Archive/Current Events/2009-11-02

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Sugar Digest

1. Tales from Peru. I spent a three exhilarating days in Peru this week. As is the case with most flights from the States, I arrived in Lima close to midnight on Wednesday. But I managed to get to the ministry of education for an early morning meeting with Victor Castillo, the pedagogical lead with the Peru one-laptop-per-child program. Peru has deployed hundreds of thousands of machines in some of the most remote regions in the country. Victor gave me an update about the program and briefed me on the IADB-sponsored evaluation. When I asked him what more the development community could do, he response was that he wanted less—fewer activities—because every time we add more, there is a need for more training, which is difficult given the remoteness of the schools. What Victor then explained was that he wanted a solid base of around ten activities from which the teachers and children would grow—"low floor no ceiling". Being able to "hide" additional activities behind the circle in the list view is a feature that he looks forward to when they upgrade their machines. The cleanliness and simplicity of the 0.86 toolbar was appreciated, as well as the ubiquitous presence of the Stop Button. But we do need to be vigilant not to overload Sugar with extraneous features. Less really is more.

I also talked with Oscar Becerra, who is leading the project in Peru. He voiced a concern about not introducing change for change sake, but nonetheless we agreed that Sugar 0.86 would be a positive step forward—one that perhaps could be made in conjunction with the introduction of the OLPC XO-1.5 machines. We also discussed using Sugar on a Stick as a way to reach more children sooner, as given budget constraints, it will take many years to reach the point where every child can be given a laptop.

Thursday evening, I attened a meeting for Sugar community volunteers organized by Sebastian Silva [www.fuentelibre.org FuenteLibre] and Kiko Mayorga [escuelab.org Escuelab] at Escuelab's facility in Lima's Centro Historico. The Escuelab is in a beautiful space—labs on one floor, residence on another. I walked in to the sight of a roomful of machines running Sugar on Trisquel. The young son of one of the attendees was exploring Sugar for the first time. When he got to the Physics activity, I was transfixed. He was playing the activity like a musical instrument, a fluid dance of objects bouncing around the screen in unexpected configurations. Amazing.

The meeting itself also had its surprises. More than forty people of diverse ?? crowded into the room; an animated discussion ensued (en español). There is passion and talent in the Sugar community in Peru and they are getting organized. Stay tuned.

The next morning I went to visit a school in Chaclayo. As always, it is thrilling to see children using Sugar, even though in this case, it was Sugar from two-years ago. They were using Write, Record, Chess, and Paint. I gave a Turtle Art lesson, which was a treat for me. The one negative were the touchpads. They were jumping all over the place, which, in this old version of Sugar, caused the Frame to appear sporadically. It was really disruptive. More resent versions of Sugar don't have this problem. We need to get an upgrade to these kids.

I spent Saturday at the University of San Martin de Porres, host to the Fourth Freedom & Open Source Day. I used the theme "turtles all the way down" in my talk, arguing both the need for freedom for education and education for freedom. I started my talk with a puzzle: 0, 1, 2, 720!. What comes next? For some people, this puzzle is pretty easy because they immediately make the connection between 720 and 6!. And since 6 is 3!, a quick series of substitutions lead you to: 0, 1!, 2!!, 3!!!, 4!!!!, … Why did I bring this up? I wanted to make a point about low-shelf vs high-shelf tools. We all have tools on our low shelf, easy to access. If 6!=720 is on your low shelf, this was an easy puzzle. If it is on your high shelf, you had to reach for the solution. If it wasn't on either shelf, you had to work even harder, or perhaps you gave up entirely. I went on to argue that computation should be on every child's low shelf.

I spent the rest of the day at working with the student group, Cixos-FIA (cixosfia.libreusmp.org). We did a 30-minute code sprint and wrote the stub of an activity. (Actually, it took 45 minutes, because I was using vi.) I installed emacs and then we really started making headway, enough to consider setting up our project in git. We installed git and then it was time to create a new project on Gitorious. When we went to push, we discovered that there was a firewall. So we installed tor, but there was a missing dependency, connect, for which we could only find the source, not a binary. We installed gcc, compiled it, and we were able to push our project. It was actually nice to encounter so many roadblocks, but persist and prevail.

2. There was an Oversight Board meeting at the same time as I was visiting the school. Our next meeting will be this Friday (30 Oct) on #sugar-meeting at 14:00 UTC.

3. Josh Williams has been making updates to activities.sugarlabs.org. You can check out his work at

http://activities-testing.sugarlabs.org/en-US/sugar/.

Speaking of ASLO, 200,000 more activities have been downloaded in the two weeks since we hit the one-million-download milestone.

Sugar Labs

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