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Monday 28 March 2016

JJ Trials Code Kingdoms

About three weeks ago JJ was given access to the website Code Kingdoms to try out their hands-on coding course for kids (recommended for ages 8 - 14+). I have to confess that I know nothing really about coding and even less about Minecraft itself, so when I was asked if this was something that might be of interest, I sent JJ the link and asked him to take a look and let me know. After a look round the Code Kingdoms site and learning that he would get his own Minecraft server to make modifications on, he was sold on the idea. Take a quick peek at the promotional video and see for yourself a glimpse into what Code Kingdoms provides and why JJ was interested -

However there has proved to be one small problem.... and it is NOT with Code Kingdoms I hasten to add, but with my son. What's the problem? Well JJ LOVES to play Minecraft and not just loves it but absolutely adores and from what I understand he is very good at it.  In fact he holds a Guinness World record for doing something or the other in Minecraft and here lies the problem. He is far more interesting in playing than coding,

So he spent some time checking out the instructional videos on Code Kingdoms and doing a bit of coding but he is already used to using a programme called Scratch at school where you use coloured visual blocks of code to drag and drop and he found Code Kingdoms similar at it's most basic level (but there are three more levels), so to be totally honest with you he didn't use it too much more.

Over Easter I sat JJ down and asked him to give me a tour of Code Kingdoms and explain to me what it was all about. I can edit some HTML in my blog so how different can this be I wondered? Well, the answer is very different. The language JJ was using was all new to me - 'methods', 'for loops', 'coding blocks' and 'boolean' to start with and I can honestly say that if it was not for the superb videos provided by Code Kingdoms I'd still have no idea as JJ really didn't have the patience to explain it all to me.

It is a different world that our kids are growing up in and Code Kingdoms are passionate to help youngsters grow up to be equipped for the digital future by making computing more engaging and accessible, particularly for girls who are underrepresented in these areas of work currently.

CK Code Editor -
First off you have the CK code editor (shown above), which is specially designed for Code Kingdoms and for use by kids interested in learning Java. It is intuitive to use and has an easy drag and drop editor for you to start with but the editing screen is clever as you can start by using coloured blocks of code with pictures and as you become more competent you can move through three stages until you are just editing raw java code. This is one of the things that makes Code Kingdoms unique, as most coding programmes just operate in either drag and drop or text based coding and that means young coders can feel a disconnect as they move from one to the other but not so with Code Kingdoms.

Here is what Code Kingdoms say about why they use Java code -
We strongly believe in learning with real code. Young coders are often taught pseudo-code, which they often master very quickly. The problem is though that it doesn't prepare them enough for the jump to a real programming language and text-based code, so a lot of coders stop there. 
We want to make real code more accessible. Our projects, video content and code editor expose learners to chunks of real code and computing concepts from the very beginning. Even our draggable chunks contain a real language (like Java and JavaScript) with correct syntax to ensure the code compiles for them. 
Just being exposed to code isn't going to make them an expert, but this early familiarisation of real concepts does help to make for a much smoother transition to real code.
To get started -
You need a computer with Minecraft installed and an active Minecraft account for use with Code Kingdoms and wonderfully there is no need to download anything as everything for Code Kingdoms is cloud based and can be accessed via your internet browser (Chrome is recommended). Having had a look at the editor myself I'd say you need to know a bit about how Minecraft works and some of the commonly used technology as many of the blocks of code made no sense to me as I do not know what 'Equip Full Armour Set' means.

Peace of mind for Parents -
The first thing to assure you is that the server that your child is provided with access to from Code Kingdoms is able to be played with friends but JJ tells me it is a whitelist server, which means your child can only add friends whose Minecraft name they know. It is not accessible by the public and thus remains safe.

Also you'll receive emails from Code Kingdoms giving you an update on the progression your child has made through the sequence of tutorials and learning outcomes. As this has been developed by teachers and programmers (with child input) it is linked to the curriculum for 8 - 14 years and logically builds on your child's learning each time they log-on and play.

Video Courses -
Right now there are six different video courses in Code Kingdoms. The idea is that your child watches the video and learns how to write the code/ make the modifications to the server and then they go ahead and actually do it in the editor and when you press run it will be live on your server on your Minecraft account. JJ said it was really good that it runs straight away as it is important not to have any lag. He was disappointed though that the gameplay you do once you have created and saved your mods does not seem to save. He played online with a friend the other day for about 90 minutes and they built quite a lot in their world and next time he went back it wasn't there and he was super unhappy about that.

Code Kingdoms advertise that there is 20+ weeks of videos available but JJ felt it wouldn't take him anywhere near this long to go through them all but I did explain to him that perhaps he has more tech access than many kids and also he is super clever in this area and finds it all very easy. He also felt that the videos were aimed at a younger age than him (he is 12) but as I mentioned before I'm not sure if he had just shut down to the idea of coding when he realised that the server was not as changeable as he hoped (he wanted to be able to purchase plug-ins for it to make it just how he wants it) and really what he wanted to be doing was playing Minecraft rather than learning code.

What support is there?
Tons is the simple answer. Any question that you or your child has, you can click on the support button and send it off and a team of trained teachers and programmers will respond.

What does it cost?
There is no contract for Code Kingdoms and it is £14.99 per month on a rolling basis. I love the fact that you can try it out and see how your child gets on with it as there is a 30 day money back guarantee if you are not satisfied.  Once you have tried it out and know that your child likes it and is gaining valuable coding experience then it might be worth taking out the value 6 month membership, which is £49.99 as a one-off payment.

Will we use it again?
Well JJ says he won't as it doesn't hold his interest but it has certainly peeked mine and I'm pretty sure that one of my 8 year old twin girls would be interested in it, so I'll be having a session with her later this week to introduce her to Code Kingdoms and see if an 8 year old can master it alone or if she'll need my input.

Disclosure: JJ received complimentary access to Code Kingdoms for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.


  1. How interesting. I think this is something that mine might be interesting in. Coding will be so important for our kids in the future.

  2. This is something my two younger ones would love! I'll have to go and check it out

  3. This looks great. I love that kids are taught how to code these days; I wish I had been.

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  5. after three weeks on code kingdom with my two kids with two subscriptions, the result is not very good.

    My kids hate it and I hate it. I find the interface extremely badly laid out and confusing, but more importantly we find the content very attractive at first with the fancy films and subject matters, but the actual coding is not introduced in an interesting or engaging way and the results achieved are very underwhelming.

    We find ourselves fighting through the interface to make some very uninteresting coding without any context or explanation where we only copy blindly what the lesson.

    I was very attracted to their approach but end up extremely disappointed.

    I very strongly recommend a free trial period to avoid further disappointment. The live helpline has also proven to be pretty unhelpful..


Thanks for your comment, I will respond real soon. Mich x