Computer science unplugged: school students doing real computing without computers

Tim Bell, Jason Alexander, Isaac Freeman, Mick Grimley

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The Computer Science Unplugged project provides ways to expose students to ideas from Computer Science without having to use computers. This has a number of applications, including outreach, school curriculum support, and clubs.The “Unplugged” project, based at Canterbury University, uses activities, games, magic tricks and competitions to show children the kind of thinking that is expected of a computer scientist. All of the activities are available free of charge at The project has recently enjoyed widespread adoption internationally, and substantial industry support. It is recommended in the ACM K-12 curriculum, and has been translated into 12 languages. As well as simply providing teaching resources, there is a very active program developing and evaluating new formats and activities. This includes adaptations of the kinaesthetic activities in virtual worlds; integration with other outreach tools such as the Alice language, adaptation for use by students in large classrooms, and videos to help teachers and presenters understand how to use the material.This paper will explore why this approach has become popular, and describe developments and adaptations that are being used for outreach and teaching around New Zealand, as well as internationally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-29
Number of pages10
JournalNew Zealand Journal of Applied Computing and Information Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Computer Science outreach
  • kinaesthetic teaching


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