Collaboration of Unplugged and Plugged Activities for Primary School Students: Developing Computational Thinking Skills with Programming


  • Semra Fiş Erümit Karadeniz Technical University


Teaching Programming, Computational Thinking, Teaching strategies, Primary School, Plugged and Unplugged Activities


The study was carried out with 18 primary school students (11 girls, 7 boys) who participated in programming training conducted at a university. In this research, the implementation of programming activities in the whole classroom is a case study. While trying to understand the phenomena during the implementation of the activities in the study, a quasi-experimental design was carried out without a control group in order to determine the changes before and after learning and to investigate the research questions. In this quasi-experimental design, measurements were made both before the implementation (pre-test) and after the implementation (post-test). The results showed that the combination of plugged and unplugged programming activities help improve primary school students' computational thinking skills. At the end of the study, it was concluded that unplugged and plugged activities would be beneficial for primary school students when used together.  Further research is needed to evaluate these activities separately, their role in providing the gains, and the students' thoughts about these activities. In addition, the effects of using different teaching methods in programming education can be examined.


Download data is not yet available.


Aranda, G. & Ferguson, J. P. (2018). Unplugged Programming: The future of teaching computational thinking? Pedagogika, 68(3).

Albion, P. (2016). The second coming of coding: Will it bring rapture or rejection? In S. Prestidge, & P. Albion (Eds.). If, Australian Council for computers in education 2016 conference (pp. 1–8). Brisbane: ACCE. Retrieved from:

Babakr, Z. H., Mohamedamin, P., & Kakamad, K. (2019, June). Piaget's Cognitive Developmental Theory: Critical Review. Education Quarterly Reviews, 2(3), 517-524.

Balanskat, A. & Engelhardt, K. (2015). Computing our future computer programming and coding priorities, school curricula and initiatives across Europe. European Schoolnet. Retrieved from 14689/Computing+our+future_final.pdf

Bell, T, Alexander, J, Freeman, I., & Grimley, M. (2009). Computer science unplugged: school students doing real computing without computers. New Zealand Journal of Applied Computing and Information Technology, 13(1), 20-29.

Brackmann, C. P., Román-González, M., Robles, G., Moreno-León, J., Casali, A., & Barone, D. (2017, November). Development of computational thinking skills through unplugged activities in primary school. In Proceedings of the 12th Workshop on Primary and Secondary Computing Education, Nijmegen, Netherlands, November 8–10, 2017 (WiPSCE ’17) (pp. 65-72). DOI:

Bundy, A. (2007). Computational thinking is pervasive. Journal of Scientific and Practical Computing, 1(2), 67-69.

Caeli, E. N., & Yadav, A. (2020). Unplugged approaches to computational thinking: A historical perspective. TechTrends, 64(1), 29-36.

Cartelli, A., Dagiene, V., & Futschek, G. (2010). Bebras contest and digital competence assessment: Analysis of frameworks. International Journal of Digital Literacy and Digital Competence (IJDLDC), 1(1), 24-39. DOI:

Chalkiadaki, A. (2018). A systematic literature review of 21st century skills and competencies in primary education. International Journal of Instruction, 11(3), 1-16.

Costa, J. M. & Miranda, G. L. (2017). Relation between Alice software and programming learning: A systematic review of the literature and meta‐analysis. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(6), 1464-1474. DOI:

Creswell, W. J. (2012). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research. Boston, United States of America: Pearson Education.

Dagiene, V. & Stupuriene, G. (2016). Bebras--A Sustainable Community Building Model for the Concept Based Learning of Informatics and Computational Thinking. Informatics in education, 15(1), 25-44. DOI:

DeJarnette, N. K. (2018). Implementing STEAM in the Early Childhood Classroom. European Journal of STEM Education, 3(3), 18.

del Olmo-Muñoz, J., Cózar-Gutiérrez, R., & González-Calero, J. A. (2020, June). Computational thinking through unplugged activities in early years of Primary Education. Computers & Education, 150, 103832.

Denning, P. J. (2017). Remaining trouble spots with computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 60(6), 33–39. 1145/2998438. DOI:

Denner, J., Werner, L., & Ortiz, E. (2012). Computer games created by middle school girls: Can they be used to measure understanding of computer science concepts? Computers & Education, 58(1), 240-249. DOI:

Djurdjevic-Pahl, A., Pahl, C., Fronza, I., & El Ioini, N. (2016, October). A pathway into computational thinking in primary schools. In International symposium on emerging technologies for education (pp. 165-175). Springer, Cham. DOI:

Duncan, C. (2019). Computer science and computational thinking in primary schools. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

Durak, H. Y. & Sarıtepeci, M. (2018). Analysis of the relation between computational thinking skills and various variables with the structural equation model. Computers & Education, 116 (January 2018), 191-202. DOI:

Etikan, I., Musa, S. A., & Alkassim, R. S. (2016). Comparison of convenience sampling and purposive sampling. American journal of theoretical and applied statistics, 5(1), 1-4. DOI:

Fessakis, G., Gouli, E. & Mavroudi, E. (2013, April). Problem solving by 5-6 years old kindergarten children in a computer programming environment: A case study. Computers & Education, 63, 87-97. DOI:

George D, & Mallery P. (2003). SPSS for Windows step by step: A simple guide and reference. 11.0 update (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Golafshani N. (2003). Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research. The qualitative report, 8(4), 597-606.

Grover, S. & Pea, R. (2013). Computational thinking in K-12: A review of the state of the field. Educational Researcher, 42(1), 38-43. DOI:

Gülbahar, Y., Kalelioğlu, F., Doğan, D., & Karataş, E.(2020). Bilge Kunduz: Enformatik ve bilgi-işlemsel düşünmeyi kavram temelli öğrenme için toplumsal bir yaklaşım. Ankara Üniversitesi Eğitim Bilimleri Fakültesi Dergisi, 53(1), 241-272.

Hijón-Neira, R., Santacruz-Valencia, L., Pérez-Marín, D., & Gómez-Gómez, M. (2017, November). An analysis of the current situation of teaching programming in Primary Education. In 2017 International Symposium on Computers in Education (SIIE) (pp. 1-6). IEEE. DOI:

Hsu, T. C., Chang, S. C., & Hung, Y. T. (2018, November). How to learn and how to teach computational thinking: Suggestions based on a review of the literature. Computers & Education, 126, 296-310.

ISTE (2015). CT leadership toolkit.

Kale, U. & Yuan, J. (2021). Still a new kid on the block? Computational thinking as problem solving in Code. org. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 59(4), 620-644.

Kalelioğlu, F. (2015, November). A new way of teaching programming skills to K-12 students: Code. org. Computers in Human Behavior, 52, 200-210. DOI:

Kalelioğlu, F., & Gülbahar, Y. (2014). The effects of teaching programming via scratch on problem solving skills: A discussion from learners' perspective. Informatics in Education, 13(1), 33–50. DOI:

Kalelioglu, F., Gulbahar, Y., & Kukul, V. (2016). A framework for computational thinking based on a systematic research review. Baltic J. Modern Computing, 4(3), 583-596.

Keşfet Projesi, (2018). Keşf@ Öğretmen Portalı, Kodlamayı Keşfediyorum. Retrieved from June 10, 2020, from

Kong, S. C. (2016). A framework of curriculum design for computational thinking development in K-12 education. Journal of Computers in Education, 3(4), 377-394. DOI:

Manches, A., & Plowman, L. (2017). Computing education in children's early years: A call for debate. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(1), 191-201. DOI:

Merriam, S.B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. California: Jossey-Bass.

Mishra, P. & Yadav, A.(2013). Rethinking technology & creativity in the 21st century. TechTrends, 57(3), 10-14. DOI:

Nouri, J., Zhang, L., Mannila, L., & Norén, E. (2020). Development of computational thinking, digital competence and 21st century skills when learning programming in K-9. Education Inquiry, 11(1), 1-17.

Piaget, J. (1962). Play, dreams, and imitation in childhood. New York, US: W W Norton & Co.

Polat, E., & Yilmaz, R. M. (2022). Unplugged versus plugged-in: examining basic programming achievement and computational thinking of 6th-grade students. Education and Information Technologies, 1-35.

Popat, S. & Starkey, L. (2019, January ). Learning to code or coding to learn? A systematic review. Computers & Education, 128, 365-376.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills, (P21). (2013). Framework For 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from November 06, 2020, from

Papadakis, S., Kalogiannakis, M., Orfanakis, V., & Zaranis, N. (2019). The appropriateness of scratch and app inventor as educational environments for teaching introductory programming in primary and secondary education. In Early Childhood Development: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications (pp. 797-819). IGI Global.

Rehmat, A. P., Ehsan, H., & Cardella, M. E. (2020). Instructional strategies to promote computational thinking for young learners. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 36(1), 46-62.

Roman-Gonzalez, M., Perez-Gonzalez, J.-C., & Jimenez-Fernandez, C. (2017, July). Which cognitive abilities underlie computational thinking? Criterion validity of the computational thinking test. Computers in Human Behavior, 72, 678–691. DOI:

Saxena, A., Lo, C. K., Hew, K. F., & Wong, G. K. W. (2020). Designing unplugged and plugged activities to cultivate computational thinking: An exploratory study in early childhood education. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 29(1), 55-66.

Shin, S., Park, P., & Bae, Y. (2013). The Effects of an information-technology gifted program on friendship using Scratch programming language and clutter. International Journal of Computer and Communication Engineering, 2(3), 246-249. DOI:

Shih, W. C. (2017, June). Mining learners' behavioral sequential patterns in a blockly visual programming educational game. In 2017 International Conference on Industrial Engineering, Management Science and Application (ICIMSA) (pp. 1-2). IEEE. DOI:

Shute, V. J., Sun, C., & Asbell-Clarke, J. (2017, November). Demystifying computational thinking. Educational Research Review, 22, 142-158. DOI:

Sigayret, K., Tricot, A., & Blanc, N. (2022). Unplugged or plugged-in programming learning: A comparative experimental study. Computers & Education, 184, 1-14.

Tran, Y. (2019). Computational thinking equity in elementary classrooms: What third-grade students know and can do. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 57(1), 3-31. DOI:

Tsarava, K., Moeller, K., & Ninaus, M. (2018). Training computational thinking through board games: The case of Crabs & Turtles. International Journal of Serious Games, 5(2), 25-44.

Tsarava, K., Moeller, K., Pinkwart, N., Butz, M., Trautwein, U., & Ninaus, M. (2017, October). Training computational thinking: Game-based unplugged and plugged-in activities in primary school. In European conference on games based learning (pp. 687-695). Academic Conferences International Limited.

Van Laar, E., Van Deursen, A. J., Van Dijk, J. A., & De Haan, J. (2017, July). The relation between 21st-century skills and digital skills: A systematic literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 72, 577-588. DOI:

Webb, M., Davis, N., Bell, T., Katz, Y. J., Reynolds, N., Chambers, D. P., & Sysło, M. M. (2017). Computer science in K-12 school curricula of the 2lst century: Why, what and when?. Education and Information Technologies, 22(2), 445-468. DOI:

Wing, J. M. (2006). Computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3), 33-35. DOI:

Wing, J. (2017). Computational thinking’s influence on research and education for all. Italian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(2), 7-14.

Wong, G. K. W. & Cheung, H.Y. (2020). Exploring children’s perceptions of developing twenty-first century skills through computational thinking and programming, Interactive Learning Environments, 28(4), 438-450.

Wong, G. K., Cheung, H. Y., Ching, E. C., & Huen, J. M. (2015, December). School perceptions of coding education in K-12: A large scale quantitative study to inform innovative practices. In 2015 IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE) (pp. 5-10). IEEE. DOI:

Yıldırım, A. & Şimşek, H. (2011). Sosyal bilimlerde nitel araştırma yöntemleri (8. Baskı). Ankara: Seçkin Yayıncılık.

Yıldız Durak, H. (2020). The effects of using different tools in programming teaching of secondary school students on engagement, computational thinking and reflective thinking skills for problem solving. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 25(1), 179-195.



How to Cite

Fiş Erümit, S. (2024). Collaboration of Unplugged and Plugged Activities for Primary School Students: Developing Computational Thinking Skills with Programming. International Journal of Computer Science Education in Schools, 6(3).