Reading list: playful and accessible computing education for all

During the past year I have been studying the social aspects of computing education, primarily focusing on secondary and post-secondary education. Through my work I came by many inspiring people and initiatives that focus on broadening participation in computing from a very early age, and with a very creative approach.

This post is a brief overview of resources, people and initiatives that are making the IT field an exciting place of discovery and experimentation for everybody, no matter what their age or background may be.

 Image from: Hello Ruby

Image from: Hello Ruby

Let's start with Linda Liukas, the creator of Rails Girls, a volunteer-run community that organizes workshops where girls and women learn how to make things with technology, from sketching and prototyping to coding an app. Here you can find the next event near you - men are welcome too.

Linda, who is Finnish, has written a whimsical children's book that introduces small kids to programming concepts, Hello Ruby. The website connected with the book comes with creative activities for children, and with clear lesson plans for educators. Below you can see an example of cut-out components kids can play with in order to assemble their first computer.

 Image from: Hello Ruby

Image from: Hello Ruby

The activities in Hello Ruby can be done without an actual computer, and encourage a holistic reflection on the fundamentals of digital technology, inviting kids to explore the field in a very accessible way.

Another playful introduction to computer science is certainly the graphic novel series Secret Coders, for children who are a little older (middle school). Written by the American Gene Luen Yang, the books invite kids on adventures where logic and problem solving are required. The readers gets an introduction to the programming language Logo together with the protagonists. Just like Hello Ruby, these books have a website with activities for children and teachers alike.

 Image from: Secret Coders' homepage

Image from: Secret Coders' homepage

Both Liukas and Yang received an education in Computer Science. Another programmer who has recently embraced creative expression to make computing more accessible to young people is the brilliant Amy Wibowo, who left her job as en engineer at AirBnB to produce a series of zines explaining computer science in a engaging way: BubbleSort Zines (available in print and e-format). I love the way she visualizes and breaks down complex concepts with easy to grasp examples and vocabulary.

 Image from BubbleSort's webpage

Image from BubbleSort's webpage

 Image from BubbleSort's Twitter (@sailorhg) showcasing her upcoming zine on Machine Learning!

Image from BubbleSort's Twitter (@sailorhg) showcasing her upcoming zine on Machine Learning!

I am also happy to hear that BubbleSort is coming up with even more zines for us all: her new Kickstarter campaign - which you can find here - has been very successful.

For all of you with some more good resources for broadening CS education in an engaging way: please write your suggestions in the comments below!