parents ARE fans and there are school systems that still utilize this method. Within bitWise Academy, there are a handful of courses that follow the Common Core standards and curriculum and those that do are outlined clearly on the site.
Of note, bitWise Academy has also launched an exclusive STEM channel on WhatsApp devoted to:
This channel is completely FREE to join. Students receive interesting information, facts, explanations, questions and answers in various subject groups like Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Computer Science and more. Everyone on that WhatsApp group will automatically receive what is published.
While this may not have been ideal for my son's level of expertise, it was and IS a fun learning experience from which many students will find benefit. It may be the ideal tool for those who homeschool and for those who are looking to increase their STEM experience on-line.