Teaching computer science in the most whimsical way

Date posted: 11 December 2016

Some view computer science as this esoteric body of knowledge belonging only to programmers, technicians and the like. Some consider computer science a discipline that is far removed from everyday life and too complex for the majority of us to comprehend.

Programmer, storyteller and illustrator Linda Liukas wants to challenge this notion and create a more diverse and colourful world of technology by making computer science more approachable and inclusive. In her TED Talk titled “A delightful way to teach kids about computers”, she outlines her own journey into the world of programming and explains her approach to educating and empowering the youth of today.

Upon reflection of her personal journey, Linda explains that she was drawn to programming as a means of self-expression. As a girl, she had a vivid imagination and she enjoyed storytelling and creating make-believe worlds. Programming proved to be the perfect profession for her. In her talk she explains that programming gives her the power to create her own little “worlds” with rules, paradigms and practices by utilising the “pure power of logic”.

Linda explains that she had the makings of a programmer at a young age. While conjugating French irregular verbs, she was practicing her ability to identify and recognise patterns in data. Whilst knitting, she was following an algorithm made of symbolic commands and loops. Linda was developing the computational thinking skills that underpin programming, long before she became a programmer.

Linda’s quest to teach computer science in a fun way led to her developing a fictional character called “Ruby” who explores coding and computer systems through play. In Ruby’s whimsical world, students learn about repeating patterns and loops through dance moves. They learn about computer parts (like CPU, RAM and ROM) by assembling their own computer and designing an application for it. They also explore The Internet of Things by placing on/off stickers on everyday objects and envisioning how the object could be enhanced with technology.

To access Ruby’s wonderful world and view a range of unplugged activities, navigate to the “play” or “teach” tabs on the Hello Ruby website. Here you can access resources to make your own universal remote control to give commands or design your own operating system for your phone.

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