Sugar Digest 2015-04-28

Sugar Digest

1. Sugar Labs got six slots from Google. We had 67 applications — many quite strong — so there are undoubtedly a lot of disappointed students (and mentors — we have seventeen community members who have signed up). But we have six great students/projects so there is lots to look forward to this summer. Congratulations to:

  • Abhinav Anurag, Redesigning Collaboration Using Web Technologies
  • Amit Kumar Jha, Turtle Blocks for in-line programming
  • Ishan Sharma, Turtle Blocks 3D JavaScript
  • Yash Khandelwal, Music Blocks
  • Michaël Ohayon, Sugar WebBasic Activity Set
  • Richa Sehgal, Interactive Javascript Shell

We’ll be holding our first organizational meeting on Friday, May 1 at 14:00 UTC on irc.freenode.net #sugar-meeting. Please join us if you are interested in participating in any of these projects.

In the news

2. I clicked on the link, having been baited by the teaser: 16 Startups Poised to Disrupt the Education Market (You won’t believe #8). Alas, none of them have anything to do with learning.

3. Sebastian Silva posted a link to an article in ”The Atlantic” about the future role of the teacher in elementary and secondary education that is thought-provoking. In essence, the author is conceding teaching to the myriad of resources becoming available on the web and parroting Sugata Mitra’s position that children will learn given access to kiosks connected to the Internet. I remain skeptical: none of the scant evidence I have seen from Mitra (or the much talked about OLPC tablet experiment in Ethiopia) is convincing. Perhaps the succinct way I can express my doubts is to assert that no one has ever learned to program from reading a book (or attending a MOOC). You can only learn to program by programming.

I don’t doubt that resources will continue to amass on the web and that we can algorithmically steer students through those materials wherever Internet is generally available, but I am yet to be convinced that access can or should be equated to learning. Learning is a culture, one that is includes a spirit of open access, but also mutual support, respect, and responsibility. (These attributes of learning culture are tightly aligned with the culture of Free/Libre Software, one of the reasons I remain convinced that Free/Libre Software is fundamental to the future of education.) Children need access to powerful ideas, but there is still no getting around the need to do, to make, and to engage in order to learn.

In the community

4. With help from the Musson Foundation (and Trip Advisor) I ran a Turtle Art Day in Kingston, Jamaica, on 23 April for sixth-grade girls from five local schools. The girls had been given Android tablets with fairly stale bits. We tried running Turtle Blocks (both with the APK and through the browser) with out much success. So we switched to a variety of computers — whatever was kicking around the workshop venue — and the fun began in earnest. See [1] and [2] to read some of the local press about the event. (Note that the press someone turned “Turtle Art Day” into “Total Art Day”. Cute.)

5. Claudia Urrea and I will be heading to Managua in early May to both plan a Turtle Art Day and to discuss mechanisms for engaging the local universities in supporting the ongoing efforts in Nicaragua.

6. I’ll be doing a Turtle Art workshop in Tel Aviv in early June.

Tech Talk

7. The Sugar spin of Fedora 22 is now in Beta.

Sugar Labs

8. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2015-04-09

Sugar Digest

1. I just returned from India, where I had the pleasure of giving the keynote at BITs Pilani (my theme was how Sugar can provide the means for appropriate of knowledge) and then headed to Mumbai to give some Turtle Art workshops. At Pilani, which draws upon students from across all of India, I had a chance to spend time with students to discuss Sugar in greater detail and met with several GSoC candidates. In Mumbai, I was able to use the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education as a base (thanks to G Nagarjuna). Turtle Art Day was split across two venues: first, a workshop for educators, where we put the new Javascript version through a workout, and then at a nearby school, where we worked with a fourth grade classroom using some XO-1 laptops. Both groups seemed to take to turtle — “hard fun” had by all. While in Mumbai, I also had a chance to visit with Tata Trusts, to discuss possible venues for collaboration, including a possible Sugar pilot in Assam. And I visited IIT Bombay, where I met with the IITB Tata Centre, which pursues education and development projects across the subcontinent. Many thanks to Harriet Vidyasagar, who both helped to organize the Mumbai visits and to provide insights into local culture and needs.

2. At Monday’s Sugar Labs oversight board (SLOB) meeting, we voted to add two new members to the Sugar Labs Membership committee: Sebastian Silva and Caryl Bigenho. They have tasked themselves with getting the members list refreshed. We are looking to recruit another committee member (or two) to help with outreach. Someone connected to the community of youths contributing patches to Sugar would be ideal. Also, recruiting more educators who use Sugar in their classrooms would help round out the committee.

3. 67 students have applied to work as interns for Sugar Labs as part of Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2015. I’ve read through the applications and we have some very strong candidates. It will be a difficult decision as to how assign the slots we receive from Google — the number is still to be determined. I have already begun looking for other means of support we might offer to some of the qualified students who don’t make the cut. The mentors are meeting this evening to discuss the applications.

In the community

4. I’ll be doing a Turtle Art Day in Kingston, Jamaica, on 23 April. Details to follow. I’d love to reconnect with any Sugar users while I am in the area.

Tech Talk

5. James Cameron has been running performance tests on the XO-1 hardware, comparing boot and activity launch times across a number of builds. It is great to have some data to look at. The good news is that we have been making steady progress over the past few releases in terms of reducing boot and launch times. Those of you running old versions of Sugar/Fedora on XO-1 hardware should consider looking at Sugar 104. Many bug fixes, improved stability, etc., and as James has demonstrated, seemingly minimal impact on performance.

6. Peter Robinson announced the availability of Release Candidate 1 of Sugar 104 on Fedora 22. Please help with testing. (The .iso files can be found at https://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/alt/stage/22_Beta_RC1. Look for SoaS images for your preferred architecture.)

7. We will be meeting on Saturday, 11 April, to continue discussing plans the 106 release. Please join Martin Abente Lahaye and the Developer team on irc.freenode.net (#sugar-meeting) at 22:00 UTC.

Sugar Labs

8. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2015-02-12

Sugar Digest

1. A few weeks ago there was a guest op-ed piece, “Can students have too much tech?”, in the NY Times arguing among other things that Internet access was undermining programs like One Laptop per Child. I found it surprising that Susan Pinker would cite One Laptop per Child as the principle example of the children using computers to chat and play games on the Internet (which she soundly criticized), since almost none of the children who received laptop computers through OLPC programs have ready access to the Internet (at school or at home).  The exception of course being Uruguay, where every child has both a laptop and Internet access. Indeed, as a 2010 survey showed, the children in Uruguay play games – they are children after all – but they also use email, search for information, chat (also known as reading and writing), make music, artwork, and videos, program, and, in general, use the computer as a tool for problem solving. Contrary to the assertion that the program is “drive-by” education, a continuing effort is put into teacher training, community support, and outreach.

That said, some people associated with OLPC —  including my former colleague Mr. Negroponte — are outspoken advocates for solutions that mitigate the need for teachers in elementary education. The X Prize for Education is designed around that approach and further requires that any proposed solutions be Android-tablet based. Not to say that it may be possible to engineer such a solution, to constrain the contest to an unproven pedagogical framework seems ill-advised. (Many tablet-based solutions have begun to distribute physical keyboards in acknowledgment that no one serious about writing or programming works exclusively with an on-screen keyboard. And while it is theoretically possible to exercise Software Freedoms on an Android tablet, in practice it is still well beyond most of us.) Meanwhile, here at Sugar Labs, we encourage open collaboration among students, teachers, and our community.

2. Martin Abente, our Sugar Release Manager, is pleased to announce the release of Sugar (sucrose) 0.104.0. This release includes new features and a multitude of bug fixes from Google Code-In and Summer of Code students, deployments and community members.

We are compiling detailed release notes at 0.104/Notes.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this release and special thanks to Martin for shepherding the process.

3. Sugar Labs is applying to Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2015. The application to Google has been submitted and we are in the process of building the associated wiki pages Summer_of_Code/2015. We often use GSoC as a way of exploring new ideas and future directions; for example, last summer we had projects on extending Turtle Blocks into three-dimensions and porting Sugar to Python 3, among others. This year we are going to take a more focused approach, concentrating on fleshing out and making more robust the Javascript support within Sugar. Sample projects will be added to the wiki over the next few days. We can always use more project ideas (please add them to the wiki) and more mentors (if you are interested, please contact me over the next few weeks).

In the community

4. Tony Anderson reports that he has finally has most of the Project Bernie website completed. This website shows what content is available on the School Server. (The School Server is a repository of content and services for Sugar deployments.) Tony reports that there are about 200 Sugar activities available to be installed from the school server; digital textbooks from Siyavula, and courses on Python, Web technology, and the Command Line Interpreter (Terminal activity).

Tech Talk

5. Peter Robinson, who has been coordinating the Sugar on a Stick releases (most recently for Fedora 21 [x86_64], [i686]) is looking for help coordinating testing and general community communications and facilitation. Peter is a great mentor, so it would be a nice opportunity for someone(s) to both contribute to the project and to learn more about packaging. Please contact Peter (pbrobinson AT gmail DOT com) if you are interested.

Sugar Labs

6. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2015-02-03

Sugar Digest

1. Congratulations to Ignacio Rodríguez and Sam Parkinson, the grand-prize winners from Sugar Labs in Google Code-in. Our finalists are Cristian Garcia,
Daksh Shah, and Jae Eun (Jasmine) Park.

All five did great work, fixing bugs, writing documentation, and taking us to new places.

2. Since the contest finished, Ignacio and Sam have continued to contribute patches almost daily to Turtle Blocks JS. Jasmine has written some beginner guides (See TurtleBlocksIntroductoryManual.pdf] and TurtleBlocksAdvancedBlocksManual.pdf). If you haven’t checked it out, please give it a try (feedback most welcome).

Sugar Labs

3. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2015-01-21

Sugar Digest

In schools, all hardware and software bestow agency on one of three parties: the system, the teacher, or the learner. Typically, two of these actors lose their power as the technology benefits the third. Ask a group of colleagues to create a three-column table and brainstorm the hardware or software in your school and who is granted agency by each. Management software, school-wide grade-book programs, integrated learning systems, school-to-home communication packages, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and other cost-cutting technologies grant maximum benefit to the system. Interactive whiteboards, worksheet generators, projectors, whole-class simulations, plagiarism software, and so on, benefit the teacher. Personal laptops, programming languages, creativity software, cameras, MIDI keyboards, microcontrollers, fabrication equipment, and personal web space primarily benefit (bestow agency to) the
learner. — Gary Stager

1. Google Code-In. Wow. Finally a chance to catch my breath. Seven intense weeks: 60 students completed more than 300 tasks for Sugar Labs. The impact on Sugar Labs was even greater this year than in the previous years we have participated: more diversity among the participants, the mentors, the tasks, and a spirit of collaboration while striving for excellence prevailed throughout the contest. Thanks to Google and Stephanie Taylor for giving us this opportunity, to the contestants who not only did great work but taught me a thing or two along the way, and the mentors and community members who manned the IRC channel 24/7.

I want to acknowledge the Top Ten+ from whom we will be selecting our finalists this week (results announce in early February):

Ignacio Rodríguez, Daksh, samdroid, cristian99garcia, Ezequiel Pereira, svineet, Gtrinidad, Jas Park, Rafael Cordano, Richar, Sergio Britos, Aishmita Kakkar, Gabriel Lee, et al.

Also, some mentors (and community members) deserve special recognition: Andrés Aguirre, Daniel Francis, Gary Servin, Gonzalo Odiard, James Cameron, Jorge Ramirez, Mariah Villarreal, Rajul, Rodrigo Parra, and Martin Abente Lahaye.

Finally, a few projects worth mentioning:

* Turtle Blocks JS plugins (Ignacio, samDroid, Daksh)
* Turtle Blocks guides (Jas Park) TurtleBlocksIntroductoryManual and TurtleBlocksAdvancedBlocksManual
* Activity reviews (Gabriel Lee)
* Dasher app (Cristian Garcia)
* Enhancements to Physics (Svineet)
* Sugar bugs squashed (Ezequiel)
* Butia Measure (Gtrinidad)
* Simple scrolling interface for Sugar (Rafael)
and much much more.

2. As mentioned above, we have a number of new Turtle Blocks plugins (for both the Python and Javascript versions) as a result of Google Code-in. One of the more interesting inspirations for plugins comes from mashape.com, a repository of APIs for everything from translation services to a bicycle theft alert system. As Sugar becomes more web-friendly, we can take advantage of web services and also facilitate our users to craft their own tools and services. It is fun and empowering.

In the community

3. The Free Software Foundation has put together a nice video on the core ideas behind Free Software.

Tech Talk

4. Xevents is a TurtleBlocks plugin that makes it easy to design different types of accessibility interfaces through a variery of physical sensors types. It is being developed at FING by Andrés Aguirre and Alan Aguiar and was the focus of some of the Google Code-in work of Rafael Cordano.

5. For you OLPC XO 4 users, James Cameron has been working on enabling the second processor. He reports “about 38% improvement. For CPU tasks like rendering, alt/tab, kernel compiles, the improvement is somewhat more than 38%. For single threaded tasks that rely on memory bandwidth, performance is lower because the memory controller is shared between two cores.” When asked how it impacts Sugar, he said “it feels faster and more responsive.”

6. Martin has announced the tarballs for the last 0.103.x UNSTABLE release of Sugar before 0.104 STABLE. (We delayed the release a few weeks in order to take advantage of all of the bug fixes coming in from Google Code-in.) With this release we reach the API, UI and String freeze (See 0.104/Roadmap.

* http://download.sugarlabs.org/sources/sucrose/glucose/sugar/sugar-0.103.2.tar.xz
* http://download.sugarlabs.org/sources/sucrose/glucose/sugar-toolkit-gtk3/sugar-toolkit-gtk3-0.103.2.tar.xz
* http://download.sugarlabs.org/sources/sucrose/glucose/sugar-artwork/sugar-artwork-0.103.2.tar.xz
* http://download.sugarlabs.org/sources/sucrose/glucose/sugar-datastore/sugar-datastore-0.103.2.tar.xz
* http://download.sugarlabs.org/sources/sucrose/glucose/sugar-runner/sugar-runner-0.103.2.tar.xz

It’s time to switch focus on updating translations, everyone can contribute through or new Pootle instance. We have time until February 13, before the 0.104.0 STABLE release.

Sugar Labs

7. Please visit our planet at http://planet.sugarlab.org.

Sugar Digest 2014-12-15

Sugar Digest

1. Google Code In update: After the first two weeks, we have 33 participants and almost 140 tasks completed. The pace is faster than in years past, perhaps because we have more experienced Sugar users each year. You can follow the action (the contest runs for five more weeks) at [GCI 2014].

At the current pace, almost 500 tasks will have been completed by the end of the contest. If you have project ideas, please let me (or any of the other mentors) know. We can continue to add new tasks throughout the contest. Tasks include coding, but also documentation, quality assurance, outreach, etc.

2. We continue to make progress on Turtle Blocks JS (the Javascript version of Turtle Blocks). There have been many new contributions from participants in Google Code In and in generally, the code is approaching a point of stability. You can try it by visiting [https://turtle.sugarlabs.org] or by downloading the activity locally from [https://github.com/walterbender/turtleblocksjs]. Any and all comments, feedback, bug reports, merge requests, and suggestions welcome.

Tech Talk

3. Martin Abente has been working on new translation platform, including a new Pootle instance. He has been adding repositories there so translators can start working. If you are interested in having your project included in the new platform, please follow these instructions:
# If you still use our old Gitorious repository, please move your projects to Github. Gitorious is considered read-only now. (See [How_to_migrate_from_Gitorious] for details about how to move projects.)
# Update this [http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Translation_Team/Pootle_Projects/Repositories] wiki page so we can track your project’s repository.
# Be sure to grant commit access to [sugarlabs-pootle] the Sugar Labs Github Pootle user.
# Create a new user on the new translation platform ([http://translate.sugarlabs.org]).
# Please send an email to Martin (CC’ing sugar-devel) with a list of the repositories for your projects so that he can add them to Pootle. Don’t forget to specify your user name on the translation platform.

4. The final phase of the run up the the Sugar 0.104 release is testing and bug fixing. Martin has released tarballs for our (UNSTABLE) feature-freeze release, which can be downloaded from:
* [sugar]
* [sugar-artwork]
* [sugar-datastore]
* [sugar-runner]
* [sugar-toolkit]

We welcome all the help you can provide testing and fixing bugs!

Sugar Labs

5. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2014-11-03

Sugar Digest

1. I spent the month of October reacquainting myself with Javascript. Since I cannot learn without learning about something (to paraphrase Seymour Paper), I wrote a new version of Turtle Blocks in Javascript. It is far from finished, but it is already usable (at least from a Chrome browser — for some reason I have broken it on Firefox). Feedback most welcome both in terms of the activity itself and any improvements I can make to the code. (Note: saving is a bit flaky at the moment, so please be prepared to lose your work.)

It is inevitable that Javascript/HTML5 is in our future and so I am determined to make the best of it. While we were in San Francisco at the Google Summer of Code reunion, Martin Abente, Gonzalo Odiard, and I sent time with Raul Gutierrez Segales working on several aspects of the Sugar-web framework, including a model for “under the tree” collaboration. Martin wrote a simple server using socket.io and I wrote a simple neighborhood view that lets you see your collaborators. We had the opportunity to bounce ideas of Ben Schwartz, Sameer Verma, Aaron Borden, and Bernie Innocenti.

Raul, Martin, and I also did some brainstorming about developing a new web backend for the Sugar datastore based on git. Details to follow.

Tip of the hat to Alex Kleider, who hosted our Sugar Camp on his houseboat in Redwood City. Alex has also been providing me with comprehensive feedback on Turtle Blocks JS.

Aside: Raul added a wrapper to Turtle Blocks JS that enables it to be launched as a Facebook App. Not public yet as we await Facebook approval, but it opens some interesting possibilities about where we can take some of the core ideas from Sugar.

2. The Google Summer of Code reunion was lots of fun. A chance to catch up with old friends and to help bring into focus some future directions. I spent time with the Google Code In team and I got Sugar Lab’s application submitted. We still need to flesh out the wiki page with more task ideas and add our growing mentor list. Please contact me regarding details.

3. Gonzalo, Aaron, and Sameer organized Turtle Art Day San Francisco in conjunction with the OLPC SF meeting. While more sparsely attended than we had anticipated, nonetheless, it was an enriching experience for those who came. Martin also joined the fun, helping with some Turtle Bots programming.

4. It is not too late to toss your hat into the ring for the annual Sugar Labs Oversight Board election (AKA SLOBs). Four (4) seats are open (due to staggered seat terms) for election / re-election to the Sugar Labs Oversight Board for 2013-2014, those of Daniel Francis, Gonzalo Odiard, Adam Holt, and Claudia Urrea. Please let me know if you are interested running for one of our board seats and also, please add your self to the candidates’ wiki page. Also, since only members receive ballots, please be sure to sign up for membership by following the instructions in the wiki. Finally, we need help running the election itself. Please contact me (or Luke Faraone) if you are interested in helping.

Sugar Labs

5. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2014-10-01

Sugar Digest

1. September was an exciting month. We held the first Sugar Youth Summit in Montevideo, organized by Daniel Francis and Jose Miguel Garcia and generously hosted by ANEP. The event featured a day-long symposium and series of workshops, including ones on Turtle Art, Butia, and how to write a Sugar activity. One teacher who attended the Turtle Art workshop exclaimed that she could not believe the progress she made.

The event was attended by youths from Uruguay and Paraguay and educators and developers from as far away as Nicaragua and Colombia. We had an Argentine contingent as well.

The symposium and workshops were held on Software Freedom Day. Given the number of Python programmers in attendance, it occurred to me that we should petition the city of Montevideo to rename itself Monty Python (after whom the language was named) for Software Freedom Day each year.

The day before the symposium Gonzalo Odiard, Mariana Herrera, Jose Miguel, and I visited a school for children with special needs. As a result, during the code sprint that followed the symposium, we wrote three new activities that have their content and user interface tailored to the school’s population. Lorena Paz from Argentina, also in attendance, resurfaces a number of issues around accessibility that we will consider in the coming months as well.

Coincident with the weekend of hacking was a robo-Sumo contest at FING. It was a good opportunity to spend time with Andres Aguirre and Alan Aguiar of Butia fame and to recruit some new talent. Several of the more competitive kids joined us in the workshops. They took a special interest in Turtle Blocks 3D, one of the Google Summer of Code projects that is coming into its own.

Gonzalo and I also got a chance to meet with a group of teachers convened by Jose Miguel at his office at ANEP. These teachers are engaged in various project-based learning initiatives across the country. Really good work — utilizing the computer as a tool to enhance authentic inquiry by the children. I look forward to continued interactions with them.

2. At the workshop, Martin Abente presented the initial plans for Sugar 104. (Martin has generously offered to be the release manager.) The new features under consideration can be found at 0.104/Feature_List.

We’ll be discussing these features in an online meeting on 2 October at 13 UTC. Please join us on irc.freenode.net #sugar-meeting.

3. I’ve been working on polishing up the Turtle Blocks 3D code over the past few weeks. There are a number of improvements from where we (Anubhav and I) left things this summer. Notably, the interface between Turtle Blocks and Blender is much richer. You can export .OBJ files from Turtle and import them into Blender and export .OBJ files from Blender and import them into Turtle. Currently I am working on adding a 3D cursor, which I designed and rendered in Turtle Blocks 3D itself. See http://github.com/Anubhav-J/turtleart.git for a preview.

4. I’ve been working on a new activity similar to the Portfolio activity that is geared towards reflection. Like Portfolio, it draws upon Journal items that have been starred. It also allows the user to create reflections unrelated to any Journal items. The presentation is quite different from Portfolio, which is modeled after a slide show. Reflect is more like a stream, similar to the news feeds in Facebook and Google+. The stream supports comments and attaching media, and it can be searched by #tags. A preview is available at http://github.com/walterbender/reflect.git. Feedback most welcome.

5. It is time to begin preparing for the annual Sugar Labs Oversight Board election (AKA SLOBs). Four (4) seats are open (due to staggered seat terms) for election / re-election to the Sugar Labs Oversight Board for 2013-2014, those of Daniel Francis, Gonzalo Odiard, Adam Holt, and Claudia Urrea. Please let me know if you are interested running for one of our board seats and also, please add your self to the candidates’wiki page. Also, since only members receive ballots, please be sure to sign up for membership by following the instructions in the wiki. Finally, we need help running the election itself. Please contact me (or Luke Faraone) if you are interested in helping.

In the community

6. Several of us will be in the Bay Area for the Google Summer of Code summit in late October. In conjunction with that event, we’ll be holding a code sprint to look at the collaboration stack.

7. The next Turtle Art Day event will be a workshop at Prospect Hill Academy in Somerville. Caroline Meeks is hosting the event. I’ve been busy making Sugar-on-a-Stick USB keys to give the kids. (I’m using Ruben Rodriguez’s Trisquel TOAST image, which has an up-to-date copy of Turtle Blocks.)

We are also planning a Turtle workshop in San Francisco in October.

Tech Talk

8. Lionel Laské recently announced the fourth version (0.4) of http://sugarizer.org Sugarizer, a taste of Sugar for any device. Sugarizer reproduces the main features of Sugar in HTML5/JavaScript. It is available from a browser or as an Android application. Lionel presents Sugarizer in a talk at SugarCamp Paris.

9. Sebastian Silva and Laura Vargas recently announced that > 20000 children are now using Sugar Network. Tip of the hat to Aleksey Lim who has been working diligently behind the scenes on the project.

Sugar Labs

10. Please visit our planet at http://planet.sugarlabs.org.

Sugar Digest 2014-09-03

== Sugar Digest ==

I took the summer off from blogging, hence I have a lot to report about the exciting progress we’ve made of the past three months.

First, congratulations to our ten participants in Google Summer of Code:

Project Student Mentor
Music Suite Aneesh Dogra Gonzalo Odiard
Turtle Art 3D Anubhav Jaiswal Tony Forster
Activity Unit/UI Tests Gaurav Parida Daniel Narvaez
Port to Python 3 Kunal Arora Sameer Verma
Bulletin Board Nazrul Haque Athar Walter Bender
Hack a Stuffed Animal Jade Garrett Stephen Thomas
Social Help for Sugar Prasoon Shukla Paul Cotton
Cordova Container for Sugar Puneet Kaur Lionel Laské
Sugar Listens Rodrigo Parra Martin Abente

Also, thank you to both Google, for once again letting us participate in this great program and to our mentors, who gave time and attention to the students. I am happy to say that we not only learned a great deal, e.g., Kunal’s efforts have informed us as to what we will need to do to migrate to Python 3, but also, we have landed (or will land) much of the work.

For example, one of the projects, Turtle Art 3D, is now available for download from the Sugar activity portal.

2. We held a Turtle Art Day in San Antonio Texas in August as part of Open Ed Jam, organized by Mariah Noelle Villarreal. Tip of the hat to Ruben Rodriguéz, whose TOAST (Trisquel with Sugar) image was used in the workshop.

We used USB keys donated by Nexcopy as part of their Recycle USB campaign.

3. Speaking of Turtle Art, Cynthia Solomon, Claudia Urrea, and I wrote a paper, “(More than) Twenty Things to Do in Turtle Blocks” for the Constructionist Conference in Vienna. We made some videos as well.

In the community

4. There will be a Youth Summit held in Montevideo September 20-23.
ANEP (National Administration of Public Education) and Sugar Labs are organizing a World Junior Programmers Summit, a meeting among youths from different parts of the world who are working in software development. Taking advantage of this gathering, we are soliciting participation by leaders of educational programs interested in the potential that technology has on learning and in promoting meaningful participation of students.

This event will last for four days, three days for the youth meeting, and the fourth day for a series of strategic to discuss the current impact and future of the Sugar learning environment. The first day of the youth event will be open to anyone interested in joining the community of free software developers, while the other two days will be for those who are already actively involved in Sugar development.

Who should attend:
* Youths who have an interest in programming and / or have made ​​concrete contributions to the development of the Sugar learning environment;
* Leaders interested in participating in a series of strategic meetings to define the future of the Sugar learning environment.

Why participate in this meeting:
* To work with internationally recognized young a Python developers;
* Help define the future of the Sugar learning environment and future generations of software for learning;
* To connect with experts, convinced of the potential of technology in the development and learning;
* To strengthen the community of users of the Sugar learning environment around the world.

Anyone interested in participating in this important event should contact us immediately. ANEP has offered funding to cover the local costs for youths to participate in this event.

Registration is here.

Tech Talk

5. Martin Abente oversaw the release of Sugar 102 and is now gathering feature requests for Sugar 104.

Sugar Labs

6. Please visit our planet at http://planet.sugarlab.org

Sugar Digest 2014-05-15

Sugar Digest

Happy 6th Birthday Sugar Labs

1. I just got back from Turtle Art Day in Kathmandu, Nepal. OLE Nepal helped organize a 2-day workshop with 70+ children from four schools. Many thanks to Martin Dluhos, Basanta Shrestha, Subir Pradhanang, Rabi Karmacharya, Bernie Innocenti, Nick Dorian, and Adam Holt, all of whom contributed to the event.

It was not a surprise that children in Nepal are like children everywhere else: they take to programming like ducks to water. We began by taking the children in small groups to learn some basics about controlling the turtle: one child plays the role of turtle, one holds the pen (a piece of chalk) and the rest, in a circle, instruct the “turtle” how to draw a square. They need to be very precise with their instructions: if they just say “forward” without saying how far forward, the turtle keeps walking. If they say “right”, without saying how far to turn, the turtle keeps spinning. After they draw a square, I ask them to draw a triangle then they are ready to start with Turtle Art. I’ve posted a few of the chalk drawings in the wiki: simple ones from my session to more elaborate from those working with another one of the mentors.

After working with chalk, we went to the computers. On a laptop connected to a projector, I introduced Turtle Blocks, and again ask for a square. I show them that they can snap together blocks, e.g., forward 100, right 90; showed them the repeat block; and then I show them how to use the start block to run their program with the rabbit or snail (fast or slow). Over time, I introduced the pen and let them explore colors for awhile. Next, I introduce action blocks: make an action for drawing a square and then call that action inside of a repeat block followed by right 45, and you get a pretty cool pattern. This was followed by more open-ended exploration. I introduced a few more ideas, such as using “set color to heading” (the color is determined by the direction the turtle is heading); “set color = color + 1″ to increment the color; and “set color = time” to make the color slowly change over time. I also introduced a few other blocks, such as show, speak, and random. Finally, I introduced boxes. For this, I use a physical box: I ask the children to put a number (written on paper) in the box; then I ask them what number is in the box. I ask them to take the number in the box and add 1 to it. Again I ask them what number is in the box. I repeat this until they get used to it; then I show them the same thing using Turtle. The example program I write with them is to go forward by the amount in the box, turn right, and add 10 to the number in the box. I asked them what they think will happen and then show them that it makes a spiral. When they run it with the “snail”, they can see the number in the box as the program runs. Another block I explicitly introduced was the “show” block. We programmed an animation with “show image”, “wait 1″, “show image”, “wait 1″, … They recorded dance steps using the Sugar Record activity and used those images in their Turtle projects. As often as possible, we tried to have a child show their work to the entire group. At the end of the second day, we had a table set up for an exhibition; we had to keep adding more tables as more and more children wanted to show off their projects.

We originally planned on break-out sessions on Day Two, but we had a technical glitch on Day One, that slowed things down quite a bit. The children were running Sugar 0.82 on XO-1 laptops, which is nearly six-years old. They had them connected to the mesh network, which cannot scale properly to 70+ machines. The result was a lot of frozen machines. It took most of the day to figure out what was wrong. Once we turned off the radios, everything worked great. I also had to spin a stripped down version of Turtle Art, since a number of dependencies I use, such as some Python 2.7 features, were unavailable on 0.82.

We did have one break-out session for robotics. I brought a Butia to Nepal and I wrote the typical program with the kids to have the Butia go forward until it got to the edge of the circle (everyone was sitting in a circle on the floor); whomever the Butia approached had to push a button so that the Butia would spin and then go in another direction. We then added a few embellishments: the Butia would say “ouch” or “that tickles” when the button was pushed; and we had it take a picture of the child who pushed the button. We saved the files so we could use them to make an animation in Turtle Art.

Of note: One child approached me to say he is teaching himself to program Python. I showed him how to export Python from his Turtle Art projects. I’ll be curious how he uses that feature. I am making a new set to Turtle Cards to demonstrate the steps we took in explaining Turtle to the children.

Photos: [1] [2] [3] [4]

2. While I was in Kathmandu, I had a chance to meet with the Nepali FOSS community, thanks to Shankar Pokharel, Ankur Sharma, and Subir Pradhanang. We had a nice talk about the challenges and opportunities facing FOSS in Nepal.

3. Just before my trip to Nepal, I was in Mexico DF attending Aldea Digital. The central plaza in Centro Historico is turned into the world’s largest free Internet cafe for two weeks. I gave a lecture about Sugar and ran an impromptu Turtle Art session. (We installed Sugar in a VM on twenty Windows 8 machines and ran a session.) I also had a chance to meet Ian, the 9-month old baby of Carla Gomez: a future Turtle Artist.

In the Community

4. Mike Dawson, formally of OLPC Afghanistan, wrote a nice commentary on the Keepod in which he mentions Sugar on a Stick.

5. Google Summer of Code begins on the 19th of May. We’ll be meeting every week in IRC on Fridays at 2PM EST.

6. There is still time to enter the Sugar Background Image Contest.

Tech Talk

7. Daniel Narvaez has been building F20 images for XO: The XO-1 image boots into Sugar (latest from git) and wifi works. He has also built XO-4 images.

8. Daniel also built tarballs for 0.101.5 (sugar-0.101.7.tar.xz and sugar-toolkit-gtk3-0.101.5.tar.xz). We are now in string, API and UI freeze.

9. Please help us with testing of Sugar 102.

Sugar Labs

10. Please visit our planet.