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

Everyone can Code with Swift Playgrounds – a blended approach
Everyone can Code with Swift Playgrounds - a blended approach

Get hands-on with the Swift playgrounds app for iPadOS and resources from Learn to Code and Everyone can Code.

- 17:00
KS1, KS2
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Languages (MFL) and digital technology forum for primary teachers
Languages (MFL) and digital technology forum for primary teachers

This session is for languages (MFL) subject leaders or anyone involved in the coordinating or teaching of languages. The forum will give teachers the opportunity to learn about curriculum updates and how digital tools can support blended learning. Teachers will also discuss the latest developments in primary languages and share their expertise and experiences. The discussion will be followed by a CLC-led practical session that will demonstrate how digital technology can be used to aid language learning.

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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.

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