• Two’s Complement Revision Quiz


    Image by Valco from Pixabay

    Are you or someone you know preparing for a Higher Computing Science exam? Look no further! My students have been using this interactive program to ace their prelim exam, and now it’s your turn to give it a try.

    This simple program, available through the link below, will guide you through the process of finding the two’s complement binary sequence of a negative number between -128 and -1. Not only will it prompt you to enter a number and guess the answer, but it will also break down each step of the solution for you.

    But that’s not all – you can even fork the program and learn how to create your own two’s complement revision program in Python. How cool is that?

    Don’t wait any longer, give it a try and see for yourself how easy and effective it can be. Click here to access the Repl: https://replit.com/@familysimpson/Twos-Complement-Revision?v=1

  • Are you looking for a way to cut hosting costs for your website? Look no further! I recently faced a similar challenge with my csteach.uk site and I’m excited to share my findings with you.

    As many of us know, the cost-of-living crisis in the UK has made it important to reduce expenses wherever we can. The yearly cost for hosting my csteach site was a manageable £72, but I still wanted to see if I could lower it even further.

    Two hands holding an empty wallet
    Image by Andrew Khoroshavin from Pixabay

    In an earlier blog post I shared how I successfully installed WordPress in a private repl and mirrored my csteach blog while waiting for my Raspberry Pi OS to update. And now I want to take it a step further by comparing my current hosting costs to the cost of Replit Cycles: virtual tokens which can be used to make public repls private, keep repls running 99% of the time and boost performance if necessary.

    I found that private repls cost 150 cycles per month which adds up to 1800 cycles per year to keep my WordPress configurations and secrets secure. I may also need to pay an extra 2 cycles per day to keep my repl “always on”, so I’ve factored in 730 additional cycles to my calculations.

    So in total I would need 2530 cycles per year to keep my WordPress repl private and running. This converts to $25.30 which, using xe.com today, is just over 20 GBP. A saving of over £50 a year!

    I hope this information was helpful and provides you with a new insight into reducing your website hosting cost.

    Are you curious about my hosting experiment for the csteach site? Want to know if there are any downsides to this cost-effective solution? Well, hold on tight because this journey is far from over! I’m going to keep monitoring my progress and keeping a record of any drawbacks that I encounter but I don’t want to do this alone! Join me on this adventure by following the blog for updates and don’t hesitate to share your own hosting struggles in the comments. We’re all in this together and your input could be the missing piece to the puzzle. So keep an eye out for new posts and let us conquer hosting challenges together!

  • Installing WordPress on a repl


    Are you tired of sky-high hosting costs for your website? Have you ever considered running your own web server? If so, you’ll be excited to hear about the success I had reducing hosting costs for my csteach site.

    Image of a web server rack

    My journey began with a plan to use a Raspberry Pi with Apache and WordPress. I loved the idea of only having to pay for a domain name and electricity. But then, as I was waiting for my OS to upgrade, I looked again at the PHP Server template on Replit and couldn’t help but wonder if I could run WordPress on it.

    That’s when I discovered Ethan’s guide on Github (https://github.com/ethanpil/wordpress-on-replit) on how to import WordPress onto Replit. Let me tell you, it worked like a charm!

    However, as a safety measure, I strongly recommend using a private Repl to ensure others cannot access your wp-config file. Importing the blog posts was a breeze: all I had to do was activate the Importer plugin and keep an eye on the 2MB upload limit.

    The only hiccup I encountered was when I installed the Jetpack plugin. It didn’t take up much space but caused some lag. After careful consideration, I decided it wasn’t essential for my experiment, so I removed it.

    If you’re curious about the outcome, you can check out the mirrored blog at https://csteachuk.familysimpson.repl.co/ for the next month. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with the results just as I am.

    Are you also tired of the same old hosting options for your website or blog? Want to explore new and exciting ways to keep costs low? Look no further! We want to hear from you! Share your innovative hosting solutions with us in the comments below. Not only will you be helping others who are in the same boat, but you might just discover a new game-changing method.

  • Changing digital lanes


    Image by RettungsgasseJETZTde from Pixabay

    Like many other users in the last few months I’ve archived my Twitter account. It contained 13 years of memories and photos which I thoroughly enjoyed creating but the service was – and had been for a long time – not serving me as a user particularly well. I decided that a change was needed.

    Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

    The first step was to finally join a Mastodon instance. I tried this a few years ago and didn’t give it enough time, returning to Twitter and Facebook with my tail between my legs. This time I persevered and, possibly because so many new users were joining at the same time, felt instantly welcomed and gently nudged in the appropriate directions to make connections, share thoughts and generally have an enjoyable time on social media for the first time in a long time. Another new user tooted that it felt like Twitter circa 2014. From my experience the bird site certainly felt a more welcoming and collaborative space from 2009-2015 than it did in the following seven years.

    While browsing my Twitter archive on my computer I realised how much information and learning had been recorded in the 28 thousand tweets. I felt that I’d undermined some of the importance of what I’d recorded by not revisiting these learning points and reflecting on them. Initially that was the purpose of this blog, and I’d forgotten that.

    So the second necessary change was to value the reading I do more by revisiting it regularly. Recently I’d maybe shared my thoughts or an article link on social media and then moved on. Books read were logged in Goodreads with a star rating, never to be glanced at again. I spotted an excellent service called ReadWise which uses retrieval practice techniques to share a small number of highlights from books or articles you have added to your account. I’m about 10 days in to using it and am really liking it. I initially thought that adding another notification would be a bad idea but if I sit down to review a few highlights over a cup of coffee between classes it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something in those moments of recharging.

    Image by Hans from Pixabay

    I spent a few hours today really investigating the import and export functions of ReadWise and this prompted me to sign up for a few other websites: raindrop.io is a bookmark manager with highlights (something I’d previously used Evernote to capture as I browsed, again also tumbling into the silo never to reappear) and NewsBlur, an open source RSS reader which might finally fill the void of Google Reader. The latter doesn’t directly feed into ReadWise but allows me to pull news when I want to more efficiently than visiting all my usual sites. I then use the highlight feature of raindrop.io ‘s browser extension to save pertinent sections of any interesting or useful article. The fact that both are also available on Android added to the appeal.

    The last piece of software I investigated today was October, a tool which links the highlights from Kobo e-Readers to ReadWise. It took seconds to set up and instantly transferred my database of highlights.

    Image by Capucine from Pixabay

    So what do I hope will change by using these new services? I want to be able to share information and ideas more thoughtfully again, but benefit from some automated prompting to link the ideas captured in my free moments. To do this requires changing into the digital equivalent of the slow lane, so I can occasionally look around and enjoy.

  • Below are the slides from my Replit EdFest 2022 session on 21st July 2022

  • We are in prelim season and just about at the stage where we analyse student marks individually and as a cohort.

    If only we could do this using a dashboard, rather than crunching spreadsheets like it is 1996.

    I wanted to use my Google Sheet prelim breakdown showing how students performed in each question of the exam as source for a mail merge so that I could generate individual reflection sheets for the students containing their breakdown of marks and a summary of their performance. Be aware of GDPR before you do this and consider anonymising the student details / use a numeric identifier.

    If you squint for long enough an 8-bit game appears…

    I created the template in Google Docs and then used the Mail Merge add in to link the fields.

    When you click start it creates a single document with all the students.

    This is fine if I wanted to print it out but I actually wanted students to be able to type in their comments against each question as we went through the answers next week.

    If you download the file as a Word document or PDF you can use services like Aspose to separate a single file into multiple documents.

    Then upload it back to Google Drive to share with the students.

    The planned impact of this is to spend more time on discussions with students around why they have those marks, rather than asking them to manually enter these into a document. The EEF recommendations around meaningful and effective feedback have guided me towards verbal feedback in small groups / individually where the learner takes responsibility for recording the feedback given and reflecting on this in order to set their next targets.

    In order to improve this I’d like to link each question to video feedback so that students can revisit the question and the expected standards and, in time, it would be great to have links to peer-created resources.

    Have you worked out a better way to mail merge a Google Sheet to multiple Google Docs? Let me know in the comments (please!)…

  • freeCodeCamp: Responsive Web Design


    This evening I worked my way through a few courses on the Responsive Web Design Certification | freeCodeCamp.org pathway.

    I really liked the way the tutorial worked. I think it would be a very useful way for NQ students to learn and practice their web design skills (HTML, CSS, simple Javascript). I wonder if freeCodeCamp has a way of creating bespoke courses?

  • As we bid farewell to another year and welcome in the new, it’s natural to reflect on the past and consider the lessons we’ve learned. For me, the past decade has brought both incredible highs and difficult lows, and through it all I’ve learned the importance of trusting my own judgement and embracing the power of regret. In this post, I’ll share some of the key insights I’ve gained over the past ten years and offer some tips for making the most of your own journey through life.

    I’ve spent a little of my Christmas break making better use of my own webspace, shuffling things around and grouping a lot of my work into categories of impact. This is based on feedback from job interviews and discussions with colleagues in 2021.

    Photo by Connor Mollison on Unsplash

    I was adding new categories to some blog posts and spotted an entry from exactly 10 years ago: https://blog.csteach.uk/no-regrets-trust-your-own-judgement-in-2012 – so much has changed in those ten years and yet many things have ended up staying exactly the same.

    Photo by Andrea Ferrario on Unsplash

    We moved on from our impulse buy as our family outgrew the space but remained in the same town. We found a house that worked for us, again slightly more heart than head led, but with a more reasoned and informed decision behind why we wanted the house. We’ve stayed here since, albeit except for a few years of adventure, and I think we might be here in Stonehaven a little longer.

    There was a sharp intake of breath as I read the 2012 post title. I’m not scared to admit that I have had a few moments of regret in the last ten years but I have used them to guide my judgements moving forward.

    Photo by Michael Fousert on Unsplash

    There has been some amazing moments in the last decade that I could not have anticipated and new friends that I will always treasure. However I have regretted:

    • not making the most of our two years as a family in Milan. I was naive about moving to a new country and didn’t ensure that we enjoyed every second outside of work hours. I threw my energies into changing everything possible related to my role and forgot why we moved there in the first place.
    • working in London but commuting from Scotland. The weekend was spent travelling and I wasn’t rested enough to enjoy time with the family when I saw them.
    • losing or diminishing a few friendships through my own lack of attention or heart over head decisions.
    Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

    I think – at this point anyway (who knows what I’ll have experienced in the next ten years!) – you need some regrets in order to grow but once you have learned from that experience you have to let the regret go.

    I have learned:

    • keep in touch with friends and family as often as you can, in whatever way possible.
    • that if your heart is telling you to jump take a few days to consider and really think about the consequences. Don’t agonise for weeks before making a decision but get some perspective.
    • job changes need a spreadsheet of doom – how does the potential new salary, benefits, etc match up against your current role when you factor in cost of living, travel, etc. It also needs to include input from the entire family as the decision will affect them too. Just going through the process of making this helps you with the first point.
    • remember why you made the decision in the first place: was it for your own development, for the family, for love, for adventure, for your health? Remind yourself of the decision regularly and have a word with yourself if you veer from the path.

    Happy New Year everyone! I’m looking forward to updating this again in 2032.

    Photo by Jimmy Woo on Unsplash
  • The recently released 46 page “Building Skills for Life” report examines instances of Computer Science education across the world and, through this lens, attempts to summarise what all countries should do in order to introduce CS education or expand their existing provision.

    It was written to highlight the inconsistencies in CS education worldwide and to showcase examples where initiatives have improved outcomes for CS learners.The Brookings Report suggest six key lessons to scale CS education:

    1. Expanding tech-based jobs is a powerful lever for expanding CS education
    2. ICT in schools provides the foundation to expand CS education
    3. Developing teachers for CS education should be a top priority
    4. Exposing students to CS education early helps foster demand, especially among underserved populations
    5. Engaging key stakeholders can help address bottlenecks
    6. When taught in an interactive, hands-on way, CS education builds skills for life

    I want to point out that I don’t disagree with the recommendations but, in order to successfully scale CS education, I think a lot of groundwork awaits. I plan to look at each recommendation from a Scottish perspective and highlight any potential problems or bottlenecks for implementation.

    Do we need to expand tech-based jobs in Scotland?

    The first recommendation from the Brookings Report is to expand tech-based jobs and use the increased demand as a lever for increasing the level of CS education. I keep hearing about how many unfilled jobs there are in digital but haven’t looked at this area in any depth. As an educator I’ve been focussed on pedagogy, pathways and assessing students (in the absence of SQA exams) for the past two years however when I took on my current role in 2019 one of my first priorities was to link what we teach to what was required for life, work and continuous learning.

    Here in Scotland Kate Forbes MSP is soon to talk about how our country’s economic recovery will be technology-led. However the digital sector is not one of our primary industries (these being agriculture, forestry, fishing, oil and gas). The national digital strategy, published in 2017, included analysis of employment and earnings which highlighted:

    “Employment in the digital sector was 64,100 in 2015, accounting for 2.5% of total Scottish employment.”

    (Business Register and Employment Survey)

    As this report is perhaps a little out of date I looked at alternatives that were released more recently. The TechNation 2021 report puts employment in the digital sector slightly higher at 3% with Edinburgh gathering the majority of investment:

    An advisory group report “Towards a Robust, Resilient Wellbeing Economy for Scotland: Report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery” (June 2020) stress the importance of:

    “…critical investment in the country’s digital infrastructure to improve connectivity, reduce inequalities and build the country’s resilience”

    They also highlight the importance of digital skills in all sectors:

    “Digital technology, skills and connectivity are key as firms adapt to new ways of working. Firms without the necessary skills, technology, or connectivity could struggle to adapt. Across Scotland, there are a number of sectors with considerable digital skills gaps. Skills gaps relating to digital technology are most prevalent in: Agriculture, Hotels/Restaurants (taken to be roughly equivalent to Accommodation and Food Services) and Retail.”

    This is promising. There is robust evidence that there is a digital skills gap and this is key for economic recovery following Covid19 restrictions. However I strongly feel there are a few problems.

    Problem 1: Consistency within job adverts

    A 2020 blog post by ScotlandIS VP of Ideation Dermott Murray suggested that

    “There is an annual requirement for an additional 13,000 digital jobs in Scotland but we are only producing around 5,000 new recruits each year through universities or apprenticeships. A report by PWC last year outlined the economic opportunity, forecasting that 7.2 million new digital jobs will be created across the UK by 2037.”

    That there are around 13,000 jobs requiring digital skills posted annually suggests that they won’t be too hard to find with a quick keyword search. However after investigating three job search websites I discovered that there aren’t actually that many roles that require explicit digital skills at the moment:


    Given that there were 10,228 students who achieved National 5, Higher or Advanced Higher in Scotland in 2021 (Digital Technology Education Charter) and not all of these students will take CS at further or higher education, are the amount of available jobs in the digital sector still too low a figure to be a viable argument for increasing CS capacity in Scottish secondary schools?

    Pre-Pandemic the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published a call to action highlighting two pieces of research they had commissioned on the demand for digital skills in the job market. Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James underlines the importance of understanding the demand for digital skills:

    “…to do this, and to inform Government policy, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport commissioned two reports. The first report – No Longer Optional : Employer Demand for Digital Skills looked at the current demand for digital skills (analysing over nine million online digital job vacancies). The second report – What digital skills do adults need to succeed in the workplace now and in the next 10 years, considered how the demand for digital skills might evolve in the future.”

    In the first report it is suggested that

    “…a third of all skill-shortage vacancies were attributed, at least in part, to a lack of ‘digital skills’”

    (Employer Skills Survey, 2017)

    Backing this up the Disconnected? report by independent charity World Skills UK found that:

    “Over nine in ten (92%) employers said that having a basic level of digital skills was important for employees at their organisation, with two in three (64%) saying this was very important.”

    However in their conclusion they are concerned that 1/3 of employers feel that their workforce lack the advanced digital skills needed, including those just leaving formal education.

    In all my reading for this blog post it was never really made clear what these essential digital skills were and the further I delved the less convinced I was that current CS educators were aware of this either. So I looked for explicit statements of skills. The 2019 guidance Essential Digital Skills Framework from the UK government suggests that adults should have the following digital skills:

    This is a useful reference as, if all employers expect this as a minimum level of digital skill, they must be including reference to this in their job adverts… surely?

    Adjusting my original search terms I revisited three job websites and gathered the following results:

    digital foundation skills2214180
    handling information and content281429
    problem solving35662532910
    being safe and legal online59538

    With the exception of problem solving searches like these gather less job adverts. How can individuals find roles that harness their digital skills if the sites or adverts aren’t aligned to the essential categories?

    Problem 2: Self-evaluation of digital competence

    If job searches can be improved and individuals can resource adverts which require specific digital skills it is likely that more of these positions will be filled however it generates another problem. One which can currently only be resolved by the individual themselves.

    I have always believed that confidence impacts competence and self-evaluation of your own skills can be problematic if you aren’t trained in ‘knowing yourself’. A 2014 metasynthesis by Zell and Krizan Do People Have Insight Into Their Abilities? concludes that “there appears to be a consistent, moderate relationship between self-perceptions of ability and measures of performance across a variety of domains and operationalizations of these constructs”.

    In addition to this as educators we may train our young people in the skills to be good communicators who have experience in solving a variety of problems and are aware of the need to be safe and secure when online but their competence depends in part to the confidence of the educator delivering the training.

    It might be that it isn’t just our young people (and their teachers) who aren’t great at self-evaluating their level of digital competence. Scotland’s Digital Economy Maturity Index (2014) also highlights that less than 20% of businesses surveyed considered themselves to be confident in the use of digital technologies:

    However in 2017 this had improved to 24%

    and in 2021 this had increased again to 28%.

    The DEMI category titles were adjusted between 2017 and 2021. This change in indicators means findings are not directly comparable with those of 2017.

    Applying Zell and Krizan’s assertions to the above figures would suggest that many Scottish businesses have a weak correlation between their own evaluation of their digital maturity and their actual performance. In short many will be underestimating their level of digital maturity, perhaps because they don’t fully understand the skills that they use in their everyday work demonstrate digital maturity. The slight increase in perceived competence from 2014-2017 may be due to Zell and Krizan’s suggestion that “self-perception accuracy may improve as experience with tasks grows over time”.

    If we ask students about their confidence in specific digital skills we should expect their estimations to be, in the early stages of learning any new skills, less accurate than if we survey them after they gain more experience in putting these skills into everyday use.

    I think it would be very interesting to survey individuals on which of the six categories of digital maturity they consider themselves best aligned with, using the framework of essential digital skills as a guide. For example, with preparation and guidance around how to self-assess competence in each of the framework categories, the following could be regularly completed by individuals in order to update their online job-seeker profile:

    If schools, colleges and universities also used the same framework to provide feedback to their learners it would increase the accuracy of self-assessment over time and allow other initiatives to support student progress in digital skill building such as pathways aligned to each level of confidence e.g. intermediate confidence in being safe and legal online could be demonstrated through completion of the NPA Cyber Security level 4.


    I suggest that, rather than expanding tech-based jobs, the priorities should be to:

    (1) highlight the digital skills required within all work vacancies using consistent language, meta tags that relate to a common framework and a developing a system that allows job seekers to filter within job search results or (even better) have recommendations that link to candidate skills pushed to their inbox;

    (2) ensure that individuals are challenged to self-assess their own competence in digital skills on a regular basis in order to improve the accuracy of their self-perception which would then improve the confidence of candidates in applying for specific roles. It may even be beneficial for this to co-exist in the system job seekers are using to find roles.

    Predicted Impact

    This will allow for better tracking of the digital skills gap and help individuals understand what they need to do in order to meet their individual areas for improvement, allowing them to make informed choices in their education. Businesses could also better understand how individual courses align to the digital skills they need for sustainable economic recovery.

    The resulting analysis could better support any argument for scaling up CS education in Scotland and providing better pathways from school to industry for all.

  • Back to blogging – why?


    Image by Werner Moser from Pixabay 
    I’m working through my evidence for my GTCS five yearly sign off and was sincerely grateful that I was an active blogger during my time abroad.
    I spent a long time yesterday making sure that the evidence (what I could include anyway given myGTCS upload issues) was linked to my development areas and that the existing activities were re-categorised using the new GTCS Standards that were enacted in August 2021.
    I realised during this time that the blog is one of the best places to store evidence of my own personal development. The myGTCS site is just a silo and, given all the changes and problems with uploading documents, isn’t really trustworthy.
    I use Evernote to store thoughts, readings, important information. I’ve explained this before. However, even with tagging, stuff gets lost. Searching for CPD many years later isn’t as easy as I had hoped. However Evernote is EXCELLENT at keeping my notes and photos safe.
    I investigated a few alternatives before settling on my workflow of choice: GitHub Pages would have been good but it appears a little flakey, although this may be user error. It would also take me away from the security of Evernote. I also looked again at Postach.io which – in 2013 – looked fantastic and integrates really well with Evernote. However the cost ($50 per year before including the cost of Evernote Premium) always puts me off. There are also some problems with the site integrations which make me even more nervous about parting with cash…
    So I looked to find out if I could more easily link Evernote and WordPress together without cost. Turns out IFTTT helps, although it doesn’t republish if there are any changes to the Evernote note.
    I’m going to try this method throughout the next term to see if it makes the documentation process of my own CPD easier.