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.

Sugar Digest 2013-08-22

Sugar Digest

“When I want to read a novel, I write one.” — Benjamin Disreali

“An expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows.” — Frank Lloyd Wright

1. Flavio Danesse made a post on the Sur list about his approach to teaching Python programming to children of age 12. He eschews the use of IDEs and other affordances in favor of giving them a basic understanding of simple, readily available tools.

Yo me hice 5 repartidos básicos en pdf que conforman los tres talleres base de python joven, donde se les enseña a usar la terminal, a escribir código en un archivo, a ejecutarlo, luego se enseñan los tipos de datos, los operadores de todo tipo, control de flujo, conversiones de tipo, colecciones, funciones, clases, y poca cosa más.

A eso hay que agregar que también hay que enseñarles donde pueden consultar el api, como buscar ayuda en internet, etc . . .

Flavio goes on to say that when they are beginning to understand these things, he starts them on small exercises and only then the GTK API. Some of the students go on to use IDEs, but only after they have a strong foundation.

There is evidence that his approach has merit: many of the young programmers from Uruguay who have contributed so much to Sugar are current and former students of Flavio.

2. We continue to make great progress in our efforts to make HTML5/Javascript a first-class development environment in Sugar. An indication of progress is that community members not directly affiliated with the development effort are beginning to write Sugar Apps using the new API. More details can be found at here.

3. Gonzalo Odiard and I have been doing some work on classroom management in support of the OLPC AU deployment. The basic idea is to make it easier for the exchange of a variety of data within a classroom setting: the Journal Share activity enables bi-directional sharing of Journal objects, facilitating the distribution of materials and resources, as well as handing in homework assignments; the Share Favorites activity enables a group of students to share their Sugar desktop favorites settings, so that when embarking on a group or class project, everyone has access to the same set of tools; the Share Stats activity enable students to share activity-usage statistics with the classroom teacher, part of a general effort to make learning visible to both students and teachers.

Regarding statistics gathering, we’ve implemented an age/gender setting in the Sugar control panel so that data can be sorted by age. This work is not yet up-streamed, but the patches are available here and here.

4. I’ve been working with Spirituality for Kids to make their videos and lessons available as Sugar activities. We published English-language activities one month ago and Spanish-language activities this week.

5. “Dog bites man”: I’ve made some changes to Turtle Blocks. In response to a request from a teacher in the OLPC Charlotte deployment, I changed the way in which the coordinate rescaling works. (Chances are you didn’t even know Turtle Blocks lets you transform the coordinate scale. It is done with a button on the View toolbar.) By default, the turtle coordinates are scaled to pixels: if the turtle moves forward 100, it moves 100 pixels. But traditionally, Logo is scaled from 0 to 100; in that mode, forward 100 would move the turtle from the center of the screen (0, 0) to the top of the screen (0, 100). But for young children just being to learn numeracy, they typically use only one- and two-digit numbers. So I changed the scale from 0 to 20. In this new scaling, moving forward by single digits results in a readily visible change on the screen. I now save the coordinate scaling in gconf so that the user need only set it the first time they use Turtle Blocks (or it can be set as part of a deployment’s configuration.) See Turtle Blocks v187.

Speaking of Turtle Blocks, Google Summer of Code intern Marion Zepf continues to make great progress on the export-to-Python extension. As a result of her work, Turtle Blocks projects can be exported as Python code. Our hope is that this will facilitate some of our users in making the transition from block-based programming languages to text-based programming languages, which are better suited for more complex tasks. (For example, the most complex Turtle Blocks program I have ever written uses about 1000 blocks. But Turtle Blocks itself is more than 25,000 lines of code. This suggests there is a gulf between the complexity we can reach in a block-based environment and a text-based environment.)

In the community

6. 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.)

Tech Talk

7. Daniel Narvaez announced that we have entered the final phase of the run up to the Sugar 1.0 release. Please help us with testing. There is a short list of bugs we are hoping to quash in time for the final release at the end of September.

Sugar Labs

7. Please visit (and contribute to our planet.

Sugar Digest 2013-07-24

Sugar Digest

Dr. Ambedkar believed that … to escape from oppression, they had to … ‘educate, agitate and organize’ their way to emancipation. –Ramachandra Guha

1. Just for fun, taking inspiration from a conversation with Manuel Quiñones, I added a new sample program to Turtle Art. The sensor-record.tb project lets the user draw a picture with the mouse (or touch) and generates on the fly a Turtle Art project that will reproduce the drawing. Silly, but fun nonetheless. It comes bundled with the Version 185 of Turtle Blocks. (I still have the goal to recreate all of Sugar in Turtle Art.)

2. I also finally got around to writing a variant of Turtle Confusion based on flags. Turtle Flags uses a database of national flags from the Wikipedia to present programming challenges. The first flag is Peru, which is red and white stripes. But things get more challenging from there.

3. Spirituality for Kids is a website that attempts to help children “understand the benefits of human dignity, tolerance, connecting to self, community, and the world, they are better equipped to become conscious leaders in their homes, schools and communities.” I’ve worked with them to convert some of their material into a series of Sugar activities (See [1]). Two caveats: (1) the activities contain some rather large OGV videos, so be prepared for long download times and make sure you have plenty of available disk space. (I had broken the original activity up into 6 parts to address this, but may have to break it up even further.); and (2) the content is English only at the moment. I am working with them on packaging their Spanish-language videos.

4. Aura Mora announced three new Sugar activities from the ANSPE project in Colombia (National Agency for Overcoming Extreme Poverty):

  • Super Chef: This game raises the challenge to service many patrons in the shortest possible time. The Chef should suggest and prepare delicious and nutritious recipes at different times of day: breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner. So, while the child attends to customers, proper practice habits and learn food preparation varied and nutritious recipes for each meal.
  • Cuidarme: This is a skill game where the player must resolve a conflict destroy a ghost.
  • Participation: The challenge of this game is to match sporting, cultural and recreational activities and institutions that are offered in your area.

5. Ignacio Rodriguez (with some help from his friends) created a new activity to let Sugar users change the XO avatar in the user interface. In the spirit of encouraging our users to make Sugar into an expression of their own learning.

In the community

6. It is official: 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. More details soon.

Tech Talk

7. I’ve been working in enhancing the intra-Sugar statistics gathering mechanism in order to “make learning visible” to the child and classroom teacher. We landed a patch to Sugar a while ago to record activity launch times (previously, just the most recent launch time was recorded). With these new data, it is possible to not just make visible which activities have been used, but also, how often each instance of an activity has been used. I’ve modified the|Analyze Journal activity to reflect these changes and Gonzalo Odiard and I are working on a classroom management system to facilitate sharing of these data between the learner and the classroom teacher. This is very early in the effort: comments and feedback most welcome.

8. Daniel Drake got married this week in Nicaragua! Congratulations and best wishes for a joyful union. The festivities did not deter Daniel from announcing the release of OLPC OS 13.2.0 for XO-1, XO-1.5, XO-1.75 and XO-4. Details of new features, known issues, and how to download/install/upgrade can all be found in the release notes. Many thanks Daniel, who lead the release process and to all contributors, testers, up-streams, and those who have provided feedback of any kind. This is by far the best OLPC/Sugar release yet! (Also, there is a really nice article about what else Daniel has been doing in Nicaragua.)

Sugar Labs

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

Sugar Digest 2013-07-15

Sugar Digest

It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies. They are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.–Jacob Bronowski

1. It has been a long while since my last post. Too much travel. I started writing this post sitting at the gate in Tel Aviv, waiting for my flight to New York to depart. (My second overnight flight in three days.) Since then, I have also been to Sydney and back (for the second time in two months).

Two things brought me to Tel Aviv: the Shaping the Future conference on educational technology and the possibility of a Sugar deployment in the Negev.

The conference, sponsored by CET was very stimulating. I hung out in the policy track to try to get an insight into the government decision-making process. Not sure I came away with any new ideas, but I did make some new friends, including former governor Bob Wise from West Virginia. The governor knows Idit Harel, whose MamaMedia group contributed some early apps to Sugar. He is presently President, Alliance for Excellent Education. I was impressed by his pragmatism.

CET itself is quite impressive in the degree to which they mix deep thinking about pedagogy with practical development of learning materials. Many thanks to my hosts, Gila, Avi, and Cecelia. They will be involved in whatever ends up happening in the Negev. It is looking as if it will be an Android tablet deployment, so they are hoping to pull together a team to help the Sugar community to accelerate its efforts to get Sugar (or a Sugar-like experience) running on Android. Stay tuned.

I met up with Claudia Urrea and Gonzalo Odiard in Sydney. We spend five days with Rangan Srikhanta and the OLPC AU team. The first day we visited a school in the outskirts of Sydney that is using Sugar. I was thrilled to see the children engaged in problem solving, using the computer as a tool, working in small groups in the classroom, each group self-directed. No babysitting with rote-learning games.

At the OLPC AU office, we spent several days brainstorming about ways to add value to the overall program in Australia, which goes beyond distributing hardware and software to providing training, support, and sharing of resources. It is a program with great potential.

One highlight was meeting Ian Mackie, who is deeply invested in the prosperity of the indigenous peoples of Australia. He is excited about the prospects of getting local language support into Sugar. I have connected him with Chris Leonard.

I also got to spend some time with a former student, Vadim Gerasimov, who is working for Google in Sydney. Vadim is helping me with a GDrive webservice for Sugar. We have a command-line version working and I hope to have it integrated into Sugar in short order.

2. During my blogging hiatus, Google Summer of Code began. Our Google Summer of Code students are Kalpa, Marion, Rahul, Suraj, Akshit, Anna, Casey, and Erik. We have a group meeting every Friday at 13:00 EST on #sugar-meeting. Please join us.

3. I neglected to mention that Sugar Labs has received about 200 USB keys from the Recycle USB program run by Nexcopy [5]. My plan is to distribute these keys (with Sugar installed) on Turtle Art Day, which is scheduled for 12 October.

In the community

4. The RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity (MAGIC) is pleased to announce that a student-led project entitled “Sky Time” has been selected for inclusion in the White House Champions of Change event on July 23rd in Washington, D.C. [6].

Tech Talk

5. A few months back, George Hunt announced the release of XSCE 0.3:

  • XSCE now runs on the XO-1.5,XO-1.75 and XO-4.
  • Modular Architecture: cleanly integrate extendable services.
  • XSCE runs on the XOs’ current OS 13.1.0 (we discovered some wrinkles with 13.2.0 which push its use off to the next release)
  • Moodle is Back!
  • Content filtering via
  • Script for formatting of SD cards, and integration into system for content storage and memory extending swap file (does not work on XO4’s)

Since then, there has been another School Server code sprint (hosted by Jerry Vonau) documented here.

6. We are making much progress on the road to the Sugar 0.100 (1.0) release. Daniel Narveaz and Manuel Quiñones continue pushing forward on the HTML5/Javascript support [9]. Suraj has been blogging about his efforts. I spent the weekend writing my first JS Sugar activity

Sugar Labs

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

Sugar Digest 2013-05-08

Sugar Digest

1. Sugar Labs has been given 8 slots for student interns for Google Summer of Code. This means we’ll be able to cover a lot ground this summer: we have some very strong proposals and a great mentoring team. The next step is for the mentors and the sugar-devel team to narrow the applicants down to a short list. Many thanks to everyone who has lent a hand so far and to Google for giving us this opportunity.

2. The sugar-devel team has been really busy pushing new features for the next release and doing a general clean up of the code base. It is remarkable the current pace of activity, especially around the efforts to make HTML5/Javascript a first-class approach to Sugar activity development. You can follow the work on the devel list or by reviewing (and submitting) patches on github.

3. I’ve been trying to contribute to the overall Sugar effort, but I tend to get distracted by Turtle Blocks (AKA Turtle Art). When I was visiting RIT a few weeks back, I was inspired to enhance the debugging features Turtle Blocks. I came up with a simple way to introduce the concept of break-points to the code. I had already introduced blocks to “hide” and “show” the program as it executes. And through the “rabbit” and “snail” buttons, the user can control the speed of program execution. What I did was to combine these two concepts. By introducing a “hide” block into your code, the code executes at full speed. Introducing a “show” block causes the program to run slowly and display the status of all of its “variables” as it runs. A subtle change, but what it allows one to do is to surround code you want to debug with a “show” and “hide” blocks. Small blocks of code can be examined while the larger program runs at full speed. Really helpful for debugging complex projects.

4. I am also working on another new feature, this one at the request of the teachers who have been using Butia in Uruguay. The idea is to be able to save a stack of blocks for reuse in multiple projects (instances). The way to do that currently is to open a project, copy the stack to the clipboard, and then paste it into a new project — too clumsy to be used on a regular basis. The new feature allows users to save a stack to a custom palette. This palette is loaded with each instance of Turtle, so it means the stacks are available as if they were extensions of Turtle itself. It makes it even easier for end-user customization.

In the community

5. We’ll be celebrating International Turtle Art Day (Día Mundial de TortugArte) in October. Our objectives are to:

  • Promote the use of Turtle Art
  • Share and promote best practices
  • Celebrate projects for children and teachers

Details on how you can participate will be made available soon.

6. How embarrassing.

Tech Talk

7. Laura Vargas reports that Hexoquinasa v0.9 (BETA2) has been released and is in the hands of the Ministry of Education of Perú, where it will undergo testing.

8. Daniel Narveaz reports that “the initial bits of the HTML activities work has landed. It should now be relatively easy to start writing an activity.”

(1) You’ll need the latest Sugar development environment.
(2) Then open a shell and move to the source directory:
make shell
cd source
(3) Create an activity based on a template
volo create my-activity ./sugar-html-template
(4) Install the activity for development as usual
cd my-activity
python dev
(5) To interact with the platform you will need to add the sugar-core-html library to your activity
volo add -f ../sugar-html-core

Sugar Labs

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Sugar Digest 2013-04-16

Sugar Digest

1. I have been on the road the past two weeks and consequently a bit behind in my communication. I don’t recall if I announced beyond the sugar-devel list that Sugar Labs was selected to participate in Google Summer of Code. We have a great collection of project ideas and students are starting to engage in discussions. Please, if you are interested in being a mentor, sign up at rhe GSoC website.

2. One of my trips was to Sydney, Australia, where I spent a few days with the team from OLPC AU. I really appreciate their approach: a tight coupling of educators, technology, documentation, marketing and business. They are in the process of expanding their program with a systematic, sustainable approach. A seriously good website [1, 2] is part of their strategy for supporting teachers. More on that theme in the coming weeks.

3. My other trip was to Finland, where I gave the keynote at the Finnish Interactive Technology for Education (ITK) conference. Jarmo Viteli was my host. There is the potential of intimidation, going to Finland, with its reputation for great schools, to talk about learning. But I found a receptive audience, appreciative of the fact that technology means more than fun and games. I began my talk with a reference to the former CEO of Nokia, who once described his role in his company not as a conductor in front of an orchestra, but as a member of a Jazz ensemble. I suggested that teachers are not conductors either. There was a real appreciation of the Sugar platform approach to reflection and collaboration. Also the FOSS culture in Finland seems alive and well — the idea of children and teachers taking responsibility for their tools resonated with the audience. That responsibility and risk-taking are two complementary goals for learners. My talk should be posted on line soon.

4. Right before I left for my two weeks of airplanes and hotel rooms, there was an interview with Alan Kay in Time Magazine. A favorite quote he dusted off in the interview was “the music is not in the piano”. Nor is the music in the teacher. For a number of different reasons, Alan’s interview is timely. As we see the proliferation of low-cost Android tablets into schools, it is important to ask if we giving children toys or tools; and are we letting them play music or make music?

Another quote from Alan in the interview is: “people love change except for the change part.” Case in point, there has been grumbling on the sur list that Sugar keeps changing and as a consequence things break. While undoubted there is are still plenty of bugs in Sugar (and even more in the older versions of the software deployed in, for example, Uruguay), the grass is not greener in the commercial software world. One need not look farther than the evolution of Android or iOS over the past 4 years to see vast amounts of change. As the Greek philosopher Heraclides said approximately 2300 years ago, “Change is the only constant.” Get used to it.

I end with another quote from Alan: “Modern science was only invented 400 years ago, and it is a good example of what social thinking can do with a high threshold. Science requires a society because even people who are trying to be good thinkers love their own thoughts and theories — much of the debugging has to be done by others. But the whole system has to rise above our genetic approaches to being social to much more principled methods in order to make social thinking work.”

In the community

5. Michael Perscheid from the University of Potsdam has been using Etoys as a game development platform with his students. Check out their work.

Tech Talk

6. The “github” experiment has been going well. Daniel Narvaez has been leading a team of reviewers through the reasonably efficient process of using pull requests and we have been able to clear up at least some of the backlog of features. But we still need more reviewers!

The basics for submitting a patch for review are:
1. Fork the repo on the web UI
2. Clone your fork
3. Push the patches to your fork
4. Make a pull request from the web UI

7. Daniel has also been leading a discussion of how to move forward on both the integration of Javascript and HTML5 into Sugar and the migration of Sugar onto a more web-centric platform, e.g. chrome. Follow along on the devel list (numerous threads).

Sugar Labs
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Sugar Digest 2013-03-30

Sugar Digest

1. Thanks to the input from many member of our devel community, we we able to finalize our application to Google Summer of Code. Our application is mirrored in the wiki (See Summer of Code/2013/Application). Our final list of project ideas and mentors is quite impressive in terms of scope and impact (Summer of Code/2013). We should know in about 10 days whether or not we are accepted.

2. I’ve been working on the webservices patch the past few days. Daniel Narvaez has been reviewing the code — we are experimenting with a new work flow using github — and as a consequence, I am slowly getting it into shape.

I have also been developing a mechanism for loading webservices from user space, e.g., ~/.sugar/extensions. This way, webservices can be loaded either by inclusion in a build or by installation by the user.

Tech Talk

3. Daniel has also agreed to be the release manager for our next release (See 0.100/Roadmap).

Sugar Labs

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