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Hello Ruby & teaching technology

How are necessary projects like that, aiming at getting children (especially girls) closer to the new technologies tools and applications?

Fundamental! It's a whole generation of kids that will use code like our generation used words.

Code is the 21st century literacy and the need for people to speak the ABC of Programming is imminent. Our world is increasingly run by software and we need more diversity in the people who are building it. More importantly, writing software is about expression, creativity - and practical application. 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 does the book teach you programming? What language do you teach?

The book familiarises kids with fundamentals of programming, computational thinking and the attitudes that are important for any future programmer. These include things like the ability to decompose a problem, spot patterns, think algorithmically, debug problems and work together.

Each chapter in the story represents one topic in the workbook. The book won’t teach the kid any one programming language: rather it supports learning the foundational thinking structures behind every programming language. When a kid learns to spot computational thinking in everyday situations, they’ll also be able to learn abstract programming languages more easily.  

Where did you get the idea of combining software & storytelling?

I was teaching myself programming in 2009 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 believe stories are the most formative force of our childhood. The stories we read growing up affect the way we perceive the world as we grow up. For some reason narratives haven’t been used as part of technology education, even though a lot of research suggests that stories are the best way to understand new concepts, especially in childhood but also when adults. So for me it was a natural fit. When I started drawing Ruby’s adventures, I began to see stories and characters everywhere in the technology world.

Why you chose to print also a “Hello Ruby” paper book besides the ebook, being the main subject new media and technologies?

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 there's a wealth of knowledge about computers and computing concepts we can teach to the little ones before even opening the terminal

Have you trialled pages of the book with children already? How has it gone?

How does a four-year-old, five, six, seven-year-old look at coding differently? How did you account for this in the book?

We learn best with stories and many of the early-childhood narratives stay with us until we’re old. I chose to make this a paper based book and activity book since we end up spending so much time in front of a screen, sitting all alone. The book is meant to be read with a parent or a close adult, who can explain the book according to the kids needs.

Younger kids might miss some of the educational topics, but enjoy the fun and whimsical characters. For older kids, there will be a lot of computational concepts (like loops, variables and lists) to be learned.

Why should I learn to code? How could it expand my world?

Where should I start if I want to learn coding?

What was the most fun aspect of the project so far?

When will we see translated versions?

Kickstarter

How was your Kickstarter so succesfull? Was it a surprise?

Totally! I knew that there was interest, but the overwhelming support was still a surprise. I think the success of Hello Ruby shows there is a huge market for these types of products. Most of the early programming education materials are created from a very tool/instruction centric perspective - I think people want to see more creative ways to learn.

I need help with my similar/unsimilar project

Wonderful! It's one of the most exhilirating things you can do. I unfortunately can't help with individual projects (and probably couldn't since all audiences are different), but I've listed all the lessons I learned from running a Kickstarter project here lindaliukas.tumblr.com/post/77372344314/kickstarter

Which PR agency did you use?

None - I did all the PR myself.

Who did your video?

I made it together with two talented friends. I did the direction and storyline, Kimmo Ervola did all the shooting and Mikko Mutanen editing and sound correction. More details here: https://vimeo.com/83504583

Why did you choose a crowdfunding campaign to support your project and why do you think it has had this massive success?

Crowdfunding allows me to directly reach out to people all over the world who want to teach their kids code. I'm not sure traditional publishers would have immediately seen the magic of Ruby's world - although now it's obvious that there is a huge market for material like this.

The success of the project has to do with me spending thousands and thousands of hours absolutely obsessed with early-childhood code education and working within the space, be it by founding Rails Girls or by working at Codecademy. I don't think there's any easy tricks unfortunately :)

Kickstarter was the perfect platform to bring to life a creative project like this. I can reach people from all over the world who care about code education and form a community around the process of making the book. I think Kickstarter is Internet at it’s best. As Joi Ito put it, “Internet is not a technology, it’s a belief system.”

Children's books

Where can I find an illustrator for my children's book project?

Can you introduce me to a publisher?

Which comes first, the writing or the illustration?

How long does it take to make a book?

How do you promote yourself?

Linda

Does coming from Finland influence your work in any way?

I grew up with Tove Janssons Moomin-series and Astrid Lindgrens Pippi Longstockings - Scandinavian storytelling is something I look up to a lot. There's definitely many ways in which Northern Europe has influenced me: I think our culture in technology tends to be a little bit more compassionate and open. It's not a coincidence that so much of the open source works of the world (Linux, Git, SSH, IRC, MYSQL, PHP, Rails..) comes from our Northern latitudes.

Where did the idea of “Hello Ruby” spring from?

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.

Were you shocked by the success/think you hit a nerve with this proposed book?

What would you like to do after the book?

I wish this is my 20-year career plan and I won’t have to work on other stuff :) That being said Ruby’s world is only in the very beginning: I’d like to make more books, mobile apps, maybe even an art show where you crawl inside a computer.

Are you Ruby?

I think Ruby is braver than I am. Ruby is probably who I would have wanted to be growing up.

Have you drawn or written before? How did you become an illustrator?

Very little - drawing the pictures was one of the biggest and scariest things I’ve ever done and I still have a huge impostor syndrome. I think learning to program has however taught me a lot of resilience in learning a new subject. It’s ok to fail multiple times and you need to have a plan to improve yourself. When I get stuck drawing I now have almost a debugging type of checklist in my head: Can I change the composition? Make something smaller or bigger? Can I find the line of action? Change proportions? Create twists or arcs? Stretch or squish? Am I drawing what Ruby sees or what Ruby feels? While telling about the young heroine Ruby, you’ve pointed out the important thing is to realize that understanding technology is not just about learning how to code. Instead, you’ve suggested one should adopt a whole mindset. How would you describe this mindset? 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.

How old were you when you started coding/how did you begin?

I was 13 and madly in love with Al Gore, the then vice-president of US. I had all this teenage girl passion and energy and wanted to make a website for him in Finnish. At the time there was no Tumblr or Facebook, so the only way for me to express all my feelings was by learning HTML and CSS. This has probably influenced my later programming career: for me, coding has always been about creativity, expression and practical application.

What are your future plans?

I wish this is my 20-year career plan and I won’t have to work on other stuff :) That being said Ruby’s world is only in the very beginning: I’d like to make more books, mobile apps, maybe even an art show where you crawl inside a computer.

What would your typical workday consist of?

What other artists have influenced your work?