Archive/Current Events/2009-10-19

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Sugar Digest

1. I am behind in my blogging, but not because I haven't been writing. I had a deadline for a National Science Foundation grant last week. Diego Uribe and I submitted a grant entitled: "Developing creativity skills through the Sugar learning platform: Empowering next generation Scientists and Engineers." The gist of what we are proposing is to embed deliberate creative-thinking dynamics into Sugar. We expect that children engaged and collaborating in open-ended learning activities will deliberately exercise and develop their creative thinking skills.

2. I've also been writing code. I chased down a number of bugs in Turtle Art in anticipation of the 0.86 Release. One particularly nasty bug involved an Overflow Error. Kids seem to love typing in big numbers into the number blocks. When they do, they were causing integer overflow errors, which was causing Turtle Art to freeze. I added a work-around in Version 73—hopefully things will be a bit more robust. I also got some help from Bernie Innocenti and Simon Schampijer in resolving a problem that had been nagging at me since last spring. I want to be able to launch Turtle Art from outside of Sugar. Sounds easy enough, but I always had trouble with the way in which the top-level window was interacting with the window manager in my Gnome desktop. The fix turned out to be to use the maximize method instead of the request-size method. Now I am able to use the standard GTK menu toolbar in replacement of the Sugar toolbar when running stand-alone. With the exception of Journal access and collaboration, everything else seems to just work. (I did enable opening and saving projects to the file system, but I haven't yet enabled access to rich media using the Show block from outside of Sugar.) Simon also helped me to clean up the artwork for German and French. Carlo Falciola has been helping me with Italian and Raúl Gutiérrez Segalés has been helping me with Spanish.

3. And I have been writing some lectures. At the invitation of Donna Benjamin, I prepared a video for the Open Edge 2009 meeting about the new features in Sugar 0.86. I also prepared a lecture about Sugar for the QT Developer Days meeting in Munich that I am giving tomorrow.

4. On the way to Munich, I spent 24 hours in Berlin for a mini Sugar Camp, which Simon graciously hosted at his flat. Sebastian Dziallas joined us as well. We ate cake, drank coffee, wrote code, and discussed many of the pressing issues of the day, including sustainability, activity bundles, 0.88 planning; we also sketched out a plan for the Bolzano Sugar Camp.

5. Before crossing the pond, I made a trip to New York to visit Gerald Ardito at the Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School. It was a full day, between teaching six fifth-grade classes, meetings with the principal, vice principal, superintendent, and president of the school board. A highlight was when I was greeted by a room full of children running the Sugar Speak program in a simultaneous chorus of "Welcome Mr. Bender." This was followed by an audio wave across the classroom. In a debriefing with the teachers at the end of the day, several interesting observations were made: (1) there was no gender bias in the level of engagement (we were programming in Turtle Art); and (2) multiple distinct strategies were used by the children, including systematic modification of example code, asking from—and receiving—help from a classmate, and an iterative process of exploration of the various program elements. All three approaches led to both the children and the teachers reaching a level of comfort and pleasure with programming in short order.

Tech Talk

6. Rubén Rodríguez Pérez has released an updated Sugar on Trisquel build with Honey Activities installed. He also added a graphical usb-creator application.

Sugar Labs

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