Research Project – Semantic Waves and Unplugged Activities

When choosing how to teach a subject, educators want to use the best approach.

One approach that is proving to be very popular to teach computer science, and which has been used for many years at Queen Marys,  is unplugged.

Unplugged computing is teaching about computers but without computers. For example, you could physically act out a sorting algorithm, perform a magic trick to learn about binary or listen to a story about encryption.

There are many different types of unplugged activities and research on the effectiveness of this way of teaching computer science has had mixed results. At the Education Lab, we want to find out why some unplugged activities might be better than others. To help us do this, we have worked with Professor Karl Maton at Sydney University.  Karl is the creator of a theory called LCT and within this semantic waves. LCT is used to review and compare teaching activities.

Our first investigation of semantic waves and unplugged activities was a review of a very popular unplugged activity, called Crazy Characters. This activity is a Barefoot resource which has been used to teach thousands of primary school children about algorithms.

To find out more about our research, read our paper here or look at our presentation from the UKICER conference. Also, we have a Hello World article (issue 10)  about our first semantic waves unplugged activity case study coming along!