Linkki for Computer Science

Linkki science lab is a unit for early education in computer science and programming skills. The lab provides after-school activities in programming for youth in the age group 9-16 years, and supports teachers with update education in this field.

Linkki is part of the Science education centre at the University of Helsinki, and part of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki, as well. The Science education centre is a member and coordinator of the national LUMA Centre Finland network.

In Linkki, we are interested in spreading basic algorithmic thinking skills, programming skills, and general knowledge on the options computer science provide. Furthermore, we emphasize freedom for creativity and exploring, and having fun with science.

The basic activities of Linkki include a dozen after-school clubs on programming every year, and a dozen of week-long day camps each summer. Most of the activities are run in Finnish, but bilingual children often ask questions in Swedish or English, as well. The advisors in these activities are university students, mostly having computer science as their major topic. These Linkki advisors regularly visit external events, as well, not only marketing the idea of having programming as a hobby, but creating a first experience in it too. A specific attention point is to reach girls: the number of girls showing interest in technical fields is too low in Finland, as it is elsewhere. We organize clubs and camps exclusively for girls besides shared activities in order to lower the threshold for girls. Often the opportunity for girls-only chat and the first positive experiences can significantly diminish feelings of inferiority. In fact, girls often know more, but make less noise about it.

In Finland, schools did not start compulsory teaching of programming until 2016. Therefore, development of new teaching material units and educating (updating) teachers on a new skill for themselves is still an essential part of our activities. Since all Finnish teachers have university degrees in their subject topic and pedagogical themes, the channel to science teachers through the national LUMA network is natural. It is interesting to participate in the discussion on where to set the national norm of skill expectations. In terms of the LUMA network activities we regularly run virtual clubs and webinars that teachers can utilize in their own education or as part of their own teaching. Further, we make a lot of openly accessible Finnish material available for teachers, after it has been thoroughly tested in the clubs.

Besides schools, we reach out to children and teenagers through other channels as well. A successful collaborative project Pulmaario was run with the metropolitan area public libraries (HelMet libraries), for example. The project produced a workshop model and teaching material that librarians can use for running activity-based workshops containing mathematical and programming challenges. The follow-up on this project seeks national spread across the network of public libraries. Another non-school activity was to participate in a YLE project with a game where the players could earn codes from a variety of challenges, and use the codes for receiving additional episodes in an animated story. While the game itself promoted awareness of programming, computers and technology, internet and science, Linkki gained a larger amount of children to try the programming challenges created for this project.