Archive/Current Events/2010-05-25

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Sugar Digest

1. A few weeks ago, when I was being hosted by Stephen Jacobs at RIT, we had an opportunity to visit the Museum of Play in Rochester. I got a behind-the-scenes look at their collection, which includes a vast collection of computer games and learning materials. I offered to send them the original OLPC XO laptop—I have one of the two engineering prototypes—for their collection.

One of the nice things as you walk through the museum is that on almost every wall is a quote about play. They have a nice collection of quotes on line as well. I read them a favorite quote from Marvin Minsky, which seemed to resonate with them:

"The playfulness of childhood is the most demanding teacher we have."

We talked about how we might engage them in some informal learning activities using Sugar.

I had written an NSF grant a while back: "Adding depth to and building community within informal education", which was rejected, but is worth pursing nonetheless.

I'd proposed to explore how children's activities at informal learning venues can be extended by providing learners with inexpensive, ubiquitous access to learning software (Sugar on a Stick). By designing, developing, and testing a proof of concept that combines informal learning activities with in-depth follow up at home or in the classroom, we still hope to demonstrate a learning ecology that "increases public interest in, understanding of, and engagement with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics."

Specifically, I proposed to leverage Sugar on a Stick to promote the use of Sugar in informal learning settings: prototyping Sugar-based exhibit kiosks in museums and libraries that will facilitate visitor interactions. Visitors will be given a Sugar-on-a-Stick USB storage device with which they can make bookmarks of exhibits that they visited, found interesting, or saved data from. Exhibit designers can use kiosks to collect visitor information and offer additional activities and data that visitors can work with when back at school or home. Activities can be downloaded to the Sugar-on-a-Stick device from the kiosk. The work done by visitors can be incorporated into the exhibit itself and featured on line, with the potential to reach a broader audience.

I still hope to learn how the data- and instrumentation-rich facilities found in informal learning settings and Sugar might be combined to further engage the interest of learners in scientific and technological literacy. I hypothesized that by giving visitors the ability to take programs and data home with them, we will be able to challenge them with more in-depth and engaging problem solving. Giving them activities to take home, connecting these activities to other learning experiences and interests, and connecting these activities to a community of learners are significant enhancements to the status quo of informal learning.

We need to evaluate the technical, logistical, and pedagogical impacts on the museum exhibit experience, library digital and human resources, and education programs s that we can develop an implementation guide for informal-learning professionals.

Help wanted

2. We have a number of vacancies (See Vacancies). Many of these positions require organization as opposed to technical skills and only a commitment of a few hours per week.

In the community

3. The dates for Squeakfest USA in Wilmington, NC are July 26, 27, 28. See http://squeakfest.org for more details.

Tech talk

4. Many thanks to Josh Williams, who led a team effort to update the wiki to a new, cleaner style. Also, thanks to Bernie Innocenti for moving the wiki to a new server.

5. We are very close to having the final production builds of Fedora 11/Sugar 0.84 available for both the OLPC XO-1 and OLPC XO-1.5 machines. Many 0.88 patches have been backported, making this version of Sugar quite robust.

6. With help from Reuben Caron, Paul Fox, Bernie Innocenti, and Chris Ball, I managed to add a new control panel section for switching between the capacitive and resistive touchpads on the OLPC XO-1 CL1 hardware. The motivation for this work is to give access to the stylus to the children who have been struggling with the jumpy capacitive touchpad on the first-generation XO-1 hardware. We'll be testing the patch in Peru, Paraguay, and Nigeria.

Sugar Labs

Gary Martin has generated a SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list.

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