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Hello Ruby

Teaching the concept of an algorithm in an unplugged way.

Hello Ruby teaches programming in fun, creative ways by providing tools for children, parents and educators. The concept originally began as a successful children’s book that has now been published in over 22 languages. Hello Ruby has the ability of making STEAM education more approachable, colourful and versatile.

HundrED 2021


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2021

HundrED 2020

HundrED 2019

HundrED 2018

Finland 100

Web presence






Target group
March 2017
To prepare kids for the future, it’s important to give them a robust understanding of what a computer is good at and what a human is good at.

About the innovation

What is Hello Ruby?

Step into a whimsical wonderland of computer science through 33 videos that blend arts and science. The self-paced videos are aimed for 5-9 year olds, followed by an activity the kids can complete at home. Topics include code, hardware, networks, AI and other interesting ideas.

Have you ever wondered what travels inside the wires of your computer? Or why computer parts look like a tiny city? Or what really is an algorithm? These one minute videos explore big ideas of computer science through play!

The 1 minute videos with Linda explaining the concept, followed by an activity (“Now you do it”). Shot in a quirky, colorful style of Wes Anderson meets Sesame Street, these videos can be used by teachers and parents alike to start a discussion and create an offline experience. The tasks have been tested by thousands of teachers.

The current global situation has proven that the education system needs an improvement towards remote teaching, an increased focus on technology, and a deeper commitment to making computer science approachable for children.

Linda's work empowering both children and young women in computer science all around the world, has given her unique, globally appealing perspective on how to celebrate the power of technology, imagination and storytelling.

The materials, guides and journal are available at and

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

To prepare children for a more digital future, it’s important to give them a fundamental understanding of computer science concepts. Innovative and scalable solution to learning in an unplugged way.

HundrED Academy Reviews

This is by far the most attractive packaging of coding/algorithmic learning that I have come across. Its origin in the children's book provides a strong narrative that allows the product to be carried across to many different contexts.

Hello Ruby provides a low tech solution for areas that have low connectivity, making it very scalable. Hello Ruby has expanded rapidly across the globe and excels at the crossroads of tech and creativity.

- Academy member
Academy review results
Read more about our selection process

Implementation steps

Set out the paper on the floor and distribute one piece of paper per student. Do not give out pencils just yet.
Getting started (5 minutes)
Start by talking with students about algorithms. Ask the students, who knows what an algorithm is?

Computers use algorithms to solve problems. Repeat the word ‘algorithm’ with the class. Say together: Al-go-ri-thm, a step by step solution to solving a problem.

In order to get the art machine running, we’ll need algorithms. What kind of instructions do computers need? Write parallels on the board and ask which one is true:

  • Instructions need to be clear OR sloppy?

  • Instructions need to be able to cover all kinds of situations OR have to be vague?

  • Instructions need to be understood in only one way OR in many ways?

In programming, algorithms are used to create reusable solutions to problems. If a programmer writes an algorithm to search or to sort something, the algorithm can be repeated over and over again without the computer getting bored or making mistakes. But computers need instructions in every situation! They are not creative like humans.

Writing your own art algorithm (15 minutes)
Explain to students they are now the computer. Each one will create their own algorithm.

Say you have created an algorithm to help them draw it. Show students examples of algorithms by either describing them or drawing examples on the whiteboard.

You can proceed with these instructions:

  • Drawa dot.

  • Draw a circle around a dot.

  • Draw a line connecting all the red objects.

  • Draw the first letter of your name.

  • Draw squares in two different color.

  • Draw triangles inside each square.

Ask students to design their own algorithm.

For younger students, you can specify that the algorithm drawing needs the following:

  • Form: squares, circles, dots, lines, waves, horizontal lines, vertical lines

  • Color

  • Size

  • Location

  • A starting and ending point

Practise making algorithms on paper. Allow each student to design their own, unique algorithm. In the end you should have every studentsitting around the paper ready with one algorithm.

Teaching tip:

  • How specific do you need to be when giving instructions? Not overly. The goal here is to start building the skills to translate visuals to a set of instructions and vice versa and to observe how much humans actually understand without being specifically instructed.

  • This activity might work best with children who have already coded with a visual programming language and can make the connection to an algorithm. On the other hand for the smaller kids, it might be a fun way to get familiar with the big word that is ‘algorithm’ without worrying too much about errors.

  • Students can work in pairs to create the algorithms, then work in pairs to try out each other’s algorithms. If this feels too chaotic you can work together as a class and create a few algorithms together.

Activity (15 minutes)
Ask kids to pick their tools (pens/pencils and their algorithm) and sit evenly around a paper. Tell them you are the programmer and the kids are the computer.

When you say RUN, the computer turns on and each kid starts drawing their algorithm. When you say END each kid stops and moves one step to their right. You can also have music to signify the change.

Itcan all become a bit frenzied - which the kids love!As they work the instructions get faster and faster. Run the computer fast and slow. How does the art change?

Wrap-up (10 minutes)
Once the paper is full, have the kids observe the creation.Ask: How long would it take for a computer to digitally generate a similar piece of artwork if it were given the exact same instructions?
  • Answer: Not very long - it could probably do it in nanoseconds. A computer is very good at following instructions and very fast. It would always win if compared to humans.

Ask the kids how the artwork makes them feel?
  • Acknowledge feelings. Explain that a computer can never experience real feelings - it can be programmed to respond to feelings or to analyze artwork from a database, but it will never experience art the same way humans do.

What are the other things that humans might be good at?
  • Possible answers: things involving a lot of change, being with other humans.

What are the things that computers might be good at?
  • Possible answers: things that require precision, repetition, speed.

Ask students to draw two images:

  • Draw something computers are better than people at doing

  • Draw something people are better than computers at doing

Ask them to bring their pictures to the next class.

Ask everyone to hold up their pictures and go through the following questions:

  • Who sees something computers are better than people at doing? Why are computers better at it?

  • Who sees something humans are better than computers at doing? Why are humans are better at it?

  • What did we learn last time?

  • Do you remember the definition of the word "algorithm"?

Extended learning
Let the artwork dry for a day. Draw another layer on top of it in a similar way to before.Before drawing try out one of the following:

Swap the algorithms. (30 minutes)

  • Have the students write down instructions for their algorithms on top of the page and draw it. Fold the paper so that the drawing is hidden and only the instructions are visible.

  • Ask the student next to them to read the algorithm and, without seeing what others have drawn, create their own version. Fold the paper and give it to the next student.

  • Observe how the algorithm changed. Did the algorithm that the student originally imagined and instructed to others look different in practice? Why?

  • How could it be made better? Discuss what makes an algorithm easy to follow.

Reverse engineer (30 minutes)

  • Bring in works from people such as Sol Lewitt, Picasso, Munch, van Gogh, Mondrian or Yayoi Kusama for example.

  • Ask students to observe and discuss the potential algorithms or rules that might apply in the works of these great artists. Consider collaboratively how the students could write an algorithm that mimics their work?

  • This exercise also involves pattern recognition skills and decomposition skills.

Conditionals and events (30 minutes)

  • If the students have done more code work, they might come up with more detailed algorithms

    • Keep moving right until X.

    • Move five steps right, then stop.

    • Keep drawing while X is happening.

    • Repeat X times.

  • Change the programmer. Allow one child to give instructions to everyone else and change the algorithms between children according to a rule.

  • As students consider more complicated constructions and carry them out there are bound to be errors. Have the computer stop. Remind them that making mistakes is a natural part of learning, and debugging is an important skill.

Parallelism (30 minutes)

  • Can you instruct the computer to make a flower by having each kid draw a piece of it? What about more complicated illustrations?

Spread of the innovation

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