Alan Turing: an Introduction

This past weekend we watched The Imitation Game.
The Imitation Game is the 2014 movie staring Benedict Cumberbatch that Rotten Tomatoes describes as an “intense and haunting portrayal of a brilliant, complicated man … who under nail-biting pressure helped to shorten the war and, in turn, save thousands of lives.” Alan Turing was the British mathematician who invented the machine to help break the Enigma Code which shortened WWII by several years and saved millions of lives. He is considered the father of modern computers, computer science, and artificial intelligence. Being arrested for “gross indecency” at a time when homosexuality was a crime, he opted for chemical castration over prison. This led him to take his own life. Just imagine all that he could have accomplished!

The kids asked what we were watching and when they responded that they had no idea who Alan Turing was — I felt like I had failed as a parent. I would have expected Freedom to have at least heard of him. Either for being crucial in winning WWII or for being considered the father of modern day computing. This encounter prompted me to try and put together a lesson for Freedom, who is in grade six. She has shown interest in coding and was an active member in the coding club at her school last year. How could she NOT know about Alan Turing?

Free Alan Turing Resources

Hour of Code Presentation
This presentation is obviously geared towards Hour of Code, but mentions Alan Turing being the father of computer science and his machine that helped save the world. It also links to a code generator on scratch so that you can create your own secret code and CodeSnaps where you can move a robot through a map grid.

Alan Turing, Creating and Deciphering Secret Codes
This printable gives a little bit of background information on Alan Turing and allows you to encode and decode messages.

Free Printable Computer Science Bookmarks

Alan Turing Resources on Twinkl.ca

Alan Turing and Enigma PowerPoint
All About Alan Turing PowerPoint

Alan Turing Differentiated Fact File
Alan Turing Differentiated Reading Comprehension Activity

History of Computing PowerPoint
This presentation covers more than just Alan Turing — introducing Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. Also teaches about the competition between Microsoft and Apple, and the beginning of the world wide web.

Caesar Cipher Code Wheel
This resource includes a cut out wheel that allows you to encrypt and decrypt secret messages.

Twinkl.ca is a subscription based educational resource website that I have personally bought a subscription to. I am in no way compensated.
I love that it has Canadian and French resources that I can use with both of my kids. They also have international resources, even for common core in the United States. Most of the Alan Turing resources that I came across were part of the British History curriculum. You can create your own resources and some of the available resources can be scaled based on your child’s needs. They also offer an ink saving black and white download option for some printables, which makes me happy!

“Can machines think?”… The new form of the problem can be described in terms of a game which we call the ‘imitation game.” It is played with three people, a man (A), a woman (B), and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. The interrogator stays in a room apart front the other two. The object of the game for the interrogator is to determine which of the other two is the man and which is the woman. He knows them by labels X and Y, and at the end of the game he says either “X is A and Y is B” or “X is B and Y is A.” The interrogator is allowed to put questions to A and B… We now ask the question, “What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game?” Will the interrogator decide wrongly as often when the game is played like this as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman? These questions replace our original, “Can machines think?”

― Alan Turing, Computing machinery and intelligence

10 thoughts on “Alan Turing: an Introduction

  1. Though I have heard of him and knew a little about the war coding, I had no idea of his personal history and arrest. Such a shame that we wasted such a brilliant mind. Thanks for linking up with #KCACOLS

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    • Such a neat mind, he’s definitely on my list of people I’d want to sit down and have dinner with. Can you imagine the conversations we’d have? Great info!

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  2. In the ’80’s, I saw a play called Breaking the Code, and at the end, all the machines light up and you see the beauty that he saw (it was a really striking moment – he was portrayed as quite difficult I presume due to autism but at the time I wasn’t really aware). If you ever get the chance to see it, do. When we went to the UK I wanted to day trip out to Blechley Park (?) but didn’t get the chance. They do tours you might be interested in once all this is over. #KCACOLS

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  3. After watching the movie, I wanted to know more about him. Such a fascinating life cut short. Glad you are sharing resources for others to learn too!

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  4. Turing was such a fascinating man. Glad that he is now recognised, but it is sad how he was treated in his lifetime after all he achieved. #KCACOLS

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  5. I loved The Imitation Game. I knew about Alan Turing but not the full extent of what he and the others at Bletchley did with Enigma. It was preposterous what our govt. did to him afterwards. No one deserves to go through that. I’m glad he is recognised and respected now and wish was still around to see that. Great post! x

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