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.

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