Unplugged for Teachers

The activities for Computer Science Unplugged are easy to integrate into a classroom program. Each is a self-contained lesson plan, and it's easy to pick whichever activities are most relevant for your students.

Fitting Unplugged Activities into your Course

Unplugged activities fit well into many standard courses around the world. Each of the activity pages has information about the standards and objectives it meets in various international curricula. There's also a full list of matches between activities and curriculum objectives at the Curriculum Links section.


CS Unplugged has lots of videos on YouTube, in 6 different languages. You can find them all on the CS Unplugged YouTube channel.

You'll be able to watch videos of the activities in action, and a 1-hour video about a fun show for school students using ideas from Unplugged. We have also provided directly embedded videos at our Videos page

Developing your Course Further

There are lots more useful resources available on the web for teachers who'd like to develop their own courses in computer science. We've compiled some of our favorites here.

General Interest Books in Computing

We have compiled a list of some great books in Computing below. Where possible, a short summary of each book (taken from either the author's book site, Amazon.com's Product Description or Wikipedia) and the author's webpage are mentioned along with purchasing information from Amazon.com. In some cases, there are also links to book reviews, author interviews and additional information on other books by the same author.

  • Peter J. Denning, Great Principles of Computing - The Website . Summary: The Great Principles of Computing project is developing language for discussing the fundamental principles of computing. The framework is helping foster collaboration between computing and many other fields. It is helping innovations by exposing unseen connections between technologies. It is helping to communicate the joys of computing to young people, who can now see that these principles serve them in their daily lives even when they are unplugged from their computers. See Peter Denning share his work on the great principles of computing. His taxonomy will help you understand computing and how it works in your world. You will see what makes computing great and of lasting value in this YouTube Video: Great Principles of Computing - Peter J. Denning . Another related site is the Computation Science Field Guide
  • Jeremy Kubica, Computational Fairy Tales, ISBN-13: 978-1477550298, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 202 pages. More details at Amazon.com. Summary: It is a creative collections of stories in a fairy tale setting where characters use computational ideas to solve their problems and pursue quests. With chapter titles like “The town of Bool”, “Detecting curses with Recursion”, “Sorting during the Flu outbreak”, “The NP-hard curse” and so on, you can see where it’s headed. For example, the chapter titled “Panicked Depth-First Search” begins...“Ann realized her mistake as soon as she crossed the first bridge. In her rush to get to the school, she had neglected to bring a map with her. In any other town, this wouldn’t have been a problem - she would have run in the general direction of the school. But traveling in G’Raph wasn’t that simple.” The book covers dozens of concepts from computer science, and has creative and humorous stories that I’ve started using as a short break in the middle of my university class on algorithms. Please see the original concept site at Computational Fairy Tales
  • D. Harel, Algorithmics: The Spirit of Computing, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1987. 2nd edition, 1992; 3rd edition, 2004 (with Y. Feldman). (1st edn.: Dutch, 1989; Hebrew (Open University Press), 1991; 2nd edn.: Polish, 1992, 2001; 3rd edn.: Chinese, 2006; German, 2006; Italian, 2008.). More details at Algorithmics: The Spirit of Computing . Summary: This book tells a story. The story concerns the concepts, ideas, methods and results fundamental to computer science. It is not specifically about computer technology, nor is it about computer programming, though obviously it is heavily influenced by both.
  • D. Harel, The Science of Computing: Exploring the Nature and Power of Algorithms, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1989. (This is a revised trade edition of Algorithmics.). More details at The Science of Computing: Exploring the Nature and Power of Algorithms. Summary: A readable explanation of computing fundamentals creating an account of algorithmic analysis accessible to laymen.
  • D. Harel, Computers Ltd.: What They Really Can't Do, , Oxford University Press, 2000. Revised paperback edition, 2003. (German (Springer-Verlag), 2002; Italian, 2002; Polish, 2002; Chinese, 2003; Hebrew, 2004.). More details at Computers Ltd.: What They Really Can't Do. Summary: Harel takes us on a fascinating tour that touches on everything from tiling problems and monkey puzzles to Monte Carlo algorithms and quantum computing, showing just how far from perfect computers are, while shattering some of the many claims made for these machines. He concludes that though we may strive for bigger and better things in computing, we need to be realistic: computers are not omnipotent--far from it. Their limits are real and here to stay. Based on hard facts, mathematically proven and indisputable, Computers Ltd. offers a vividly written and often amusing look at the shape of the future.
  • Nell Dale, John Lewis, Computer Science Illuminated, ISBN-13: 9780763776466, Paperback, 646 pages. Companion Website for Resources. Summary: Thoroughly revised and updated, Computer Science Illuminated, Third Edition, continues to excite and enlighten students on the dynamic and diverse field of computer science. Written by two of today s most respected computer science educators, Nell Dale and John Lewis, the text provides a broad overview of the many aspects of the discipline from a generic view point.
  • Gonick, Larry, The Cartoon Guide to Computer Science, ISBN-13: 978-0064604178, Barnes & Noble; 1st edition (1983), 248 pages. Visit the author website. Summary: Here are the elements of computer science illustrated, simplified, and humor-coated so that you understand them at once.
  • Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere, OUT OF THEIR MINDS: The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists, ISBN-13: 978-0387982694, Springer (July 2, 1998), 291 pages. More details at OUT OF THEIR MINDS. Summary: OUT OF THEIR MINDS introduces readers to 15 of the planet's foremost computer scientists, including eight winners of the Turing Award, computing's Nobel Prize. The scientists reveal themselves in fascinating anecdotes about their early inspirations and influences, their contributions to computer science and their thoughts on its explosive future.
  • Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, An epic story of the quest for the Foundations of Mathematics, ISBN-13: 978-1596914520, Bloomsbury USA; Original edition (September 29, 2009), 352 pages. For purchasing information please visit Logicomix. Summary: Bertrand Russell as the narrator covers the history of mathematics and the foundations of modern logic.
  • Hugh Whitemore, Breaking the Code (based on the life story of Alan Turing), ISBN-13: 978-0906399804, Amber Lane Press Ltd (April 1987), 80 pages. See details of the play based on this publication in the UK at Breaking the Code, a production by The Drama House UK . For details of this play in the USA, please visit Strawberry Theater Workshop - Breaking the Code Summary: Breaking The Code tells the story of a mathematical genius, Alan Turing (Derek Jacobi) who, seconded to the top secret Bletchley Park England during World War II, was responsible for designing the first computer, which enabled the allies to crack the German Enigma code and, some would argue, win the war.
  • A. K. Dewdney, The New Turing Omnibus: Sixty-Six Excursions in Computer Science, ISBN-13: 978-0805071665, Holt Paperbacks (July 15, 1993), 480 pages. More details at Amazon.com. Summary: The Turing Omnibus offers 66 concise, brilliantly written articles on the major points of interest in computer science theory, technology, and applications. New for this tour: updated information on algorithms, detecting primes, noncomputable functions, and self-replicating computers--plus completely new sections on the Mandelbrot set, genetic algorithms, the Newton-Raphson Method, neural networks that learn, DOS systems for personal computers, and computer viruses.
  • Daniel Hillis, The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work, ISBN-13: 978-0465025961, Basic Books (October 8, 1999), 176 pages. More details at Amazon.com. Summary: Most introductions to computers either take the reader on a mathematical journey through the workings of computer architecture and Boolean logic or introduce them to a particular program or product. Hillis, an innovative computer engineer, tries a different approach by explaining the basic concepts of the computer in everyday language.
  • Paul Graham, Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, ISBN-13: 978-0596006624, O'Reilly Media (May 2004), 271 pages. More details at author website with book reviews . Summary: Hackers & Painters examines the world of hackers and the motivations of the people who occupy it. In clear, thoughtful prose that draws on illuminating historical examples, Graham takes readers on a fast-moving tour of what he calls "an intellectual Wild West."
  • Steven Levy, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, ISBN-13: 978-0141000510, Penguin (Non-Classics); Updated edition (January 2, 2001), 464 pages. More details either at Amazon.com or see the entry at Wikipedia: Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Watch the YouTube Video: Steven Levy Talk about Hackers Heroes of the Computer Revolution - 25th Anniversary Edition.. Summary: Levy describes the people, the machines, and the events that defined the Hacker Culture and the Hacker Ethic, from the early mainframe hackers at MIT, to the self-made hardware hackers and game hackers. Immediately following is a brief overview of the issues and ideas that are brought forward by Steven Levy's book, as well as a more detailed interpretation of each chapter of the book, mentioning some of the principal characters and events.
  • Richard P. Gabriel, Patterns of Software: Tales from the Software Community, ISBN-13: 978-0195121230, Oxford University Press, USA (May 28, 1998), 256 pages. Download the PDF from the author site for free. More details at Amazon.com. Summary: Today computers continue to play an ever-increasing role in our homes, schools, and businesses. In Patterns of Software, the respected software pioneer and computer scientist, Richard Gabriel, gives us an informative inside look at the world of software design and computer programming and the business that surrounds them. In this wide-ranging volume, Gabriel discusses such topics as what makes a successful programming language, how the rest of the world looks at and responds to the work of computer scientists, how he first became involved in computer programming and software development, what makes a successful software business, and why his own company, Lucid, failed in 1994, ten years after its inception.
  • Andy Hertzfeld, Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made, ISBN-13: 978-0596007195, O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (December 6, 2004), 320 pages. More details at Amazon.com. Visit the Baneromics blog entry: Revolution in the Valley by Andy Hertzfeld for reviews, author videos and lots of information on this book..Summary: Through lavish illustrations, period photos (many never before published), and Hertzfeld's vivid first-hand accounts, Revolution in the Valley reveals what it was like to be there at the birth of the personal computer revolution. The story comes to life through the book's portrait of the talented and often eccentric characters who made up the Macintosh team. Now, over 20 years later, millions of people are benefiting from the technical achievements of this determined and brilliant group of people.
  • Michael A. Hiltzik, Dealers of Lightning: XEROX-PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age, ISBN-13: 978-0887309892, Harper Paperbacks (April 4, 2000), 480 pages. More details at Amazon.com. See also the Bloomberg Business Week: The Unsung Heroes of the PC Age article on this book. Summary: n the 1970s and '80s, Xerox Corporation brought together a brain-trust of engineering geniuses, a group of computer eccentrics dubbed PARC. This brilliant group created several monumental innovations that triggered a technological revolution, including the first personal computer, the laser printer, and the graphical interface (one of the main precursors of the Internet), only to see these breakthroughs rejected by the corporation. Yet, instead of giving up, these determined inventors turned their ideas into empires that radically altered contemporary life and changed the world.
  • Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web :The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the WORLD WIDE WEB by its Inventor, ISBN-13: 978-0062515872, Harper Paperbacks; 1 edition (November 7, 2000), 256 pages. More details at Amazon.com. See also the author's page at W3C People: Tim Berners-Lee and W3C: Weaving the Web. Summary: This book is written to address the questions most people ask - From "What were you thinking when you invented it?" through "So what do you think of it now?" to "Where is this all going to take us?", this is the story.
  • Linus Torvalds, Just for Fun : The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, ISBN-13: 978-0066620725, HarperCollins; 1st edition (May 8, 2001), 262 pages. More details at Amazon.com. See also the Summary: For general readers, Torvalds spins a witty tale of his fascinating life. Here is the story of a young man who, as a still-rising star, keeps his feet on the ground through a combination of self-deprecating humor and the realization that life is simply about having a good time. Linus's narrative teems with clever anecdotes and his captivating opinions on the future of competition in the computer world. Linus even reveals his own take on the meaning of life.
  • Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon, Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet, ISBN-13: 978-0684832678, Simon & Schuster (January 21, 1998), 304 pages. More details at Amazon.com. See the Companion Website . Summary: Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone.
  • M. Mitchell Waldrop, The Dream Machine: J. C. R Licklider and the Revolution that Make Computing Personal, ISBN-13: 978-0142001356, Penguin (Non-Classics); 1st edition (August 27, 2002), 512 pages. More details at Amazon.com. See also the Wikipedia entry for J. C. R. Licklider . Summary: While most people may not be familiar with the name J. C. R. Licklider, he was the guiding spirit behind the greatest revolution of the modern era. At a time when most computers were big, ponderous mainframes, he envisioned them as desktop tools that could empower individuals, foster creativity, and allow the sharing of information all over the world. Working from an obscure office in the depths of the Pentagon, he set in motion the forces that could make his vision real.
  • David A. Price, The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, ISBN-13: 978-0307265753, Knopf; 1 edition (May 13, 2008), 304 pages. More details at Amazon.com. See also the Companion Website . Summary: The Pixar Touch is a story of technical innovation that revolutionized animation, transforming hand-drawn cel animation to computer-generated 3-D graphics. It’s a triumphant business story of a company that began with a dream, remained true to the ideals of its founders—antibureaucratic and artist driven—and ended up a multibillion-dollar success.
  • Ellen Ullmann, Close to the Machine Technophilia and its Discontents, ISBN-13: 978-0872863323, City Lights Publishers; 2nd edition (January 1, 2001), 189 pages. More details at Amazon.com. Summary: Here is a candid account of the life of a software engineer who runs her own computer consulting business out of a live-work loft in San Francisco’s Multimedia Gulch. Immersed in the abstract world of information, algorithms, and networks, she would like to give in to the seductions of the programmer’s world, where “weird logic dreamers” like herself live “close to the machine.” Still, she is keenly aware that body and soul are not mechanical: desire, love, and the need to communicate face to face don’t easily fit into lines of codes or clicks in a Web browser. At every turn, she finds she cannot ignore the social and philosophical repercussions of her work. As Ullman sees it, the cool world of cyber culture is neither the death of civilization nor its salvation—it is the vulnerable creation of people who are not so sure of just where they’re taking us all.
  • Harry Lewis, Ken Ledeen, Hal Abelson, Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion, ISBN-13: 978-0137135592, Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (June 16, 2008), 384 pages. More details at Amazon.com. Check out the Companion Book Site: Blown to Bits - The Book . Download the entire book under a Creative Commons license. Author websites are Harry Lewis , Ken Ledeen and Hal Abelson . Summary: Writing in plain English, the authors illuminate the myriad implications of the digital revolution, answering the questions you’ve wondered about‚ or ought to wonder about. Who owns all that data about you? What do they owe you? How private is your medical information? Is it possible to send a truly secure message? Who can you trust for accurate information when traditional media is replaced by thousands of unfiltered Internet sources?.
  • B. Jack. Copeland, The Essential Turing, ISBN-13: 978-0198250807, Oxford University Press, 622 pages. More details at Oxford University Press. Summary: Alan Turing, pioneer of computing and WWII codebreaker, is one of the most important and influential thinkers of the twentieth century. In this volume for the first time his key writings are made available to a broad, non-specialist readership. They make fascinating reading both in their own right and for their historic significance: contemporary computational theory, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and artificial life all spring from this ground-breaking work, which is also rich in philosophical and logical insight. An introduction by leading Turing expert Jack Copeland provides the background and guides the reader through the selection.
  • Jeff Johnson, Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules, ISBN-13: 978-0123750303, Morgan Kaufmann, 200 pages. More details at Amazon.com. Summary: The first practical, all-in-one source for practitioners on user interface design rules and why, when and how to apply them. Provides just enough background into the reasoning behind interface design rules that practitioners can make informed decisions in every project. Gives practitioners the insight they need to make educated design decisions when confronted with tradeoffs, including competing design rules, time constrictions, or limited resources.
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