Archive/Current Events/2016-01-03

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Sugar Digest

1. Will Rico pointed me at a solicitation from Information Week for the "Hottest trends for education IT leaders in 2016 and beyond". I could not resist firing off a rant about Free/Libre Software.

In a word (actually two words), Free Software. Aside from the obvious economic benefits -- no usurious licensing fees from the likes of Apple, Pearson, Adobe, etc. -- Free Software is a vehicle for changing the culture of learning by directly empowering local communities, teachers, and students.

Forty years of observation suggests that engaging children in using computers and in programming software to run on computers is a powerful means to drive learning. The process of writing and then repairing (also known as “debugging”) a program, which Solomon described as “the great educational opportunity of the 21st Century”, provides a basis for active learning through heuristic problem solving. Free Software enables and encourages students and teachers to engage in real science and engineering and to take responsibility for the tools and practice in their classrooms.

It goes beyond programming, however, because it sends a message to the learner (yes, teachers are learners too) that they do not have to accept the world as it is handed down to them. Rather they can be the instruments of change in all aspects of their lives.

Of course, this is not the message that your audience of IT leaders wants to hear because it directly undermines their ability to lock in school districts and since with Free Software the end user has the ability to dictate change, the highly profitable practice of planned obsolescence is not viable.

Nonetheless, Free Software in education is on the "long arc" of education reform that will foster a generation of problem solvers and critical thinkers.



PS: The recent sea change in Washington regarding arts education is further evidence that we are once again respecting open-ended problem solving in our schools. Young minds unleashed.

2. Google Code-in has begun. After the first 10 days of competition, 137 tasks have been completed by 61 youths, ranging from a video introduction of Sugar to three seven-year-olds to numerous updates to Sugar activities to a flurry of suggestions for improvement to our website. We have more than 250 open tasks but we welcome more task suggestions. Tip of the hat to our 24 mentors, whom have been very patient answering questions on IRC and reviewing student work.

3. We have eight candidates for the seven open Sugar Labs oversight board seats. I am not sure how the election committee plans to proceed -- stay tuned. Also, it has been brought to my attention that some of you never received the membership renewal survey. Please contact the membership committee for details (membership AT sugarlabs DOT org).

In the Community

4. Thane Richard from Outernet contacted me a while back out his project, Lighthouse, a free library from space. Seems like a nice match for Sugar Labs and any number of the OLPC deployments.

5. Carol Smith, who has been running Google Summer of Code for the past six years will be moving on to other responsibilities within Google. Carol has been a great supporter of Free/Libre Software and Sugar Labs and will be missed. The good news is that Stephanie Taylor, with who has been running Google Code-in will be taking her place. To both of you, best wishes in your new positions.

Sugar Labs

6. Please visit our planet.