Website review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2021

Hello Ruby

Crafty, mostly screen-free approach to computer science

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Grades
2–5
Subjects & Skills
Science, Creativity, Critical Thinking
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Pros: Teachers need zero computer science background to teach the content. Kids don't need tech access.

Cons: Organization of learning content could be better. Most of the content is delivered via video.

Bottom Line: These creative, beautifully made craft- and interest-based projects have the potential to bring students -- particularly girls -- into the world of coding and computers.

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 students 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.

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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 teachers 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 teachers may be learning alongside or just ahead of their students. The 10 episodes are organized as lesson plans with a short video (one to two minutes) and a reflection worksheet. Teachers and students are encouraged to keep a journal as they learn. 

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 students into the subject matter. The extensions do, however, give teachers 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 Rating

Engagement

Projects give students lots of choice and ways to incorporate their interests. The visual design is gorgeous, with great homespun style.

Pedagogy

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.

Support

Resources in the Teach section cater to teachers with no computer science background, making material approachable and teachable. The organization and delivery is a little underbaked.


Common Sense reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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