What is Sugar?
Sugar is a learning platform that reinvents how computers are used for education. Collaboration, reflection, and discovery are integrated directly into the user interface. Sugar promotes "studio thinking" and "reflective practice". Through Sugar's clarity of design, children and teachers have the opportunity to use computers on their own terms. Students can reshape, reinvent, and reapply both software and content into powerful learning activities. Sugar's focus on sharing, criticism, and exploration is grounded in the culture of free software (FLOSS).
About the Sugar pedagogy
Information is about nouns; learning is about verbs. The Sugar interface, in its departure from the desktop metaphor for computing, is the first serious attempt to create a user interface that is based on both cognitive and social constructivism: learners should engage in authentic exploration and collaboration. It is based on three very simple principles about what makes us human:
- everyone is a teacher and a learner;
- humans by their nature are social beings; and
- humans by their nature are expressive. These are the pillars of a user experience for learning.
Sugar also considers two aphorisms:
- you learn through doing, so if you want more learning you want more doing; and
- love is a better master than duty—you want people to engage in things that are authentic to them, things that they love.
About the Sugar Learning Platform
The Sugar Learning Platform is an alternative to the ubiquitous computer desktop metaphor that has dominated computing since its invention at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) in the 1970s. (Children are not office workers, nor does anything in their future resemble office work from 30 years ago.)
The Sugar platform is characterized by three attributes:
- The presence of other people is always present in the Sugar interface; collaboration is a first-order experience: students and teachers engage in a dialog with each other, support each other, critique each other, and share ideas;
- Sugar maintains a "Journal" for each learner, which serves as a place for reflection and assessment of progress; and
- through its clarity of design, Sugar is discoverable: it can accommodate a wide variety of learners, with different levels of skill in terms of reading, language, and different levels of experience with computing. It is easy to approach and yet it doesn't put an upper bound on personal expression; one can peel away layers and go deeper and deeper, with no restrictions.
Sugar is based on Python, an interpreted language, allowing the direct appropriation of ideas: in whatever realm the learner is exploring—music, browsing, reading, writing, programming, graphics, etc.—they are able to drill deeper; they are not going to hit a wall, since they can, at every level, engage in debugging both their personal expression and the very tools that they use for that expression.