Sugar Digest 2008-11-17

Sugar Digest

1. Planes, trains, and automobiles: While everyone else has been preparing for SugarCamp, I’ve been traveling across Europe, fulfilling some prior commitments. “If it is Monday, this must be Tampere.” I had a chance to attend a gathering of the Indo-German Business Forum (IGBF 2008) sponsored by Pratham e.V. in Düsseldorf and garnered a lot of interest in the use and support of Sugar in the subcontinent. (Pratham’s goal: “Every child in school… and learning well.”) I also had a chance to address the free software community at a meeting in Bolzano, Italy, where my theme was the why—not just the how—of Sugar and free software: the appropriation of knowledge within the context of a critical dialog is a powerful model for both learning and software development. I’m in Finland now, fulfilling my obligations as a visiting faculty member at the University of Tampere. I taught a class on journalism and open systems. (In a life before Sugar, I was the running a program at MIT called “News in the Future”.) The gist of the program was discuss: our many mistakes from the past and the opportunities afforded by open communication, open knowledge, and open media—concepts that my generation seems to struggle with, but are second nature to the youth of Finland and probably youths everywhere.

2. Regional Sugar Labs have been a topic of discussion on each stop in my travels (and also in my recent trip to Peru). A distributed project—we chose to name Sugar Labs, plural deliberately—where there is a local sense of ownership and associated entrepreneurship feels like the right course for us as an organization. Sugar Labs “central” is the community itself, which would be responsible for setting clear goals and maintaining any necessary infrastructure needed by the project as a whole, while the regional labs would use the own means to make Sugar relevant to their local communities. But what is the “business model” for a successful Sugar Lab? It seems that some necessary conditions for success would be:

  • a university connection as a local human resource
  • a local pilot user group to learn from
  • a local passion or sub-goal that provides a rational for the work

What are other considerations? And are these initial “conditions” correct?

3. The impact of Sugar: We need to be able to communicate the impact of Sugar on learning. Some measures are beginning to come in from the field, e.g., the report from Peru I cited last week, however, more concrete numbers and stories of how Sugar has positively change individual lives would be of great value to the project. The audience of these communications are the free software community, educators, educational researchers and activists, philanthropies that can help support the efforts of these groups, and organizations that want to build products or service on top of Sugar (either for or not for profit). Put your stories in the wiki or share them on the mailing lists.

4. In a related thread, Babu Ram Poudel, deputy director of the department of education in Nepal has posted a white paper entitled “On Using Digital Curriculum and OLPC in Nepal” in order to initiate discussion. I’ve asked them to post the paper in a public place so that the Sugar community can provide feedback.

5. Just because it is cool: Daniel Ajoy sent this link to the OLPC Sur list (Saturn eclipse). Wow.

Community jams, meet-ups, and meetings

6. First National Volunteer Network Support Plan Ceibal: On November 15 there was the first national meeting of the registered volunteers (RAP) for Plan Ceibal, the Sugar/OLPC deployment in Uruguay. The meeting was attended by 300 volunteers, with representatives from 17 departments around the country. The citizens of Uruguay are very active in their efforts to ensure that their national project is a success. It is great that the project is so open to the volunteer community.

7. Sugar Camp is underway in Cambridge.

8. Mashup Camp Mountain View will be held on 17–19 November.

Sugar Labs

9. Self-organizing map (SOM): Gary Martin has generated another SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see SOM). It is great that the peak in the center of the image is a cluster of “Sugar”, “Work”, “Make”, and “Think”.

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