Linda Liukas’ “Hello Ruby” ist the most sucessful children’s book in Kickstarter history. The Finn’s work is a lot about coding and programming with kids. And about Girl Power!
This interview is part of “Adas Erbinnen”, our collection of #WomenInTech-Interviews.
Linda, “Hello Ruby” became a really successful Kickstarter campaign. Tell us a little bit about the hero of your book! How did you come up with the idea in the beginning?
Linda : I was teaching myself programming three years ago and started doodling the Ruby character in my notes. Whenever I ran into a problem like what is garbage collection or how does object oriented programming work, I’d try to imagine how little Ruby would explain it. The imaginative viewpoint of a small girl soon started to pop up everywhere in the technology world and I knew I had a book in my hands.
I guess you agree with the proverb “All work and no play (makes Jack a dull boy)”, right? Tell us a little bit about your recent research on “programming and play”.
Linda : There is this fascinating research by Lego Foundation (Lego Foundation: Systematic Creativity in the Digital Realm (2012) on different motivations of play. What caught my attention is the distinction of achievement, social and immersion -based play.
Achievement is all about advancement, progress, power, optimization, analysis and challenging others. And often when we talk about programming and play, we stay here. But in reality there’s also stuff like making friends, collaboration, group achievement, finding and giving support, exploration, roles, appearances and even escape from real world. All part of programming practice, but when teaching programming, we tend to forget the two other motivations. My work has to do with bringing all of these aspects of play to programming education.
Our kids should learn to bend, join, break and combine code in a way it wasn’t designed to. Just as they would with crayons and paper or wood and tools. I believe there’s plenty to learn in programming logic and culture before showing children a single screen.
How tech-aware would you like your kid to be raised? And when should this education start in your opinion?
Linda : Such a huge part of our daily lives is spent in front of a screen. I believe there’s a lot of value in parents and children exploring and interacting offline. That’s why Hello Ruby is aimed for 5-7 year olds, kids who don’t necessarily read/write yet. And also the reason why I made a physical book.
And there’s a wealth of knowledge about computers and computing concepts (like loops, events, conditionals) we can teach to the little ones before even opening the terminal.
Today, #WomenInTech has become a topic people discuss. Closing the gender gap has become a goal of many activists. But how did it feel for you growing up as a girl that liked tech? The odd one out? Many guy friends? Or no deal at all?
Linda : For me coding was always a mean of self-expression. It had more to do with being a creative tool than an area of interest by itself. That’s why I think I never felt lonely, I grew up with the Internet and to me technology has always had this very human, connecting component to it. I definitely was an odd one out, but that was true in many other areas beyond coding 🙂
I think the very thing that I want to show with Ruby is how coding can be as creative a tool as music or drawing or words. You create something out of nothing, with pure words and thought structures. Learning programming teaches you to look at the world in a different way. Coding goes far beyond the if/else statements or arrays on a screen; it’s about expression, creativity – and practical application.
What do you like about “all-girl-conferences” like the Ada Lovelace Festival, at which you will be our keynote speaker?
Linda : The energy! There’s something very special, emphatic and encouraging in all-female-conferences. And I grew up with Spice Girls & Girl Power, so the message resonates very strong.
Linda Liukas ist founder of the Rails Girls and author of “Hello Ruby”. Linda is giving the keynote about „Intersection of programming and play” at the Ada Lovelace Festival in Berlin.