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.

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