How do I teach CS Unplugged?

CS Unplugged is very much based on a constructivist approach: students are given challenges based on a few simple rules, and in the process of solving those challenges they uncover powerful ideas on their own. Not only is this a more memorable way to learn, but it empowers them to realise that these are ideas within their grasp. The activities are also very kinesthetic - the bigger the materials, the better.

Because of this approach, you can also learn alongside the students. You'll need to read through the whole activity so that you're prepared for it, and we have provided videos for many of them so you can visualise them, but as the students discover how these ideas work out, you'll start to see patterns and ideas that the students are discovering as they understand the principles behind these topics from Computer Science.

If you're working within a school curriculum, you can find appropriate activities based on the learning objectives and age group. In several countries there are guides linking CS Unplugged to the local curriculum (e.g. Digital Technologies Hub for Australia). But the unit plans listed follow the common topics that are appearing in school curricula, so you are likely to find something relevant from the titles.

Note that CS Unplugged does not teach programming, but it does provide ways to support students with programming. There are activities such as Kidbots that provide an excellent lead into the ideas they will encounter when programming (such as sequence and debugging). There are also "Plugging it in" challenges that give some programming exercises to follow up from an Unplugged activity. These don’t teach students how to program, but will give students a chance to exercise their programming skills in a context relevant to an Unplugged activity that they have just experienced. There’s more information about using these here.

But reading about Unplugged isn't the fun way to engage with it - pick a lesson for your students, and dive into it!

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