Answers not on the Screen

2. The answers not on the screen
Hill, G., Turner, S. J. and Childs, K. (2017) 

Abstract: Reflection from two areas on the issues of getting students in Higher Education (HE) to become better problem-solvers earlier. Asks some questions about should HE increase the use of unplugged activities? If so, is there any evidence that it will help? What lessons can HE learn from what is happening in Primary Schools? What can schools learn from what is and has happened in HE teaching of programming and problem-solving?

To find out more click here.


1. Hill, G. and Turner, S. J. : Problems first, second and third. International Journal of Quality Assurance in Engineering and Technology Education (IJQAETE). 3(3), pp. 88-109. 2155-496X. (2014)2. Hill, G. and Turner, S. J.: Problems first. In: Hussey, M., Wu, B. and Xiaofei, X. (eds.) Software Industry-Oriented Education Practices and Curriculum Development: Experiences and Lessons. Hershey, Pa.: IGI Global. pp. 110-126. (2011)3. Turner, S. J…

Teaching of Genetic Algorithm with Excel

Originally posted in

In a previous post I discussed using Scratch and Excel to model neurones. This post looks at using Excel and six-sided dice as a way of developing insights into how  Genetic Algorithm work, before going on to program one. 

A very simplified version of Tournament Selection is used for the parent selection and the mutation works by rolling a die to get a number between 1-6.

The problem to be solved is to find the lowest values for x and y in the equation 


Using an Excel spreadsheet,  roll two dice six times. Fill in the first two columns with these numbers - these are X and Y values for each solution.The fitness scores should be calculated based on the equation. Low values for this problem are best.1st Parent: Roll two dice, if the numbers are same reroll one die to until the numbers are different. Use the two values to select the 1st parent, the…

Thomas's Tangle updated - plugged and unplugged

This simplifies the algorithm Thomas' Tangles (named after my son who helped develop it) in Chapter 3 of the book discussed in

Using crayons, pencils or pens, we are going to follow an algorithm to create a random drawing. This could be done in pairs and you will need squared paper.
Person A: Rolls the dice and reads out the instructions - their role is to roll the dice, interpret the algorithm and tell the 'robot' what to do. Person B: Is the ‘robot carrying out the instructions'. The lines are solid blocks of colour so move four squares does also mean colour in the squares between the start and finish in the direction of movement.

When a new central square is needed the roles of A and B swap (so A is the ‘robot’ and B rolls the dice and reads out the instruction). The roles keep swapping.

Start from a random square – call it the centre square Repeat until end of game If die roll = 1 …

Training a Neuron using Scratch

In a previous post I used Scratch to build a working artificial neuron.

In this post, the training of a neuron all written in Scratch is tackled. The video shows it action and you can have a go at using the software yourself at the end of the post. The Scratch code can be found at

All views are those of the author and should not be seen as the views of any organisation the author is associated with.

Computer Science for Fun - cs4fn: cs4fn Magazine+: Issue 22 Creative Computing

Computer Science for Fun - cs4fn: cs4fn Magazine+: Issue 22 Creative Computing:

cs4fn Magazine+: Issue 22: Computing Sounds Wild ISSN 1754-3657 (Print)ISSN 1754-3665 (Online) A pdf is available to download for free from our download site. 'via Blog this' All views and opinions are the author's and do not necessarily reflected those of any organisation they are associated with. Twitter: @scottturneruon

Artificial Neuron in Scratch


Set the inputs by pressing the buttons marked input 1 and input 2 (Red is off(False or 0) and Green is on(True or 1))Change the weights by changing weights 1 to 3, wx goes with input x and weight 3 is the bias.To activate the neuron you need to click on the the yellow ball ('the neuron').

The video below show it in action and explains the code.

All views are those of the author and should not be seen as the views of any organisation the author is associated with.

How to be an Unplugged Artist

Original post at:
A recently released book Teaching Computing Unplugged in Primary Schools  edited by Helen Caldwell (University of Northampton) and Neil Smith (Open University) has a number of interesting chapters by authors who are passionate about how computing is taught in schools. The central theme is unplugged activities, without using computers, but still teach the fundamental of computational thinking.

Ok, confession time. I co-wrote, along with Katharine Childs (Code Club), Chapter 3 Artists so I am biased here, but I believe in the central theme of Unplugged Computing. Computing, and Computational Thinking in general,  is not just about programming and using a computer (though using computers and  programming are vitally important to Computing) but it is also about many other things including problem-solving, being creative and working collaboratively.

Chapter 3 is about linking these computati…