Honorary doctors 2018 - A pioneer of new kind of programming

Submitted on Fri, 08/10/2018 - 15:38
Linda Liukas / Hello Ruby
Programmer and author Linda Liukas has popularised computer programming in a way that is suitable for children. Photograph: Hello Ruby

Programmer and author Linda Liukas uses stories and imagination to teach coding.

Faculty of Natural Sciences LUO

How do you teach programming to a child who does not go to school yet?

Programmer and children’s author Linda Liukas wrote a book of stories about a girl called Ruby. With the help of the book, children around the world are now learning how to code. The Hello Ruby books have been translated into twenty-five languages.

The books teach children programming, the logic of computers, and the basics of artificial intelligence. The picture books that teach coding make use of metaphors and symbolism.

“Linda Liukas has done pioneering work. She has popularised programming and related concepts in ways that are particularly suitable for children,” says Jyrki Nummenmaa, professor of computer science at the University of Tampere.

Liukas’s work inspires both children and adults. Nummenmaa regards imagination as an important resource in computing, and the stories created by Liukas awaken the imagination.

Programmer and author Linda Liukas will be conferred an honorary doctorate by the University of Tampere in August.

Programming suffers from talent deficit

In 2010, before the success of the Hello Ruby series, Liukas founded the international Rails Girls movement. The programming workshops organised in more than 270 cities around the world teach programming to girls and women. According to Nummenmaa, Liukas has excellent resources to increase girls’ enthusiasm for programming worldwide.

In most countries, most of the students in computer science are boys even though girls would also have enough potential for studying the field.

“Mathematical subjects suffer from the so-called talent deficit. If girls were more interested in programming, we would get more excellent professionals,” Nummenmaa points out.

Liukas is also a highly esteemed and sought-after public speaker. She travels round the world to talk about programming and not in vain. The imaginative author has received several major awards, including the European Commission’s Digital Champion award, the state prize for children’s culture in Finland, and the prestigious Chinese design prize DIA Gold.

University of Tampere promotes pupils’ programming skills

In the autumn of 2016, programming became a part of the curriculum of Finnish comprehensive schools. With Juhani Mykkänen, Liukas co-authored the Koodi 2016 book aimed at comprehensive school teachers.

The Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Tampere emphasises education and cooperation with schools and pupils in mathematics and data processing. Among other things, the Faculty has been involved in developing pedagogy for teaching programming in schools and organised competitions for pupils.

“In the recent years, investments in programming have been made because it is thought that it should become a part of the all-round education,” Nummenmaa says.

According to Nummenmaa, Liukas has a clear link to what is being done at the University of Tampere. He is looking forward to meeting the honorary doctor.

“We at the Faculty of Natural Sciences have similar goals as Liukas. We highly respect her work and hope we can cooperate with her in the future,” Nummenmaa says.

Faculty of Natural Sciences Honorary doctors' lectures
Thursday 16 August at 10-12 a.m. Pinni B building auditorium B1100

Honorary doctors, Faculty of Natural Sciences
Programmer and children’s author Linda Liukas
Professor Aarne Ranta, University of Gothenburg