Why educators need to know about Linda Liukas

Linda Lukias hosting a workshop on computational thinking in Tampere, Finland.

At London Connected Learning Centre we think everyone should know about Linda Liukas. After all, she’s the digital champion of Finland and, in 2014, her Hello Ruby coding book for children raised $380,000 on Kickstarter, making it the platform’s most highly funded children’s book, But why, as an educator, should you know about her? 

If you care about or teach computational thinking then her work can support you in a number of ways, which we’ll come on to in a moment. But, first, here’s an overview of why her work is helpful to educators of all kinds.

Why Linda Liukas’s work is so helpful for teachers

We recently spent a day with Linda in a school in Finland as part of the Co-think project (find out more about the Co-think project and computational thinking in Finland here) and were inspired by her approach. Why?

  • She always starts with the why – what is the value proposition for studying computer science? It needs to be about your values in society, your region and school. 
  • She is a brilliant communicator – verbally and visually, using illustration to explain concepts really clearly.
  • She also uses storytelling to great effect:

 “I’m an illustrator, a storyteller. Metaphors are a powerful way to learn, to create meaning for children.”

  • She’s concerned with thinking skills, drawing on the work of Edsgar Dijksta who advocated a systematic, rational approach to program construction. Structured programming is the basis for all that has been done since in programming methodology, including object-oriented programming.
  • She advocates an engineering mindset: 

“The  biggest problems in the world are just small problems joined together.”

  • She has an insightful overview of how computer science is being taught in different countries through her international work, imagining new ways of teaching. She runs system-level computer science workshops for local authorities and school leaders and understands that context is important: 

“Everyone is figuring out computer science and every country feels behind. Each country needs to have its own discussion. It’s always about the context not computer science in a vacuum.” 

  • In Finland that conversation is in relation to open source, equity, citizenship and democracy skills. In NYC it’s about computer science being a meaningful experience. In Korea they are incorporating Crispr, VR and self-driving cars – topics we don’t usually think belong in the curriculum. In China AI is important nationally.  All children need to study AI at 15.
London CLC’s Sarah Horrocks and Rowan Roberts interview Linda Liukas

How can Linda Liukas’s work help you teach computational thinking?

Linda’s work can support the teaching of the various concepts that make up computational thinking. Here’s how:

Logic: Hello Ruby: Dress Code – apply Selection and Boolean logic to designing Ruby’s outfits for each day of the week

Evaluation: Hello Ruby: Tips for safe internet surfing – Judging whether a website is trustworthy

Algorithms: Hello Ruby – Easter Eggs – create and follow instructions to produce artwork

Patterns: Hello Ruby – Masterbuilders of the Web – trace the pattern of code through the maze

Decomposition: Hello Ruby – My first computer – develop a better understanding of how computers work by looking at the difference pieces they are made up of

Abstraction: Hello Ruby – Who am I? – remove unnecessary detail and pick out important information to work out which character is which

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