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Teaching the concept of an algorithm in an unplugged way

Hello Ruby

Marker Helsinki, Finland
Hello Ruby teaches computational thinking to children by combining artistic activity with learning about algorithms. Children also discuss intriguing ideas related to the topic, such as how computers and humans differ.

What is Hello Ruby?

Linda Liukas
“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.”

Linda Liukas

Our world is increasingly run by software. To thrive in the future, children should have a fearless and creative attitude towards technology. Programming is about expression, creativity and practical application.

A huge part of our daily lives is spent in front of a screen. That's why Hello Ruby aims to explore computing concepts offline. There's plenty we can teach students in programming logic and culture before opening the terminal.

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, colorful and versatile.

In the steps below is one of the many Hello Ruby exercises that can be implemented into STEAM learning. This exercise explores the concept of an algorithm (a step by step solution to solving a problem) without using a computer. In programming, algorithms are used to create reusable solutions to problems.

The exercise also shows how computers and humans excel at different things and how algorithms can even be used ito create artwork.

In order to complete the exercise students will:

  • Participate in collaborative conversations with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

  • Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, building on each others' ideas and expressing their own ideas clearly.

  • Use creative ability to create an artwork based on algorithms.

This activity can be used on its own or together with other coding activities.

Read more ›
Intended Outcomes
5 - 9
Age Group
Resources Needed
You will need: A big roll of paper, large sheets of paper taped together or a white board (one piece of paper per child), colorful markers, paints, pencils or graphic pens, a limited color palette, newspapers to cover the floor and protective clothes for kids if using paint.
HundrED Criteria
To prepare children 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.
Hello Ruby guides learners to understand how to create, invent and build using a keyboard.
This exercise requires only pens and paper! So everyone can join in!

See this innovation in action.

Linda Liukas: Spreading Hello Ruby Across Borders | HundrED Innovation Summit


Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Set out the paper on the floor and distribute one piece of paper per student. Do not give out pencils just yet.
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Getting started (5 minutes)
Start by talking with students about algorithms. Ask the students, who knows what an algorithm is?
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Writing your own art algorithm (15 minutes)
Explain to students they are now the computer. Each one will create their own algorithm.
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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.
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Wrap-up (10 minutes)
Once the paper is full, have the kids observe the creation.
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Ask students to draw two images:
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Connect with the innovator

Linda Liukas
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