Unplugged coding: Sandwich algorithm

Unplugged coding lessons, allow you to teach the fundamentals of computer science without a computer. This style of  coding lessons were very popular about 3-4 years ago when the term ‘coding’ became the hot topic in education, and many schools had limited access to devices. However, as schools acquired greater access to devices,  I found that teachers weren’t letting go of the unplugged activities. I recall being on yard duty two years ago asking a student, “How is coding going?” (as I knew they were learning coding in their year level. The reply was, “OK I guess, it’s not different or anything, coding is just about writing squiggles or steps on paper”. The majority of teacher’s  coding lessons were still unplugged, even though students had access to devices.

Why? I am guessing it had to do with the fact that teachers were comfortable with the ‘unplugged’, and not with the ‘plugged in’ coding lessons.  Therefore, I try to encourage more ‘plugged in’ activities, with one or two unplugged activities supporting a coding program.

Nevertheless, one of my favourite unplugged activities is to ask students to write an algorithm for making a Vegemite sandwich (Australian teachers), a peanut butter jelly sandwich (American teachers) or any thing that your students are familiar with. Year 4 students might write a set of instructions where as Year 5 students might create a flow chart to create a set of instructions (algorithms). Then it is the teacher’s turn to be painful so to speak. Check out the video below in order to get an idea of how you might test students’ sandwich algorithms (whilst trying not to laugh 🙂 ).

This task could even be used for younger students. You could record them giving a list of instructions (algorithms) on how to draw a certain picture for example,  as shown in this video link.

For more unplugged activities follow this link, but don’t go overboard! One or two per program, no more 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *