Product Review of Hello Ruby
Hello Ruby started as a Kickstarter campaign for a series of children’s books about computers, technology, and programming featuring characters with tech-inspired names like Ruby, Django, Python, Penguin, and Snow Leopard. It has grown into a set of materials for teaching kids computer science through hands-on arts and craft activities. The site features two sections — Play and Teach — that educators would find useful.
The Play section has off-screen project ideas that help kids understand the inner workings of technology and practice the logic involved in programming, without ever touching a computer or device. Directions are given on-screen and in printable PDFs. Activities like paper dolls introduce the concepts of Boolean expressions and selection; another activity has kids write an algorithm for brushing their teeth. Each activity includes extension ideas.
The Teach section is set up with the understanding that educators may be learning alongside or just ahead of their learners. The 10 episodes are organized as lesson plans with a short video (one to two minutes) and a reflection worksheet. Teachers and learners are encouraged to keep a journal as they learn.
Teachers can use Hello Ruby in elementary classrooms as enrichment or for computer science instruction. The videos in the Teach section could be flipped for learners to view asynchronously, leaving the projects and activities for in-class work. Helpful to note: The Teach resources are presented in order from episode one on, while the activities in the Play section are listed newest first. Since those build on each other, it’s helpful to start at the bottom and work up. There are seasonal activities, too, that could be used out of order.
What sets Hello Ruby apart are its off-screen experiences, designed to help kids understand and build interest in computers and technology. The activities are fun and creative. They find ways to give kids a basic understanding of the logic and concepts of computer science, all without the need — and possible intimidation or frustration — of using computers and devices. They’re fairly surface level in terms of content, but can serve as a good hook to ease learners into the subject matter. The extensions do, however, give educators lots of content to go as deep as they want. There’s also a good focus on getting kids to self-assess and reflect on their learning.
It must be said that Hello Ruby is also just a joy to look at it. And while the cute, crafty aesthetics of Hello Ruby might appeal specifically to girls, the activities aren’t gender-specific and usefully counter the masculine nature of a lot of other coding and tech products.
In the future, Hello Ruby could use some improved structure and organization of the learning materials. They’re currently listed on a page, and scrolling through them can leave one feeling lost. It’d also be nice to see additional video presenters from various backgrounds.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Projects give learners lots of choice and ways to incorporate their interests. The visual design is gorgeous, with great homespun style.
Curriculum and Instruction
Content is a mix of video, projects, and worksheets. Activities inspire creativity and counter the behind-the-screen image of computer scientists, but just scratch the surface.
Resources in the Teach section cater to educators with no computer science background, making material approachable and teachable. The organization and delivery is a little underbaked.