Sugar Digest 2014-04-01

Sugar Digest

1. Daniel Narvaez just released Sugar 0.101.6 (unstable). See 0.102/Notes for detailed notes on changes since Sugar 0.100. The tarfiles are available at [1], [2],
[3] and new test builds are being prepared (keep an eye on 0.102/Testing). We’ve entered Feature Freeze (which had been extended by three weeks to enable us to land a few more features). Time to chase down bugs. Tip-of-the-hat to Gonzalo Odiard, Martin Abente, and Manuel Quiñones, who put so much effort into getting the last few features over the hump. Also, an extraordinary number of new features were contributed by our Google Code-in students: special kudos to Emil Dudev, Ignacio Rodriguez, and Sam Parkinson. Finally, it was really nice to see so many first-time contributors.

2. Gonzalo has made some videos demonstrating the new features in both Sugar 100 and Sugar 102.

3. We are reviewing Google Summer of Code applications. We had 35 applicants this year. We’ll know in a few weeks how many slots we get from Google.

4. I traveled to Colombia a few weeks ago with Claudia Urrea to visit a wonderful ANSPE project in Chia being run by Aura Mora. Saw some old friends (Sebastian Silva, Laura Vargas, and Sandra Barragán) and made many new friends. The highlights for me were the two Turtle Art workshops: one at the National University in Bogota and the other with the children in Chia.

5. Claudia and Erik Blankinship joined me on a panel discussion at LibrePlanet 2014. The panel, which will be available online, was “No more mouse: saving elementary education”.

:The lack of a mouse and the presence of “the mouse” are having a detrimental impact on global elementary education. The rush to adopt tablets is putting passive tools of consumption into the hands of young learners at a time in their development when “making” is paramount. The “Disneyification” of media further erodes the opportunity for personal expression by young learners. In this panel we will characterize these threats and discuss strategies for combating them.

In the community

6. Sugar Camp #3 - Paris, hosted by Bastien Guerry, will be held from 12-13 April in Carrefour Numérique – Cité des Sciences.

7. Claudia will be hosting a Learning Chat on Wednesday, 2 April, at 10AM EST, 15 GMT. The guest speaker will be Gonzalo. Please join us at #sugar-meeting. (These meetings will be held regularly on the first Wednesday of each month.)

8. The Sugar Background Image Contest has begun.

Tech Talk

9. I wrote a new activity while I was in Colombia: Word Cloud is a simple activity for generating word clouds from text.

10. Another new activity worth mentioning is Flappy by Alan Aguiar. Enjoy. (I cannot get past the first gate.)

Sugar Labs

11. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2014-03-09

Sugar Digest

1. Wow. We’ve surpassed 10 million downloads from

2. Daniel Narvaez just released Sugar 0.101.4 (unstable). See 0.102/Notes for detailed notes on changes since Sugar 0.100. We’ve entered Feature Freeze. Time to chase down bugs.

3. In preparing the release notes, it was really nice to see how many contributors we have. It was also remarkable to see how many commits were made by Gonzalo Odiard. Kudos.

4. Google Summer of Code applications can be submitted beginning Monday, 10 March. Applications close on 21 March. See How to participate.

In the community

5. Sugar Camp #3 – Paris, hosted by Bastien Guerry, will be held from 12-13 April in Carrefour Numérique – Cité des Sciences.

Sugar Labs

6. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2014-02-09

Sugar Digest

The task from K-12 is building a thirst for knowledge, pleasure in speaking up, and curiosity, curiosity, curiosity—persistently pursued. We need habits of the mind that carry over to the many hours we are not in school and the years and years that follow. –Deborah Meier


It has been awhile. Google Code In pretty much consumed me from mid-November to mid-January. From there I was spirited away to Sydney, where I am working with Paul Cotton on a new Sugar activity that the OLPC AU deployment plans to use for introducing Sugar to classroom teachers. And more recently, I just finished up the Sugar Labs application to Google Summer of Code 2014.

1. Regarding GCI, I am please to announce that Ignacio Rodríguez and Jorge Gómez were our two grand-prize winners. They will travel to Google in early April. Gonzalo Odiard will join them as the Sugar Labs representative. Our other finalists were Sai Vineet, Emil Dudev, and Sam Parkinson. An amazing group of young developers. Between them they made contributions to Sugar core, numerous Sugar activities, and enhanced our documentation. Ignacio wrote two new web services — [ PutLocker] and [ GDrive] — and four new Sugar activities during the contest. Jorge made numerous enhancements to Turtle Art and has written a first pass of Turtle Art in JavaScript. Sai Vineet added pen and rope objects to the Physics activity, developed unit tests for Sugar activities, and made numerous enhancements to Pippy. Emil Dudev converted Sugar core to use gsettings and added a microphone volume control widget to the Frame. Sam wrote an icon viewer to the Sugar Journal, made an amazing how-to video for view source, and enabled recording to external devices in the Record activity. All five have been very active since the end of the contest, continuing to make significant contributions. For example, Sam just revamped the Sugar notification service. I cannot sufficiently express the degree to which their contributions enhance our project: not just the code, which is of high quality, but the fact that Sugar, to a greater and greater extent, is being shaped by its end-user community. Kids from Australia to Zimbabwe taking responsibility for their tools of learning and expression. Wow. It works!

Ignacio and Gonzalo have assembled a page in the wiki to summarize the various contributions by the GCI participants [].

2. I am please to announce that José Miguel García has joined the Sugar Labs oversight board (AKA SLOB). José Miguel brings his years of experience in pedagogical research and practice to our discussions and he brings additional perspective from the South, where we have so many Sugar learners. SLOB members have been meeting regularly on the first Monday of each month at 9AM EST (14 UTC). Meeting notes can be found in the wiki [].

3. I submitted an application on behalf of Sugar Labs to [|GSoC 2014]. I’ve also begun assembling a page of project ideas. Please feel free to contribute additional idea. We are soliciting additional mentors, but please note that we are vetting our mentors quite rigorously this year to ensure that their commitment to the students is adequate to ensure a successful outcome. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

4. Manuel Quiñones and Gonzalo are organizing a [ design contest] for Sugar background images. More details to be announced soon.

In the community

5. [ Sugar Camp #3 - Paris], hosted by Bastien Guerry, will be held from 12-13 April in Carrefour Numérique – Cité des Sciences.

Tech Talk

6. Lionel Laské has been making great strides on [ "Sugarizer"], a version of Sugar that runs in a web browser.

7. Lots of cool new features in the [ Physics activity] (including collaboration) and [ Pippy].

8. Feedback regarding the beta version of the aforementioned [ "teacher training" activity] would be greatly appreciated.

9. I am on a mission to make as much of Sugar as possible available to “user space”. Part of that effort was realized by making Sugar extensions available from ~/.sugar/default/extensions. More recently, I have been working on a new web service (with help from Martin Abente) that exposes many basic [ Sugar services] to user space, e.g. sugar shell and journal. Again, feedback most welcome.

Sugar Labs

10. Please visit our [ planet].

Sugar Digest 2013-12-25

Sugar Digest

”Between the ages of five and nine, I was almost perpetually at war with the education system… As soon as I learned from my mother that there was a place called school that I must attend willy nilly—a place where you were obliged to think about matters prescribed by a ‘teacher,’ not about matters decided by yourself—I was appalled.” —Fred Hoyle

1. Another sweet year: Each year I am asked to write up a summary of the Sugar Labs activity for the Software Freedom Conservancy annual report. Here is a draft of this year’s report.

;JS/HTML5: Last year, our major major technical effort was the transition to GNOME Toolkit 3. This year, we have been focusing on adding Javascript/HTML5 support to Sugar. Under the leadership of Daniel Narvaez, Manuel Quiñones, and Lionel Laské, the developer team has made Javascript/HTML5 a first-class development environment, i.e., you can write Sugar activities in Javascript and they will behave in a manner equivalent to Python/Gtk3 activities, with Journal support, Sugar toolbars, etc. At the same time, these activities can run in a web browser and can readily be ported to platforms such as Android. This has been a community effort with contributions coming from all corners and has already attracted some new developers to the project.

;Web services: Another important technical development was the addition of web services to Sugar. Born from a weekend of coding in Raúl Gutiérrez Segalés’s living room, Sugar now has a framework for integrating with a wide variety of web services, enabling our users to take advantage of file sharing and social network utilities directly from within the Sugar Journal.

;Sugar activities: Our “app store” continues to grow, thanks in large part to contributions from Sugar users who have made the transition to Sugar developers. The trend of apps written by children who grew up with Sugar is holding: still more than 10% of our apps were written by children and at least 30% are maintained by children. Those numbers may increase given a recent development: thanks to the efforts of Marion Zepf, a Google Summer of Code intern, we can now export Python code from Turtle Art, one of the block-based programming environments in Sugar. From there, you are literally two mouse-clicks away from turning your program into a Sugar activity, which can be shared with friends or uploaded to the app store. Meanwhile, we are approaching ten-million downloads from our app store.

;Sugar core: We landed a number of enhancements created by our users. Some of my favorites from the past year are oriented towards end-user customization. We designed Sugar with a sparse aesthetic not because we wanted to promote Swiss design or because we were lacking access to professional designers; rather we wanted to let our users “complete” the look and feel to their own specifications. This is getting easier: Daniel Francis implemented multiple home views; Agustin Zubiaga Sanchez implemented background image support; Ignacio Rodríguez implemented a tool for customizing icons.

;Internationalization push: Chris Leonard continues to recruit and assist translation teams so that Sugar has better coverage in the mother tongues and indigenous languages of our users. One highlight of the past year is that Edgar Quispe completed the translation of Sugar into Aymara, one of the major indigenous languages of Peru. We have some funding from the Trip Advisor Foundation to expand our outreach for internationalization and are currently making a push to recruit more translators in Māori, Haitian Creole, Khmer, Gurani, and Quechua. (A tip of the hat to Larry Denenberg, whom has been working on the Hebrew translations and also made the connection between Trip Advisor Foundation and Sugar Labs.) Chris is also leading an effort to help upstream support for some of these languages, and we continue to host translation efforts for many upstream projects.

;TA Days: Also through the generosity of the Trip Advisor Foundation, we have been celebrating Turtle Art Days: so far in Paraguay, Uruguay, Singapore, Malaysia, Costa Rica, and Peru. Thanks to Claudia Urrea and the learning team who have made these events possible, helping us to promote programming as core pedagogical construct.

;Sugar and robotics: From the Butiá project begun at FING in Montevideo, we’ve seen huge growth in the interest in using Sugar (and in particular, Turtle Art) as a medium for introducing children to programming robotics. Andres Aguirre and Alan Aguiar have worked closely with Sugar Labs to develop a comprehensive programming environment and curriculum around robots. The latest “fork” is Junky, a project lead by Martin Abente in Asuncion. Meanwhile efforts to better support Sugar on platforms such as Raspberry Pi continue: one of our goals is to make Sugar suitable and desirable as a platform for the growing Maker movement.

;Sugar on a Stick: There have been almost 1,000,000 visits to the Sugar on a Stick page (a version of Sugar that will run on any x86-based computer that can boot from a USB stick). We had two releases of [[Sugar_on_a_Stick/Downloads|Sugar on a Stick]] in 2013. Also a GCI student updated the [[Sugar_on_a_Stick/Installation_Process|instructions for preparing a SoaS image]]. Kudos to Peter Robinson, Thomas Gilliard, and the rest of the SoaS team.

;Change in support model: Last year saw a change in focus at One Laptop per Child, developer of the XO computer, which continues to be the platform of choice for most Sugar users. While they still manufacture and sell the XO, they have put much of their effort into developing an Android tablet. This has meant relatively fewer OLPC resources directed towards XO and Sugar. The good news is that the major Sugar deployments have been stepping in: Developers in Australia, Uruguay, Nicaragua, et al. continue to support Sugar on the XO platform and the pace of Sugar development has actually accelerated. Exciting times for the project.

Other highlights from the Sugar Digest:
* Google Code In begins
* Turtle Art Day in Caacupé
* Sugar 100 released
* Sugar on the web demo
* Flavio Danesse expounds on teaching Python
* Turtle Flags released
* Shaping the Future
* Google Summer of Code
* An interview with Alan Kay
* Physics on the XO
* Web services debut
:January 2013
* Visualizing Turtle Blocks
* Claudia, Gonzalo, and Daniel join the oversight board

And some trends:
* Looking at visitors to, Uruguay still leads the way by almost an order of magnitude. Argentina, Philippines, and Thailand suggests there are many Sugar users on non-OLPC hardware in those countries.
* There is an uptick in the number of activities written by commercial third parties.
* The trend of kid-developed activities is holding (as well as kid-maintained activities).
* There are more ways for our users to modify Sugar itself, e.g., Icon Change.
* The School Server project has a new life thanks to a concerted community effort.

Last year’s report is available at [[Archive/Current_Events/2012-10-01]].

2. Google Code In. The way it is supposed to work: A student is working on task decides an activity would be better if it had an additional feature, so he adds it. Just two more weeks left. To date, more than 150 projects have been completed by 32 competitors. A few highlights: a icon view for the Journal, a pen object for Physics, a brilliant video on how to use view source [], a comic-book introduction to Turtle Art [], a new activity to enable end users to exploit the multiple homeview feature, a new web service to upload Journal objects to PutLocker…

In the community

3. April in Paris: Save 12, 13 April 2014 for SugarCamp Paris. Lionel Laské will be sharing more details in the coming weeks.

Tech Talk

Lots of gifts from the community:

4. Aura Mora, Felipe, Luis Felipe, and students of ICESI University developed a game around Values (See the Valorar Activity []).

5. Lionel Laské announced the second version of his prototype of Sugarizer, Sugar in a web page (See This version now include the list view of the home, datastore handling, popup menu on activities, and journal view.

6. Bert Freudenberg developed SqueakJS, a new Squeak VM that runs on Javascript (See []).

Sugar Labs

6. Please visit our planet [].

Sugar Digest 2013-12-06

Sugar Digest

1. A typical evening on the #sugar irc channel:

[19:59] * walterbender heads to dinner... no more reviews for a few hours
[20:00] <Foo> I'm tired :P
[20:00] <Bar> By the way, How old are you
[20:00] <Foo> Bar, 14 :P
[20:00] <Bar> oh, I am 10
[20:00] <Foo> :)
[20:00] <Foo> mini hacker :P
[20:01] <Bar> :)
[20:01] <Bar> lol
[20:01] <Foo> :P
[20:02] <Bar> So besides this, what do you do for fun?
[20:02] <Foo> in linux? None :P
[20:03] <Foo> Programming in python is fun :)
[20:03] <Foo> In windows play games (WoW)
[20:03] <Bar> Oh nice, I play ambit of Wow
[20:03] <Foo> :P
[20:03] <Bar> a bit lol
[20:03] <Foo> I didn't like lol
[20:03] <Foo> (Its #OT)
[20:04] <Bar> lol? the key or the game xD
[20:04] <Foo> the game :P
[20:06] <Bar> lol, I ment I play a bit of Wow, so I said a bit lol since I said ambit wow
[20:06] <Foo> :P
[20:06] <Bar> xD
[20:06] <Foo> what are building now?
[20:07] <Bar> umm.
[20:07] <Foo> dnarvaez, I founded a bug in sugar-build
[20:07] <Bar> So far Volo
[20:08] <Foo> Bar, ok
[20:10] <Foo> dnarvaez,
[20:10] <Foo>
[20:14] <Bar> how big is karma?
[20:14] <Foo> I don't know
[20:22] <Bar> Foo, so far I am at the Sugar tool kit
[20:44] <Foo> Bar, works?
[20:48] <Bar> yup
[20:49] <Foo> Bar, if you need more help, sent me a mail

1. Free software gives its users the license to make changes. Sugar tries to go a step further. It gives its users the means to make changes. And there is evidence that in fact our users do make changes.

2. I got off the plane from Malaysia just in time to get on line for the start of Google Code In. We’ve been at it two and 1/2 weeks and we have almost 70 tasks completed by 29 participants. (There are many more students working on their first task.)

3. Had a chance to visit some old friends and colleagues in Brazil last week, Jose Valente and Cecilia Baranauskas. I gave the keynote at CBIE 2013 at UNICAMP and had a chance to talk about Sugar and pedagogy. Because it was Thanksgiving week, I could not resist showing a picture of Bernie in front of a table full of pies. I then explained the Thanksgiving tradition of family, friends, and food. I bake special pies and cakes for Thanksgiving and I use tools that I only take out for special occasions. These tools are on a high shelf in my kitchen. So I have to reach for them. Those of you who know me, know that my coffee maker is an everyday tool, so it lives in a place of honor on a low shelf, where I have easy access. What should be on every learner’s low shelf? What should be ready at hand? I spent the rest of the talk arguing that programming should be on every learner’s low shelf.

In the community

4. Many thanks to Danishka Navin, Jeff Plaman, and the faculty at [ UWCSEA], where we held a Turtle Art Day on November 15. A classroom full of fifth graders spent their morning programming. I quote on of the students below:

:”In a program called Sugar we learnt to make lots of different patterns by commanding the turtle to do things. E.g. Arc 90o and go forward. Using this we could create many different things including paint which you could control using your voice! I really enjoyed it because I never knew something so complicated could be really fun and quite simple as using a comande [SIC]! I never thought I could be quite capable of doing something like that.”

Lunch was Indian food from the cafeteria, including freshly baked nan. If food was that good when I was in school, I may have been more attentive.

The afternoon was spent in discussions with teachers about pedagogy and strategy for introducing/leveraging Sugar in both UWCSEA and the various programs that the students encounter through their community service efforts. One attraction of Sugar is that it presents a level playing field.

That evening we piled into a van and drove to Malacca.

5. TK Kang organized [ olpc BaseCamp @ Malacca 2013] from November 16 to 18. We met up with many old friends (Bernie, whom I never see in Cambridge, was in Malacca). We spent a lot of time with both turtle and pedagogy. I ran a very fast-paced workshop and then joined a thoughtful discussion of next steps in outreach to and support for teachers. Jeff will be organizing a regular series of learning team meetings for people in the region (East Asia) to complement the meeting we hold in Spanish in the West.

At both events, I was able to distribute USB keys with Sugar on a Stick preloaded, thanks to the generosity of and

Tech Talk

6. Flavio Danesse shared the [ Python Joven site] with me. I am super impressed and super jealous of their cool logo.

7. Please visit the [[0.100/Testing]] page for Sugar set up by Gonzalo.

8. Aleksey Lim has set up a new [ stats server] for Sugar.

Sugar Labs

9. Please visit our [ planet].

Sugar Digest 2013-11-12

Sugar Digest

1. I’ve been busy pulling together tasks for Google Code In (with help from Gonzalo, Sebastian, Laura, and Daniel). Sugar Labs already has 153 tasks in the system so far, many of them culled from the bug tracker (I mostly focused on enhancements to begin with.) We can continue to add new tasks as the contest proceeds, so do be shy about suggesting things.

Also, please, we need more mentors. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Once more, I also encourage you to solicit contestants from our user community. Last year, we had great contributions from the Uruguay deployment. I am hoping we are also able to reach other deployments this year.

6. Finally released Turtle Blocks 193. I has Marion Zepf’s Python Export feature (tip of the hat to Alan Aguiar and Martin Abente who helped with some of the debugging). It is really fun. Create a Turtle Art project, export it as Python, then open it in Pippy, the Sugar Python editor. Alas, there is a bug in Pippy — that I am chasing down — that prevents it from exporting Python to Sugar activities. But once that is fixed, you’ll be able to author Sugar activities in Turtle Art!!!

Thanks too to Tony Forster, who helped me clean up the calibration for XO 1.75 and XO 4 sensor input.

In the community

3. There will be a Sugar/Turtle Art Day at UWCSEA on November 15.

4. olpc BaseCamp @ Malacca 2013 is being held from November 16 – 18. On the 16th, we’ll run a Turtle Art Day in parallel.

Tech Talk

5. Gonzalo updated the Features pages in the wiki. We are actively soliciting features for Sugar 102. Please send email to sugar-devel with your suggestions/plans.

Sugar Labs

6. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2013-11-01

Sugar Digest

1. Congratulations and thank you to Daniel Narvaez, the Sugar release manager, and the Sugar developer team on the occasion of the release of Sugar 100. It is by far the best version of Sugar to date and it was developed using the most effective workflow we have yet to embrace as a community.

What is new for users
* Web Services
* Multiple Home Views
* Multiple Selection in the Journal
* Enable the change of the Home Icon
* Improved Content Bundle Support
* Background image in Home View
* Database Support in 3G Modems control panel
* Improved Activities Updater
What’s new for developers
* Web activities
* Extending Sugar

Details are available [[0.100/Notes|here]].

Please contribute to our testing: You can run sugar-build or use one of the images Gonzalo Odiard has prepared for the OLPC XO hardware.

The tentative schedule for Sugar 102 is:

 0.101.0 - 12/01/13
 0.101.1 - 01/01/14
 0.101.2 - 02/01/14
 0.101.3 - 03/01/14 - Feature freeze
 0.101.4 - 04/01/14 - String, UI, API freeze
 0.102.0 - 05/01/14 - Final release

Daniel is soliciting feature requests; please send email to sugar-devel to get the discussion of proposed features started.

2. Sugar Labs has been accepted as one of ten organizations globally to participate in Google Code In. Last year’s contest was lots of fun and resulted in lots of tasks completed and some new developers joining our ranks. This year should be fun as well. I’ve put together a preliminary list of tasks for the contest. We can add more tasks as the contest progresses. (The contest begins on November 18.)

Please, we need more mentors. Please contact me if you have any questions.

I also encourage you to solicit contestants from our user community. Last year, we had great contributions from the Uruguay deployment. I am hoping we are also able to reach other deployments this year.

In the community

3. There will be a Sugar/Turtle Art Day at UWCSEA on November 15.

4. olpc BaseCamp @ Malacca 2013 is being held from November 16 – 18. On the 16th, we’ll run a Turtle Art Day in parallel.

Tech Talk

5. In the builds that Gonzalo has been preparing are a number of features we are testing in Australia. We hope to get many of these features accepted upstream in Sugar 102. Among these features are:

  • widgets for age and gender in the About Me section of the control panel
  • a webservice for sending Sugar journal items to the Journal Share activity
  • a webservice for gathering Sugar activity usage statistics
  • some new artwork for mesh views
  • a dbus service used to update favorite activities (used by the Share Favorites activity)
  • configurable limits to the maximum number of open activities
  • configurable limits to the maximum number of instances open for a given activity (e.g., limiting Record to one open instance at a time)

6. Working with Marion Zepf and Alan Aguiar (with some help from Martin Abente), we are close to releasing a version of Turtle Blocks that has Marion’s export Python feature. It would be great to work with some one on testing this feature in a middle-school classroom.

Sugar Labs

7. Please visit our planet.

Sugar Digest 2013-10-22

Sugar Digest

“Free software gives the license. Sugar provides the means.”

1. I’m back from a week in Paraguay and Uruguay to celebrate Turtle Art Days in Caacupé and Montevideo.

Turtle Art Day Caacupé exceeded my expectations. 275 students, their parents, and 77 teachers joined educators and Sugar developers from eight countries throughout the Americas and as far away as Australia (Tony Forster). Brian Silverman and Artemis Papert, the co-creators of Turtle Art, led workshops to a room full of enthralled children. Martin Abente, Andres Aguirre, and Alan Aguiar similarly led Butiá/Juky robots workshops, using TurtleBots. Claudia Urrea and I led workshops using Turtle Blocks, where the emphasis was on sensors and multimedia. Tony led a seminar with teachers on the pedagogical framework for Turtle Art. We were assisted by “Evolution” children, youth leaders in Caacupé who attend school in the morning, teach in the afternoon, and on weekends supply technical support to school programs (I hope we are able to recruit many of them to participate in Google Code In, should Sugar Labs be chosen to participate again this year). While I have come to expect that children will deeply engage with Turtle Art, the fact that they maintained intense focus for three consecutive two-hour workshops, 70 to room, with only short breaks, was unexpected. Many thanks to Mary Gomez, Pacita Pena, Cecilia Alcala, and the Paraguay Educa team for all of the work they did behind the scenes (and in the classrooms) to make the day a success.

Turtle Art Day Montevideo was teacher-focused rather than child-focused. Organized by José Miguel García, it attracted 70 teachers to ANEP for a series of workshops. Claudia and I began the day with a short lecture on pedagogy. The workshop themes included sensors (led by Guzman Trindad), robots (led by Andres and the Butiá team), advanced blocks, and turtle mathematics. During the robots workshop, we implemented inter-robot communication by taking advantage of some new collaboration blocks in Turtle Blocks (ported to TurtleBots): we mapped the accelerometer from one machine to the motors of another to make a remote-control steering wheel. In discussions the following day with Mariana Herrera, who works with children with severe physical disabilities, we came up with a simple adaptation that may enable her students to program Butiá using some buttons embedded in pillows.

Sdenka Zobeida Salas Pilco and the children at an Aymara-speaking school organized a Turtle Art Day in Puno as well: “Children and I organized quickly this event, they provided some ideas for celebrating, it was their idea to arrange the classroom and sticking balloons to the walls. Girls asked me to wear the traditional local clothes. They helped me a lot. Also, they prepared a song, some poetry and riddles in Spanish and Aymara language. Finally, the little ones worked some codes, 4th graders were exploring the activity, and 6th graders organized the event.”

Other Turtle Art Days are following: in Costa Rica, Malaysia, and possibly Singapore. While the primary purpose of these Turtle Art Days is to promote children learning through programming, an important secondary goal was also achieved: programming is not just in service of geometry (what Papert called “Mathland”) but also in service of whatever passion drives the child. (Artemis refers to the work she and Brian do as “Artland”. Work with sensors, robots, multimedia, etc., offer many “mountains to climb”.)

2. Other activities in Paraguay and Uruguay this week included EduJam in Asuncion, a Sugar Hackfest, a meeting with Pablo Flores and the Python Jóven, a Butiá workshop, and a Ceibal event for educators in Montevideo. Leticia Romero organized the first EduJam to be held regionally, at the National University of Asuncion. (I handed out >100 copies of Sugar on a Stick to interested attendees thanks to the generosity of Nexcopy‘s Recycle USB program.) It was well attended by educators and engineers from Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, et al. The hackfest was also well attended. It included testing of Sugar 100 in a session orchestrated by Gonzalo Odiard (a number of bugs were discovered and fixed), an introduction to the new HTML5/Javascript by Manuel Quiñones, and a discussion of a proposal from Brian to use an embedded Logo environment in the Arduino “brains” of the various robots programmed with TurtleBots. The Butiá workshop was an opportunity for me to observe how children use TurtleBots in programming their robots — a few of my observations led to some fine-tuning of the UI in TurtleBlocks-192. And a chance to get direct feedback from teachers who use Turtle Blocks in a wide range of activities. Eye-opening. We discussed the ongoing challenge of providing both a low floor and a high ceiling. The Ceibal event was also an opportunity to observe how teachers use Sugar. There were perhaps 100 booths set up with teachers showing their projects. What was most impressive to me was that these projects were developed locally by the teachers, not handed down to them by the commercial sector: a testimony to the fact that teachers, when given the opportunity, will learn and use that learning in their classrooms.

Many thanks to everyone from both .PY and .UY who were so welcoming and hospitable. It was great to see old friends and make some new ones. I am looking forward to returning to the region soon.

3. For the first time ever, four members of the Sugar Labs oversight board managed to be physically in the same place at the same time. Daniel Francis, Gonzalo, Claudia, and I met at a coffee shop in Montevideo and had a chance to discuss a number of topics:
(a) We agreed that we would apply again to Google Code In. It is imperative that the community come up with challenges for the contest. We’d like to focus more on bug-fixing tasks this year. I’ll be preparing the 2013 pages in the next day or two.
(b) We discussed the need to have more regular meetings (with preset agendas). I’ll be soliciting preferred times for a monthly meeting, beginning in November.
(c) We need to hold an election for four positions on the oversight board. Claudia, Daniel, and Gonzalo are continuing. The terms for Adam, Gerald, Chris and I are all expiring. Details to be posted shortly.
(d) We discussed the need to amplify direct communication with Sugar deployments. We’ll try to organize regular IRC meetings with technical and learning representatives from deployments.
(e) We discussed the possibility of establishing local “ambassadors” to deployments to also increase communication.
(f) We also want to hold brainstorming sessions on some specific topics, e.g., accessibility.

Sugar Labs

4. Please visit (and contribute to) our planet.

Sugar Digest 2013-10-05

Sugar Digest

1. I mostly look forward rather than back, so it is not often that I think about my time at the MIT Media Lab. But I had three occasions to think about it in the past week. I joined Yumi Mori and Toshi Takasaki in Tokyo last week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Pangaea, a project they started while I was director of the lab. I met some old friends, including K. Nishi, a pioneer in electronic publishing and Bernie Kirsher, who started the rural school program in Cambodia that was the catalyst for our founding One Laptop per Child program. Next, I gave a lecture at Kyoto University at the launch event of a new research program meant to bring Japanese industry and the university’s design school together. I dusted off an old presentation, “The Seven Secrets of the Media Lab” and then went on to describe how the same principles of design apply to Sugar: the foundation for learning is the same, whether you are 8 or 80. Finally, I was reminiscing with John Maeda, president of RSID and former colleague at MIT, about Jerome Wiesner. Jerry was the true visionary behind all of the programs in the arts at MIT, a proponent of “STEAM” rather than STEM [1,2] since the 1960s. Jerry’s one-sentence mission statement for the Media Lab, still has relevance:

“Technology in support of learning and expression by people and machines”

2. In anticipation of next week’s events in Paraguay (See items 3 and 4 below), I wrote a short manifesto about learning. Claudia Urrea will be fleshing it out with me, but I include a rough draft here:

“A good reason that kids should learn to paint, compose, play music, act *and* program computers is that each form of expression require deep commitment, careful thought, reflection, sensitivity to external and often unanticipated stimuli *and* build upon a young person’s remarkable capacity for intensity. They also allow a kid to spend intense periods of time inside of their own head.” — Gary Stager

Motivation is a key factor in education: how do we motivate children to learn and how do the mechanisms of motivation impact how and what children learn. Typical of most schools is the use of “carrots and sticks” (rewards and punishment, in the form of grades, stickers, and stars, and, in some places, literally the stick in the form of corporal punishment). This approach results in children learning to be adept at avoiding the stick, keeping their heads down, reciting the correct answers. Creativity and intellectual risk-taking are drilled out of them, as is the love of learning. An alternative approach, grounded in the literature, is to use autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose as motivators: children become practitioners of creative problem-solving, on the path to entrepreneurial pursuits.

In the early 1960s, while studying with Jean Piaget, Seymour Papert had the insight that computation was a “thing to think with”. He and his colleagues created Logo — the first programming language for children — in order to bring computational thinking to schools. (Early versions of Logo controlled a robot that raised and lowered a pen as it moved forward, left, and right on the floor. This robot resembled a turtle; consequently the turtle became synonymous with Logo.) For the next 40 years, Papert and his colleagues at MIT explored the use of Logo (and other tools) while developing a pedagogy that combined computation, personal expression, and authentic problem-solving in pilot programs around the world. Many of these pilots involved 1-to-1 computing, in order to ensure that the computer could be used as readily as a pencil by each child, in exploring and expressing. (As early as the 1980s, we were doing 1-to-1 computing in Senegal, Pakistan, and Colombia.)

In 2005, a team of researchers from MIT founded the One Laptop per Child program in an effort to provide every child with the opportunity to engage in the pedagogy of computational thinking. We pioneered the development of low-cost hardware for computation, sensors, and a durable form-factor suitable for both classroom and beyond-the-classroom exploration. We coupled the hardware with software that provides the scaffolding needed to encourage children and teachers to “imagine and realize” and “critique and reflect” upon their creations. Central to this effort is programming: Turtle Art, Scratch, Etoys, and other programming environments are made freely available to every child. Our goal is not to raise a generation of computer scientists, but rather, a generation of children who are comfortable with the discipline of computational thinking and able to apply this discipline to problem-solving in a wide range of domains: children who can invent their own future.

An important characteristic of the tools we provide is that they are not black boxes: children are free to delve deeply into the tools, see how they work, and even modify them. We do this by utilizing free and open-source software (FOSS), AKA Software Libre. We provide the license to use and modify the tools. We also provide the necessary scaffolding to enable them to make use of this license. Children are given the opportunity to make their own tools. With this opportunity comes a sense of ownership and responsibility. Thus we immerse children in a culture that values autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose.

We have been working in Paraguay in collaboration with Paraguay Educa and colleagues at ANU since 2007. Here we have found a community of educators well versed in the pedagogy of contructionism. They have had positive and pronounced impact on how computation is used in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities that has had far reach. We have also found talented practitioners. (An example of the quality of their efforts is Dextrose, a branch of our Sugar learning platform, which was conceived and developed in Paraguay and is used by more than 500000 children in Uruguay, Australia, Nepal, etc.) And we have also seen creativity in the teachers we work with in Caacupé. In the course of our collaboration, they have demonstrated not just the ability to apply our tools, but also to invent new ones, e.g., the Caacupé Abacus.

Looking ahead, in order to bring computational thinking to all the children of Paraguay, we need to: (1) provide Guarani language support (Sugar and Turtle Art are easily translated — learning in one’s first language has demonstrable impact); (2) adapt to local culture (both in terms of content and pedagogy); and (3) rethink the mechanisms we use to motivate children to become active and expressive in their learning. Together we also need to create a space of growth for the remarkable learning community in Paraguay so that they can make a difference in Paraguay, and consequently have a reason to stay in Paraguay. Together, we will raise a generation of problem-solvers; confident that they can be entrepreneurial; inventing the future Paraguay.

In the community

3. International Turtle Art Day will be on October 12. Pacita Peña and Cecilia Alcala will be hosting an event in Caacupé and there will be other events around the world sharing ideas and resources. Brian Silverman and Artemis Papert will be featured guests. There are guides to holding a Turtle Art Day event available in English and Spanish. (Tip of the hat to Claudia Urrea, who has led this effort.)

4. Another Turtle Art Day event will be held on October 15 in Montevideo, organized by José Miguel García. Details soon. We also have a Turtle Art Day planned for Malacca on November 16.

5. From 10-13 October, there will be an EduJam!, in Asunción. On the 13th, we will hold a hack-a-thon, and hopefully make some headway on some of the open issues with Sugar on Android. We will also take advantage of the occasion of so many Sugar oversight board members (Gonzalo, Claudia, and me) in one place to hold a SLOB meeting (on Sunday morning).

Tech Talk

6. We are wrapping up Sugar 100 and need all hands helping with both closing a few outstanding tickets and helping with testing. Gonzalo has prepared a new image (Fedora 18) for OLPC AU that can be used for testing in XO-4 hardware.

Sugar Labs

7. Please visit (and contribute to) our planet.


Sugar Digest 2013-09-16

Sugar Digest

1. The New York Times had an article about the tablet invasion, “No Child Left Untableted“, in this Sunday’s magazine section [1]. The author of the article was a skeptical of the approach taken by the Murdoch-backed Amplify tablet. I’ve not seen the Amplify tablet yet, so it is difficult to judge, but there is one photograph in the article that says it all: a tablet showing a blue screen with the words “Eyes on Teacher”. When technology becomes the affordance used by the teacher to control the class, it is a sure sign that the use of technology has gone seriously awry. With Sugar, we celebrate the fact that the students are so engaged with learning that the teacher can (in some cases literally) throw the stick out the window. It seems with Amplify, they are handed a $199 digital stick.

2. There has been a renewed discussion on the lists about Android. (The topic seems to come up once every 2-3 months.) Meanwhile, the Sugar developer team continues to make great headway. Our approach has two stages. The first stage is to make HTML5/Javascript a first-class development environment for Sugar. The basics are largely complete: we already have about a dozen new activities that use the new framework. There are many details that still need addressing and undoubtedly the framework will change as we gather more experience, but please do try it: early feedback is very helpful. The second stage is to migrate to the HTML5/JS apps to the Android platform. We also need to migrate some Sugar services to Android, such as the data store, and design some mechanisms for collaboration (we are exploring, among other things, a web-services approach to collaboration).

There are other approaches to getting Sugar up on Android. I blogged about some efforts last year by students at the Homi Baba Center to get Linux running on a generic tablet in order to run Sugar. George Hunt has been taking a similar approach. Ruben Rodríguez has been working with Ubuntu on Android, which would also support Sugar. These efforts would likely provide more backward compatibility to existing Sugar deployments; the downside is the need to reboot to launch Android apps. As always, the problem with dual-boot in a school setting is that the maintenance and support costs double.

At the core of both efforts remains a dedication to what makes Sugar valuable to the learner: the emphasis on tools for constructing; the Journal providing interoperability between objects and a place for reflection; the facility with which learners can collaborate; the empowerment of the end user as the constructor of both tools and knowledge. We remain dedicated to the principles of Free Software, even in the commercial world of Android.

In the community

3. International Turtle Art Day will be on October 12. Pacita Peña and Cecilia Alcala will be hosting an event in Caacupé and there will be other events around the world sharing ideas and resources. Brian Silverman and Artemis Papert will be featured guests. There are guides to holding a Turtle Art Day event available in English and Spanish. (Tip of the hat to Claudia Urea, who has led this effort.)

4. From 10-13 October, there will be an EduJam!, in Asunción. On the 13th, we will hold a hack-a-thon, and hopefully make some headway on some of the open issues with Sugar on Android. We will also take advantage of the occasion of so many Sugar oversight board members (Gonzalo, Daniel, Claudia, and me) in one place to hold a SLOB meeting (most likely on Sunday morning).

5. Google Summer of Code is coming to a close. We have had a terrific group of student interns, who contributed to a wide range of projects. Many thanks to: Kalpa Welivitigoda, Akshit Khurana, Marion Zepf, Casey DeLorme, Erik Price, Rahul Gaur, and Suraj KS. Also, many thanks to our community mentors, including Marten Abente, Lionel Laské, Claudia Urrea, Gonzalo Odaird, Remy DeCausemaker, and Aneesh Dogra.

Tech Talk

6. We are wrapping up Sugar 100 and need all hands helping with both closing a few outstanding tickets and helping with testing. Gonzalo and Jerry have been preparing images (Fedora 18 for OLPC AU that can be used for testing [10]. Kudos to our release manager Daniel Narvaez!!!

7. Tom Gilliard has been making SoaS images on Fedora 20 that can also be used for testing. Meanwhile, the previous release of Sugar (98.8) is available on Ubuntu (12.04) thanks to the efforts of Quidam.

Sugar Labs

8. Please visit (and contribute to) our planet.