At GCSE the assembly code we teach for WJEC Computer Science is an abridged form of Little Man Computer, and the topic exists in both the theory exam as well as the practical exam, but this has its problems.
First, the topic has never come up in an actual practical exam paper, and the legacy exam papers were very much of a piece, therefore it’s difficult to justify spending a lot of time in-class delivering this topic.
Secondly, the fact that it’s LMC minus the conditional branching instructions means that nearly all the resources available online are useless as students tend to switch off if the material isn’t 100% what they need.
Third, the free learning materials provided on the exam board’s website show that this topic isn’t anyone’s focus – the written guide barely acknowledges it and when it does it get’s the instructions wrong – seriously, they get the order of the subtract backwards – which means confidence in students learning this on their own is limited.
Finally, there’s not a massive overlap between the theory exam version of this topic and the practical, meaning that if or when the question gets asked in a practical exam the students will be running on applied common sense rather than their knowledge.
Anyway – you know me – I’m all about giving students as much of the ‘why’ as possible to ensure that they have the best chance of recalling a topic in an effective way.
I set out to make a comprehensive set of video lessons to replace my one-lesson special on the subject. My previous Greenfoot videos were the basis for the style here, so I decided that videos had to have the following characteristics:
- Must cover the content from the 2017+ spec (current) including everything asked for in the specification including the plan, design, test and refine skills
- Explain WHY the instructions work in the way they do
- Fully explain and demonstrate Von Neumann and the fetch-decode-execute cycle
- Have purpose build graphics and animations to support dual coding and explanations
- Make it scripted so that there’s not lots of pausing for code or thinking
- Give it a bit of personality so that it’s not the world’s most boring video course
After 30+ hours of development I hope I’ve acheived this with this video set. If you’re interested in taking a look please do, you’re welcome to use them for your lessons, self study or distance learning.
As ever feedback is encouraged and appreciated, and if you get some mileage out of my resources I can point you to my posters if you fancy making your classroom a little brighter and supporting the site.