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Programming and Computational Thinking Unplugged

Paul Curzon, Queen Mary University of London


Computational thinking is a fundamental skill set that students learn by studying computing. It is often tied with learning to program, but is about much more than just programming and can be taught independently of both programming and technology. We will demonstrate how its core ideas and concepts, including programming, algorithmic thinking, evaluation, generalisation, computational modelling and abstraction, can be introduced using fun unplugged activities, games, puzzles and magic tricks. We put a particular focus on the importance of understanding people in computational thinking. We will show that computing can be fun for everyone and that it doesn’t have to be taught at a computer.

Session resource(s)

Paul Curzon's biography

Paul Curzon is a Professor of Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London. He regularly presents shows in schools around the UK. He was made a National Teaching Fellow in 2010 in recognition of his excellence in teaching and public engagement and was a finalist in the 2009 Times Higher Education Innovative Teacher of the year award. Paul started cs4fn ( with Peter McOwan - an initiative to bring computer science research to schools and promote the fun side of the subject. There have been a number of spin-offs from cs4fn for Electronic Engineering (ee4fn) and Audio Engineering ((Audio!)). The project has also produced a series of very popular magic books (teaching computer science through magic). Paul is a Director of Teaching London Computing (, a project to support teachers across the UK to deliver the new computing curriculum from primary school upwards. Paul's current research concerns interaction design and human error with applications in medical device design.

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