Skills Knowledge Enhancement - Main

Course Outline & Example Portfolio

The course outline and timetable can be seen here. The timetable is subject to alteration dependent upon the needs of the group.

If you are a new student enrolled on the Staffordshire University SKE course please register, once and once only, using the Student Registration Form. To view the student registration list, the username is the name of the school which made front page of their local paper and the password is how I describe the Headteacher who presided over the scandal (no spaces).

Computer Science Unplugged is a wonderful set of resources and ideas for use in the classroom. Although it was developed for primary school students, many of the areas covered are relevant to computer science topics up to GCSE level. There is also a booklet to accompany the resources that adds further explanation.


Examples of previous portfolios: SKE student 1 SKE student 2. If you're not confident it setting up a web style portfolio from scratch, why not modify a free template. If you're completely new to HTML, or you are looking for a resource to teach HTML and CSS to other's, have a look at HTMLdog.

If your portfolio is in a web site format here is a useful tool for tidying the HTML.

Crash Course Computer Science

Geek Gurl has produced 41 short videos that explains what Computer Science is. See them all or pick out particular topics.

Hardware and Software

Hardware is the collective term to describe all the physical components of a computer system. A comprehensive list of hardware, with definitions, can be be found on the Computer Hope site.

Software describes the programs and data that is needed to make the hardware work.

Machine language is the lowest-level programming language. Machine languages are the only languages understood by computers. While easily understood by computers, machine languages are almost impossible for humans to use because they consist entirely of numbers. Programmers, therefore, use either a high-level programming language or an assembly language. An assembly language contains the same instructions as a machine language, but the instructions and variables have names instead of being just numbers.

Language levels

Programs written in high-level languages are translated into assembly language or machine language by a compiler. Assembly language programs are translated into machine language by a program called an assembler.

Every CPU has its own unique machine language. Programs must be rewritten or recompiled, therefore, to run on different types of computers.

A digital is computer made of thousands and thousands of switches that can be in only two states, a on or off (0 or 1), and we therefore use a number system that only has 2 digits to represent what is happening inside it. This number system is called Binary and only the digits 0 and 1 are allowed in this number system.

Task: Take a PC apart and see if you can identify all the component parts ( Hardware Task )

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Binary, Octal and Hexadecimal

Humans count using a number system based on tens, probably because we have ten digits, but because computers are two state devices, it prefers a number system based on two digits, the BINARY number system. Test yourself.

Have a look at Geek Gurl's take on Binary.

Whilst binary is the preferred language of the computer, it is not very convenient for humans to think and work in binary. Hexadecimal equivalents of binary are much shorter in length and therefore easier for humans to work with, whilst also being acceptable for a computer to use because hex can be quickly translated into binary.

Eg. The colour Magenta in Hexadecimal (Base 16) is 5AA1C4
but the same colour in binary is 010110101010000111000100

The ancient Martians in 'Total Recall' had 4 digits on their hands. I suspect that they used a number system based on 8 digits, OCTAL. Test your Octal.

Language levels

I haven't met, or been abducted by, any 16 fingered aliens but the number system based on 16 is called HEXADECIMAL. Test yourself on Binary, Octal and Hex.


Useful resources:

Binary Cards

Cisco Binary 'Tetris' game Uses Java and so must be run through Internet Explorer. It will not run through Chrome or Edge. You may also need to get a Cisco Logon.

John Philip Jones has produced an excellent series of FREE videos that cover many GCSE Computer Science topics. Have a look at his binary video. Find the spy using binary skills.

a spreadsheet showing decimal, binary, hexadecimal and ASCII, and Representing data and if you want to create your own worksheets, try

Adding binary numbers is the currently the only mathematical operation that is needed for GCSE. It's not as difficult as you may think!

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  • Utility System Software

    Utility software is system software designed to help analyse, configure, optimise or maintain a computer. It is used to support the computer infrastructure in contrast to application software, which is aimed at directly performing tasks that benefit users.
    Although a basic set of utility programs is usually distributed with an operating system (OS), utility software is not considered part of the OS and users often install replacements or additional utilities such as software for encryption, defragmentation, data compression (see below), backing up (full or incremental).


    If you want to send digital information securely you have to be careful. Any message sent over a network can be intercepted. Encryption is a method of changing the original numbers and characters so that they are hidden or disguised. This is important if you are sending sensitive information.

    The prefix for some web addresses is https instead of http. The ‘s’ indicates that it is a secure website and any payment or personal details that are inputted into the site will be encrypted.

    What is defragmentation and why do I need it?

    Defragmentation is like cleaning house for your PC, it picks up all of the pieces of data that are spread across your hard drive and puts them back together again. Why is defragmentation important? Because every computer suffers from the constant growth of fragmentation and if you don’t clean house, your PC suffers.

    Disk fragmentation occurs when a file is broken up into pieces to fit on the disk. Because files are constantly being written, deleted and resized, fragmentation is a natural occurrence. When a file is spread out over several locations, it takes longer to read and write. But the effects of fragmentation are far more widespread: Slow PC performance, long boot-times, random crashes and freeze-ups – even a complete inability to boot up at all. Many users blame these problems on the operating system or simply think their computer is “old”, when hard disk fragmentation is most often the real culprit.

    Backing Up

    A Full Backup captures your entire system and all the data you want to protect. Frequent full backups result in easier recovery operations.
    Pros: Fast, reliable recovery
    Cons: Slower backup, lots of storage required

    An Incremental Backup captures only the changes made since the last incremental backup. When compare to a Full Backup this saves both time and storage space and ensures that your backup is up to date.
    Pros: Fast backups, low storage space
    Cons: Slower recovery, risk of data loss

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  • Computer Architecture

    Analytical Engine

    The basic model of a modern digital computer hasn't changed much since Charles Babbage propsoesd his Analytic Engine around 1830. His design consisted of a Mill (today we would know it as the ALU), the Store (today, memory), the Operator (today, the Control Unit) and Output (today, I/O devices).

     Computer Model - Basic The mathematician, John von Neumann, proposed storing instructions in the memory of a computer and using a control unit to handle the fetch-decode-execute cycle (fetch the instruction, decode the instruction, execute the instruction).

    There are 3 major units in a computer tied together by buses:

    Data bus

    1) Memory - The unit that stores and retrieves instructions and data.
    2) Processor: The unit that houses two separate components; the control unit and the ALU.
    3) Input/Output (I/O) Units - Handles communication with the outside world.

    A much more detailed explanation of Computer Architecture, based on the von Neumann model, can be found in a presentation based on one put together by J Baker at Kent State University.

    In a computer or on a network, a bus is a transmission path on which signals are dropped off or picked up at every device attached to the line. Only devices addressed by the signals pay attention to them; the others discard the signals. The name probably comes from the similarity to buses following a set route, picking up and dropping off passengers at the correct destination.

    CPU Cache memory, also called CPU memory, is random access memory (RAM) that a computer microprocessor can access more quickly than it can access regular RAM. This memory is typically integrated directly with the CPU chip or placed on a separate chip that has a separate bus interconnect with the CPU.

    Geek Gurl has produced rapid run-throughs of the ALU, Registers and RAM and the CPU. Well worth a look!

    If you want to write some programs in a low-level language, try the 'Assembler and Little Man Computer', in the Coding section of the site.

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  • Databases & SQL

    Remind yourself of what a database is by completing the definitions on this Database Worksheet. Compare your definitions with your neighbour so that you have an agreed set of identical definitions. Compare your definitions with another pair's definitions and again agree on a group set of definitions.

    Create the Form Tutor relational database in Access.

    The worksheet also points you towards SQL tutorials on

    A Power Point presentation and an accompanying database was produced by two previous SKE students. Give it a try.

    Now write some SQL statements for the 'Wirral Theme Park' database.

    Make notes on the meaning of the following SQL statements:

    • and also explain the wildcards * and %
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  • Complex Problems - Pseudocode, Flowcharts

    Solutions to simple problems could be designed and implemented just by sitting at a computer and writing code. Solutions to complex problems, however, need to be planned.

    Flowcharts and Pseudocode are common methods used to describe algorithms. Both use structural conventions of programming languages and allow the coder to concentrate on the algorithm rather than the nuances and details of a programming language. These methods, although written with the intentention of coding the solution in a high level language later, they should be independent of any particular language. Both tools are a useful step in achieving well written code.

    Flowcharts use shapes to represent different actions that you want your program to perform in order to arrive at a solution to a problem.

    Pseudocode is an informal high-level description of the operating principle of a computer program or other algorithm. It is intended for human reading rather than machine reading.


    Work in pairs to investigate software that will allow you to create flowcharts. Flowgorithm, Gliffy, Creately, Word and Excel are all 'free' flowcharting tools but are there any others? Produce a hand-out that explains the meaning of the main flowchart symbols and include a summary of the advantages of a structured approach.

    Flowgorithm is particularly cool because you can execute your programs directly in Flowgorithm and it can convert your flowchart to many popular languages! These include: C#, C++, Delphi/Pascal, Java, JavaScript, Lua, Perl, Python, QBasic, Ruby, Swift 2, Visual Basic .NET, and Visual Basic for Applications (used in Office). 

    Here's a solution to Python Exercises number 7and here is a web page which illustrates the difference between If...Then and Elseif both in code and flowcharting. The site also contains illustrations of other flow control statements.

    A book that does exactly what it says in the title, which is written in easily digestible chapters, is 'Problem Solving with Flowcharts and a Little Flavor of Programming with Python' (By Achla Agarwal, Krishna Agarwal, Laura Goadrich, and Mark Goadrich - ISBN 9780557276349)

    This book is also available as a pdf download from

    The book is written for students of any age who want to learn the concepts to enable them to program successfully. Programming is an art and this text will teach you the techniques and underlying logic that will form the foundation of future coding skills, no matter what language you choose to program in. Because there are a variety of programming languages that are changing and evolving, it is important to create a solid skill-set that is adaptable to any programming language you choose to learn.

    Chapter 1 and chapter 3 are available on the website and can be seen here by following these links. A pdf version of the book is available for viewing here.

    The full list of chapters is:

    • Chapter 2 - Storing Data
    • Chapter 4 - Input and Output
    • Chapter 5 - Boolean Logic
    • Chapter 6 - Selection Structures
    • Chapter 7 - Nested If-Then-Else and Case Statements
    • Chapter 8 - Repetition Structures
    • Chapter 9 - Nested Loops
    • Chapter 10 - Functions
    • Chapter 11 - Arrays
    • Chapter 12 - File I/O
    • Appendix A - Installing Python

    Accompanying the book are a number of very simple quizzes:

    OCR Programming assignment - Teacher Quiz
    Flowchart solutions to the tasks are Task 1, Task 2 and Task 3T

    Pseudocode & Lynda

    A short video explaining pseudocode, with examples, can be seen on Youtube. It has been 'ripped off' from Lynda is a fabulous resource that you have access to using your Staffs University login that has many training videos, covering a wide range of subjects, not only computer related courses but also such things as CAD, Marketing, Audio/Music and many more.

    Some more examples of pseudocode, unrelated to the above book, are here. The Pearson Specification (pp 41- 47) has a suggested 'Pseudocode Command Set

    Practise writing code from Pseudocode

    Here are pseudocode solutions to some simple problems - Pseudocode solutions.

    Translate the pseudocode into code in Python
    Adopt your own pseudocode style and re-write them in your style
    Turn the examples in Edexcel's An Introduction to Python into psuedocode


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  • Trace Tables

    trace table is a technique used to test algorithms, in order to make sure that no logical errors occur whilst the algorithm is being processed. The table usually takes the form of a multi-column, multi-row table; with each column showing a variable, and each row showing each number input into the algorithm and the subsequent values of the variables. Eg. Months of the year.

    Trace tables are typically used in schools and colleges when teaching students how to program. They can be an essential tool in teaching students how a certain algorithm works and the systematic process that is occurring when the algorithm is executed. They can also be useful for debugging applications, helping the programmer to easily detect what error is occurring, and why it may be occurring

    Using the flowchart and pseudocode for Pay with Overtime, write a solution in Python and create 3 Trace Tables to verify the solution using a rate of £7.38 and hour and times of 29, 40 and 43 hours.

    Using the flowchart Average of 4 numbers, write a solution in Python. Create a Trace Table to verify that the solution works using 7, 4 16 and 32.

    Create a Trace Table for the cm to inch conversion program in the Python Exercises.

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  • Computer Science Curriculum Planning

    CAS have produced some summary documents that help to explain the government's 2014 Computing National Curriculum. There is a Primary overview, a Secondary one and a Progression Pathway which indicates the development path that a student should follow to achieve 'computing enlightenment' (Grasshopper!)

    Other CAS explanatory documents that may be useful: Developing Computational Thinking, Computational Thinking - A guide for teachers, Progression Pathways WITH Badges and Progression Pathways WITHOUT Badges. The Department for Education statutory guidance may also be worth a look.

    In pairs, produce a 15 minute presentation that explains nature of the Computing National Curriculum and the challenges that schools face.

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  • Flowol 4

    A course of tutorials is available for Flowol 4.

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  • Secondary Storage - Common Craft

    Common craft style videos are crudely produced, short, films that can be used to describe how something works. Here's an example of a specification for small group work to produce a Common Craft style video about Secondary Storage.  Some useful notes on how to create a Common Craft Style Video are here.

    An alternative to Common Craft is a poster. Here's an example showing the inside of a hard drive, courtesy of

    hard drive poster

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  • Logic Gates

    A Logic Gate simulator can be downloaded from  or you can use the browser version at to demonstrate AND, OR, NOT, NAND and NOR gates. There are exercises that will lead you from Truth Tables for individual logic gates, through equivalent combinations of gates to a half and full adder. The logic exercises can be downloaded here.

    John Philip Jones has produced some super videos on many aspects of Computer Science. Here's one that takes Logic from the beginning.

    This extract from Cambridge IGCSE Computer Science Revision Guide may help with your understanding of Logic and may also be a very useful resource for your classroom! Here's a worksheet that might also be a useful resource.

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  • Sprites and Bitmapped Images

    CAS have made available an excellent tool for demonstrating bitmapped image manipulation. A video explaining the possibilities is available on Youtube and the tool needed to convert an image into a csv file of RGB values can be downloaded here.

    A useful skill in Excel is to copy a cell into all cells in a column. Highlight the cell, select copy, hold down the Shift and Ctrl keys and then press the Up Arrow key.


    Resources: BitmapActivity and worksheet to accompany the spreadsheet.

    Produce the outline of a lesson plan that uses some of the ideas from this section.

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  • Data Compression

    Compression means to reduce the size of a data file. For example a document, spreadsheet, image, sound file etc.

    It is a good idea to compress large files because they can take up a lot of storage space on your hard disk. They will also take a long time to send as an attachment by email.

    Before you can use a compressed file, you must uncompress it.

    There are two types of compression: lossy and lossless. Lossy compression means removing data to reduce the file size. But lossless compression shrinks the whole file, keeping all of the quality. With lossless compression, files can be restored back to their original state. With lossy compression, once you’ve removed the data, it’s gone for good.

    Compression is usually carried out by using a piece of utility software such as 'WinZip'.

    CS Unplugged has some good exercises that illustrate how data compression works.

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  • Check Digit

    ISBN numbers are created so that the first nine digits are information digits and the last digit, the one you want to calculate, is a check digit. This last number helps people notice and correct mistakes that might be made in recording the information digits. The algorithm for calculating the check digit for an 10-digit International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is best demonstrated by example. Enter a valid ISBN into this spreadsheet.

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  • System Development Life Cycle

    Software life cycle models describe phases of the software cycle and
    the order in which those phases are executed.  There are lots of
    models, and many companies adopt their own, but all have very similar

    There are various Software development models or methodologies. They are as follows:

  • Waterfall model
  • V model
  • Incremental model
  • RAD model
  • Agile model
  • Iterative model
  • Spiral model
  • Some of these models are summarised here and some previous "group's" notes on Agile, V-Model, Spiral, Waterfall and Incremental models will be available soon.
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  • Kahoot Class Quizes

    If you want to make your own quizes, or use someone else's quiz, check out Kahoot. Great fun, very useful learning tool and it can provide some tangible evidence of learning!

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  • Glossary of Computing Terms

    Just as any other specialised subject, there are terms and acronyms that are not in common use outside of that subject. Computer Science is no different and by now you should have quite a useful list of terms. There are many glossaries available on the internet but here is a good one to start with, that should be a useful addition to your own.

    A comprehensive list of hardware, with definitions, can be be found on the Computer Hope site.

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  • Useful Links

    Online Icon maker

    Tower of Hanoi

    Water Jars

    Button Mania

    More logic games

    Coding Challenges (with some solutions)

    Python Solutions

    Pseudocode to Python answers solutions (github) solutions master password is 'sellotape'

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