Archive/Current Events/2009-02-03

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Sugar Digest

1. I have a bad habit of losing myself in programing. Not that I am much of programmer these days, but once I start in on a project, I have a hard time attending to things happening around me. I don't regret my decision to use Turtle Art Portfolio for my presentation at LCA (linux.conf.au) in Hobart last week, but I haven't been able to let it go. I spent too much of my time Down Under debugging Python code rather than debating the larger questions facing Sugar Labs. Nonetheless, I did manage to get things working reasonably well for my talk last week. (I cannot seem to find the link to the videos, but they are posted on line somewhere.) The talk itself was not my most inspired. I let myself get bogged down in some some questions at the end regarding human-centric versus learning-centric design. Had I been on top of my game, I would have been a bit more clear with my answers.

Thanks to Mike Usmar, who is the force behind the Computer Clubhouse efforts in New Zealand, I had a second (third and fourth) chance to debug both my code and my talk. From the post talk discussions, I think things went better in Wellington and Auckland. I had a chance to meet the wonderful Wellington Testing Group led by Tabitha Roper at the office of Catalyst, Ltd. There were representatives from the ministry of education there as well. It was a good discussion, about pedagogy and the pragmatics of getting things going in the region. The ministry doesn't tell schools what do to, but they can play a role in helping to spread the Sugar meme by supporting teacher workshops and offering credits toward continuing education when teachers work with Sugar. In Auckland, I had a chance to meet students and faculty at the university. Tabitha's father, who coincidently is studying portfolio assessment, had some great feedback—collectively we have a ways to go, but we are progressing and the vector is pointed in the right direction. (I also saw some student work that has good potential as an alternative Journal/portfolio view—a potential Summer of Code project?) I also met with the teachers of an Auckland school. An independent-minded and inspired group, they are going to start a one-to-one program for middle- and high-school students. My one small contribution to their plans was to relay to them a lesson I learned from Carla Monroy Gomez: use the introduction of the computers as a reason to hold a community celebration that draws the parents into the school as stakeholders.

A highlight of my trip was the day I spent with Bill Kerr and Tony Forster in Melbourne on my way between Hobart and Auckland. Tony lives in the countryside about 45 minutes outside of the city. We sat and talked, coded, debugged, debated, and ate a delicious barbecue. I have a long list of things that need improvement. It is real pleasure to spend time with people who are both grounded in the day-to-day needs of the classroom and are fluent in the works of the likes of Marvin Minsky. I learned a great deal from some gifted teachers. (Had I not been up to my nose in Python code, I probably would have learned even more.)

2. Speaking of Minsky, I posted his latest essay learning this week (See [1]) in which he discusses ways in which we can "provide our children with ideas they could use to invent their own theories about themselves."

3. A new a non-profit organization, Squeakland Foundation Inc, will take over from Viewpoints Research as the guardians of Squeak Etoys. The new board includes: Tim Falconer, Kim Rose, Walter Bender, Rita Freudenberg, Kathleen Harness, Marta Voelcker, Scott Wallace, Yoshiki Ohshima, and Milan Zimmerman (See [2])

Sugar Labs

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