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ICT - Switched-off learning

You don't need a computer to teach computer science

You don't need a computer to teach computer science

The expectation is that to teach computing you must have a computer. But many computing concepts are best illustrated without a PC.

Indeed, kinaesthetic activities can help to illuminate ideas and make them more tangible to pupils. This is particularly true in primary classrooms. A really useful resource for this is Computer Science Unplugged (, a collection of activities that teach computer science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.

The activities introduce pupils to underlying concepts, such as binary numbers, algorithms and data compression, separated from the distractions and technical details we usually see with computers.

The materials are suitable for people of all ages, but many of the original activities were written with the primary classroom in mind. Developed in New Zealand and used for more than 15 years, such is their popularity that they have been translated into eight different languages.

A book of 12 of the most popular activities can be freely downloaded from the website (csunplugged.orgbooks). It includes photocopiable master sheets for the activities alongside clear instructions and short explanations. Perhaps one of their greatest strengths is that they are free of the sort of jargon that often clutters otherwise worthwhile resources.

The book is supported by a YouTube channel where you can watch some of the activities being performed. If you are a primary teacher new to computing and want to get to grips with some of the concepts, the reworked Teachers Edition of the book is simply excellent. But if that is not you, don't be put off. These activities can be used right through the school.

Roger Davies teaches computing across the 11-18 age group and is director of ICT at Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria. He also edits the Computing at School termly magazine.

What else?

Thinking of introducing technology to the classroom? Try dave_orritt's article on iPads in schools. bit.lyiPadsInClass

For some creative ideas for whole-school ICT plans, check out Alfred Cole McChora's comprehensive scheme of work.


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