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

  • Sign up to our weekly newsletter to get edtech news and views, free resources and reviews direct to your inbox every Thursday lunchtime – including a weekly ‘give it a try’ app or tool recommendation.

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

- 15:30
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.


The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
- 14:25

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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