Linda Liukas (Helsinki, 34 years old) understood very early that the computer could be anything, that you could play with it, learn from it, in short, experiment with it. And that is what he wants to teach children. She is a computer programmer, children’s writer and programming teacher, not seeing technology as something harmful to students, but as an element that can help them and develop their creativity and experience.
This month, his ideas have crossed the Spanish borders. Together with the La Caixa Foundation, the programmer has carried out a project that is summarized in about 30 one-minute videos to promote the use of technology at school and break prejudices. “It is for teachers to see what can be done and taught with a computer. Soon the device will replace the pencil and we have to prepare teachers for that. What is the future of the subjects with a computer? ”, He asks with a smile from ear to ear via video call. “We must understand well what we are better at and what machines are at,” he proposes.
What do we need to be able to use the computer as another tool at school?
It is not enough to bring technology to class, it is necessary to invest in teachers and we leave that aside a lot. But one important thing for a child is the need to look back and learn from the past. This project was fascinating for me because I learned a lot about the history of mathematics and maybe we should do the same with technology. It is important for the child to question his grandparents to understand what the world was like before the Internet and to have a conversation about how they want the world. For example, see if they want to have all these services that we have given them and that digitize their world. When do we think about technology today that comes to mind?
A smartphone, a computer…
Exactly, but before technology was a car, the light bulb … For example, today the Internet is like a shopping center where children roam freely, walk around and choose. We, of my generation, are lucky to have seen the before and after of the Internet, to have waited hours to download a video. And we have to give them that perspective so that they see that a computer can become whatever they decide in the future. The biggest disease of technology is that its history is not taught.
What vision does a child have of technology? What do you draw, for example?
It’s a nice question. When I asked them to draw me on the Internet, they presented me with a very commercial vision, with Netflix and Minecraft, among others. They didn’t even know what a browser was. There is no longer that image of the small pieces connected by cables and of accessible and free information for all.
Which shows that the industry tries to sell them a product, retain their attention and create addiction in a way …
Yes, it is true that this is what happens now and when faced with it, parents always ask me the same question at conferences: “How much time can my child spend in front of a smartphone or a screen? ” And I always answer the same thing: it all depends on the content. There are many different things you can do with a computer. In short, the solution is not to take them away from the screen, but to teach them all the things that can be done with it, from learning a language, drawing, playing an instrument, writing and with all that the child’s creativity can be developed. It must be seen as one more language for him to express himself and be himself.
And if you learn all this while hooked to a screen, what happens to your relationship with the outside world?
Well, the first thing to know is that adults, those who were not born fully into technology, are wrong and do not see that the video game is a social place where children have experiences as deep as they could have outside. In Fortnite talk with your friends, build and create things like you would in a forest. Then, once that is understood, it is up to the parents to show the child that everything that happens in the digital world also exists outside in a certain way. That all experiences can also be had in real life and push him towards that forest.
With schools closed due to covid, children have learned thanks to technology and perhaps that picture of a commercial Internet has changed a bit …
Yes, but for me the biggest challenge is creating memories. Our year is gone and for many, it is as if it had not happened. It is our curious perception of time. Memory is usually hooked to places and with the coronavirus, many of its experiences depended on machines. The important thing is to create concrete memories so that those tools can be used in the future.
And how do they see those machines? What are they to them? What’s the most surprising thing you’ve heard?
Well look, I’m going to give you one of the best answers I’ve ever been given. I asked a girl of just nine years old, who must be a teenager now, to define technology for me. “Technology is the electricity that I love, that I use to play games, to talk to my mother and that people use,” he replied. Actually, it is a basic and correct answer that says that it is our imagination that creates the technology that we want in our world. If we listened more to children, we would have a much more beautiful and fun digital world
Linda Liukas is very clear about the place of women in the world of technology. She is convinced that in a few years a woman will create a technology company worth 1,000 euros. “They are taking space and I would love for that to happen. There are many women in this field, but there is still a job to be done ”.
The girls Liukas crosses paths with are seen as future engineers and fully trained to pursue computer science. However, in her environment, the Finnish programmer sees a lot of disappointment and women who end up escaping from that network. From education, things change, but the world they get into later, no. “Some friends tell me that they don’t take you seriously as an engineer. They do not advance in their careers because when it comes to promoting them, the industry is still sexist, ”he emphasizes. The question that drills your head is very simple: Are we sure that we are creating a real space for women in the technology sector?
The expert is highly committed to empowering women through programming, and is a co-founder of Rails girls, an international platform that teaches the basic aspects of the discipline to more than 10,000 women around the world with volunteers from 300 cities.