Hello Ruby: Creating a research kit for kids all over the world to better understand their relationship with technology.

Hello Ruby is the most whimsical way to learn about technology. In this project I got to know more about kids by designing a cultural probe kit that 130 kids filled out and sent back. The kit gave insight to the daily lives hobbies of kids, but also their relationship and feelings with technology, computers, and code. This research is still carried out 3 years later with kids from Asia to America and all in between.

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I have been an active writer for the Hello Ruby blog as part of sharing the findings of my research. You can read about what kids think happens inside a computer here and here. About learnings from working at the intersection of kids and tech here. On how to create cultural probe kits for children here. The probe kit I designed is open source, ask me if you would like a copy.

How to conduct Design Research for Kids

When dealing with children, gaining insight is quite a challenge as they are not able yet to follow traditional surveys, questionnaires, or even interviews and to be honest, these methods seriously limit the creativity of a child. Moreover, kids’ attention spans are short, their thoughts are jumbled, and they don’t think very linearly. They are often guarded with their responses or in most cases influenced by their peers, teachers, or parents. We needed to design something that they could take home, fill out on their own, at their own pace and own comfort, then give it back in and have fun while doing it.

Children enjoy drawing over thinking as they enjoy the tangible world. They prefer making over explaining. Ask a child how he feels, and he struggles. Ask a child to build or draw and they can spend hours creating masterpieces. Kids are the real makers of the world that do without inhibitions or concern. I have learned that technology, or pedagogy, or any other form of teaching should focus as much, if not more, on the physical making as the empirical learning. So, less time on the digital and more on the tangible.


snapshots of the kit results

You can read a full description and analysis in two simple blogposts here and here.


The way technology is designed for children just seems to be in the form of adaptation. Adapting adult’s products and creating a child version of it. Designing for children gives immense opportunities for new interactions. They have the energy, intrigue, and have not seen it all. Products can take a lot of different forms. Yet we see Apps on tablets, or just more private and secure platforms of already existing ways of interacting copied and modified with some colors and graphics and handed to children. There is a huge opportunity to shift the way products are being made.