CS01 : Introduction to A Level Computer Science

When you start any new course, you need to spend some time getting familiar with the content and the resources you have to help you. It's also a good time to remind yourself why you chose to study the subject!

We are learning ...
  • About what Computer Science is;
  • About the structure of a typical A Level Course;
So that we can ...
  • Gather suitable resources to help us with the rest of the course;
  • Fully understand what is required for success in this subject;
  • Develop an understanding of the importance of CS.
A famous computer scientist once said ...

... which surprises some people. In this course, we are going to learn how we can use computers as tools.

Map of Computer Science (10:57)

Activity 1 A-Z of Computer Science (25)

Computer science is a rich and varied subject. This activity lets you create your own A-Z!

Task 1.1 The alphabet of computer science

Use your brain or the World Wide Web to complete the 'Alphabet of computing'.

OUTCOME : Completed worksheet which can be stuck in your notebooks.

Activity 2 Why do you want to study computing? (20)

We are all here because we have a common interest - Computing! But why have you chosen to study it?

Task 2.1 Sharing your hopes for the future.

Take a piece of paper and write down your future plans (possibly including computing!) on the paper but don't write your name on it.  Fold up your paper and put it in the middle of the table. When everyone has finished, pick one, read it out.  Can you guess who wrote it? Discuss!


Activity 3 What are computers good at? (20)

We all have preconceptions about what computers are good at and what they are not good at. Even with advances in technology, computer scientists find it very difficult to tell computers how to carry out some even simple jobs.

Task 3.1 What are computers good and not good at?

Carry out the screwed up paper activity! Take a piece of paper and write one thing that computers are good at on one side and one thing they are not so good at on the other. Now screw up your piece of paper and throw it in the middle of the desk. Pick one out of the pile and repeat!

OUTCOME : Create a mind map in your note books showing what computers are good at and what they are not good at.  Can you expand on what's been said with some simple examples?

Activity 4 Course handbook and specification (60)

Your teacher will provide you with a course handbook for your school. It contains specific information about the course you are studying and also general information about computer science and how to be successful at it.

Task 4.1 Course handbook

Your teacher will give you a copy of the A Level course handbook. Make sure you have your printed copy of the handbook in your book / folder.Read it thoroughly and complete the pages that you need to fill out. You will need to refer to this during the course, so keep it handy.

OUTCOME : Completed course handbook in your book / folder.

When you start a course, it's often quite useful (and sometimes scary) to consult the specification to see exactly what you are meant to have learnt by the end of it. You will probably find that you know quite a lot of stuff already - that's good! Before we start, we should baseline our own knowledge.

Task 4.2 Baseline self assessment

This task is all about knowing what you know - it is meta-cognitive. Perform a RAG baseline assessment on your knowledge at the start of this course using highlighter pens and a copy of the AS or A level specification.
  • Green for 'know it already';
  • Amber for 'heard about it but don't know it';
  • Red for 'what?'

OUTCOME : Keep the baseline assessment in your notebooks / folders and consult it during the course.  Create a wishing wall using A3 paper and post-it notes in your notebooks.  Your teacher will explain how.  Keep it updated!

Activity 5 Current topics in computing (55)

There is nothing quite like doing a little research to help you start off a course and it gives your teacher a little time to get to know you better! There are many, many areas in computer science which are interesting, topical, cutting edge.

Task 5.1 Webquest

The 'webquest' is detailed in the popup. Divide yourselves into 6 groups and allocate yourselves jobs in the groups, maybe 'researcher', 'speaker', 'artistic director'. For your allocates / chosen topic, you should find out ...
  • 3 positive aspects
  • 4 negative aspects
  • 5 interesting aspects

Click to view

OUTCOME : You will need to produce some sort of presentation which you will give to the rest of the group on the area which you have chosen.  Be inventive - by presentation, I don't just mean Powerpoint!

Activity 6 Videos! (30)

Two great videos for your to watch. The first one is a bit of a sales pitch for Computer science from a University in the US. The second is from the TED website and is one of a vast collection of the most interesting videos on the web. Try visiting the site and searching for 'computer science' initially and see what you can find.

The Power to change the world (5:22)

Birth of the computer (17:15)

Extension Activities 

Famous computer scientists

Research one more famous computer scientist and produce a one page summary of the work he or she did and the contribution they made to the field.

History of Computers

Research the 'history of computers' and produce a presentation / timeline / infographic which shows how the term 'computer' has evolved from Stonehenge to the present day. Make sure you have included references to where you have got the information. If you want some help, there is a resource available called Computer Science Timeline.


Watch some TED videos about computing. Write a review on one of them.

Your own resources lists

Your teacher may point you in the direction of some existing computer science resources. Start to compile your own list of useful resources in your folder or using an online service. Let your teacher know what you have done.