Archive/Current Events/2009-06-23

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Sugar Digest

1. It seems that once per month the computer vs. phone debate reemerges. This time, Educational Technology Debate has taken up the theme. Wayan Vota posed the question: Mobile Phones: Better Learning Tools than Computers? Michael Trucano takes the affirmative position in his essay, "Phones Are a Real Alternative to Computers" while Robert B. Kozma argues that Computers are More Capable than Mobile Phones". The usual arguments of pervasiveness (phones) and capacity (computers) were made.

We touched on a different set of themes when we discussed this topic (versus, not) back in May. We were responding in part to Mark Guzdial's blog: Does "There's an App for That" Hurt or Help Computing Education?. At the time I said that I was optimistic about the role of phones in learning—a u-turn from my long-standing position. The arguments about the differences in affordances between phones and computer remain relevant: e.g., you wouldn't write an essay on your phone if you have a computer at hand; and as Kozma points out, the large installed base of phones is not composed primarily of the latest iPhone on a 3G network. The current installed base has much less capacity. But that will change over time.

My disregard of phones for learning had been based on my fear that "phone culture" was turning us into a society of consumers of those services that "Ma Bell" chose for us. But the iPhone and the Android are changing that. The meme that is rapidly becoming part of our culture is that phones are programmable, i.e., computers. This is a huge step forward. There is merit in Guzdial's argument that the Apple marketing pitch discourages end-users from becoming active participants in the creative process—we must be vigilant in combating this trend. But now that the phone company's model of "phone as a service" is eroding, there is reason for optimism that the corresponding model of "learning as a service" will also wane. The end of restrictions on who can develop what for whom is an important cultural development that will have an overall positive impact on learning, regardless of the platform. Sugar, which is designed for relatively lightweight environments, will become more significant to learners.

2. Nexcopy has generously donated a USB replicator to Sugar Labs. It will be a great help in our various Sugar-on-a-Stick pilot programs this summer.

Help Wanted

3. Hamilton Chua has written some patches to enable SoaS images to register with School Servers, thus enabling backup and restore. The patch is described in Ticket #916. Please try to test it.

4. Lionel Laske reports that OLPC France has launched a French FLOSS Manual Sprint, and a large part of the work has been completed. They are now looking for help with "Help." Lionel asks, is there a way to do quickly a “one shot” build of the Help Activity in French (and other languages)?

5. Samy Boutayeb is seeking input on digital media for the OLPC/Sugar pilot in Madagascar.

6. David Van Assche published a report from the collaboration-testing session that took place last week (10 June 10). Please leave your comments, especially those who took part. We plan to continue testing again on Wednesday, 17 June, at 20:00 UTC,, channel #sugar-collaboration.

In the community

7. Coming up next week: Sugar at Linuxtag (24–27 June in Berlin).

8. Also, Sugar at FOSSED in Bethel, Maine, 24–26 June.

9. And Sugar at NECC in Washington DC, 28 June–1 July.

10. The OLPC Learning Club, DC, is hosting a Family XO Mesh Meetup Saturday, 20 June from 10 AM to 1 PM.

Tech Talk

11. I modified Mitchel Charity's Ruler activity to look up the screen resolution so that it would render properly on non-OLPC-XO displays. I'm parsing xdpyinfo, which may not be the most reliable way to get the display resolution; feedback from testers would be appreciated.

Sugar Labs

12. Gary Martin has generated a SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see SOM).