Ode to code | Linda Liukas

If you have not heard of Linda Liukas, then please do. I first heard about her in 2015 when I learnt of her book Hello Ruby, a beautifully illustrated children’s book about the world of computing! Needless to say since it captured both my areas of immense interest – programming and literature – I had to find out more. This blog is a reflective piece on what I found out.

During my research on Linda I found a short TedX talk she had given in 2015 at TEDxCern. In this near 13 minute video, she talks about things that inspired her in her journey of creating Ruby’s world. Her enthusiasm and passion for what she believes in is evident but what is also clear is her vision with where this is going to go.

“If JavaScript is the new lingua franca, we don’t need grammar classes, we need poetry classes.”

Big Takeaways

  • The emphasis on parents playing a key role in letting a child’s natural imagination and curiosity find whatever avenues it wishes to manifest itself. Given that a child is constantly surrounded by devices today, it is only fitting that he/she would want to go further in identifying what magic lies behind how the machine works. Parents should work as partners with children in both the discovery and discussion of the connectivity of things around us.
  • The Internet of Things is going to have a stronger presence (it already does!) in our children’s future. So it is crucial that children of all ages (the sooner the better) are constantly encouraged to engage with how devices and applications interact with each other and humans.
  • A child’s imagination is a powerful source of inspiration. Letting them work with code/computing by making it play can have equally powerful results. The example she cites of a child imagining a bike lamp as a projector highlights that.
  • Hello Ruby is a good example of how literature can meet computational thinking.
  • Linda is a great example and role model for young girls and boys alike to highlight that “code is a universal language”. The world computing is a fascinating equalizer that cuts across regions, classes, languages and economic order to let talent get plenty of showcase.

“Disruption doesn’t start with technology. Disruption starts with people with a vision.”

Reflection questions

  • How do schools ensure that coding/computational thinking as a skill does not lose steam in coming years?
  • What changes need to happen in both curriculum and pedagogy to ensure learning to code transforms into coding to learn ?
  • What place do books like Hello Ruby have in a traditional classroom? How can cross curricular activities aid with amplifying their usage?
  • How does a school engage the parent community in conversations with their children on the future of Computer Science?
  • What sort of bridging steps need to be in place to connect and continue a student’s journey with code between elementary, middle and high school? Why should that matter?
  • What role would Internet of Things play in a classroom in coming years?

Linda’s story is a relevant one for the 21st century for several reasons. It breaks lot of gender and linguistic stereotypes built around the culture of coding and software development. By connecting them together with her love for literature, I feel an important step has been taken towards a new outlook for computing itself. The future holds much promise in this direction.