Volume 14 · Number 3 · Pages 342–351
Constructing Computational Thinking Without Using Computers

Tim Bell & Michael Lodi

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Context: The meaning and implications of “computational thinking” (CT) are only now starting to be clarified, and the applications of the Computer Science (CS) Unplugged approach are becoming clearer as research is appearing. Now is a good time to consider how these relate, and what the opportunities and issues are for teachers using this approach. Problem: The goal here is to connect computational thinking explicitly to the CS Unplugged pedagogical approach, and to identify the context where Unplugged can be used effectively. Method: We take a theoretical approach, selecting a representative sample of CS Unplugged activities and mapping them to CT concepts. Results: The CS Unplugged activities map well onto commonly accepted CT concepts, although caution must be taken not to regard CS Unplugged as being a complete approach to CT education. Implications: There is evidence that CS Unplugged activities have a useful role to help students and teachers engage with CT, and to support hands-on activities with digital devices. Constructivist content: A constructivist approach to teaching computer science concepts can be particularly valuable at present because the public (and many teachers who are likely to have to become engaged with the subject) do not see CS as something they are likely to understand. Providing a clear way for anyone to construct this knowledge for themselves gives an opportunity to empower them when it might otherwise have been regarded as a domain that is open to only a select few.

Key words: Computational thinking, CS Unplugged, Papert, teacher professional learning and development, integrated learning, computation, algorithms, kinesthetic learning.


Bell T. & Lodi M. (2019) Constructing computational thinking without using computers. Constructivist Foundations 14(3): 342–351. https://constructivist.info/14/3/342

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