Computer Studies (Letts) Review | Home Computing Weekly - Everygamegoing

Home Computing Weekly

Computer Studies
By Letts

Published in Home Computing Weekly #131

This suite of 10 programmes, on two cassettes, is aimed at providing a comprehensive revision aid for the GCE, CSE and GCSE courses of study. An explanatory leaflet is provided and this is clear and concise, so full marks for instructions!

The subjects covered are: the history of computers and information processing, computer systems, computer hardware, operating systems, data organisation, flowcharts, high level languages, low level languages. logic circuits and numbering systems! (Pauses for breath.)

I felt that the first five tracks listed above were, from the educationalist'S point of view, weak. since they rely on the two techniques of multichoice answers and fill in the gaps either in text or diagram. In my view, being given a choice of answers, invites the student to employ the random keyboard prod approach until the correct answer appears and this promotes so little cerebral activity that the answer is unlikely to be stored in the cranium for long. The "fill in the textual" gaps technique is a better approach, since it does require a modicum of comprehension to arrive at the correct answer. However. the interpretation of human input is so inflexible, that this rapidly becomes the guess the computer's exact word competition.

Computer Studies

However, having made those criticisms, the final five tracks take a mega leap up the educational ladder by comparison. They are interactive and answers can only be arrived at by a series of logical thought processes and true comprehension of the topic. The high level language tutor is particularly useful, it presents short segments of programs in Beeb Basic and you are asked to state the value of a particular variable after program execution. Only a full understanding of operator assignment priorities would allow you to compute the correct value and if you get it wrong. the computer illustrates line by line, with the aid of a trace table how to arrive at the solution. The examples cover the major programming areas of expressions and assignments, branches and loops. subroutines and functions and finally, strings.

A version of CESIL (Computer Education in Schools Instructional Language). is provided. to give tuition in low level languages. This again is most useful and also provides a trace facility to show program flow and register updates at each step. The coverage of flowcharts, logic circuits and numbering systems is good and without going into too much detail. they are both probing and instructional.

I feel that the minor disadvantages of the earlier tracks are outweighed by the overall usefulness of this package and that it would be a beneficial adjunct to most students' formal study courses.


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