Archive/Current Events/2011-12-01

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Sugar Digest

1. The Learning Team held a discussion about the Portfolio activity this week, which prompted me to make some enhancements. One request was the ability to export your portfolio to a PDF file. It turns out that Cairo supports a PDF surface, making it really easy to export PDF. So one nice by-product of moving Sugar activities to Cairo graphics -- which is a necessary step in our migration to GTK3 -- is that it will be much easier to enable activities to export files to the Journal for printing. The other feature I added was the ability to make voice annotations on each page in your portfolio. These voice notes are played back when the portfolio is viewed. They are also saved went the contents are exported to HTML. Alas, PDF does not support audio, as far as I know. Please try Portfolio and give me feedback as to how I can improve it.

2. Monday is the deadline for new feature proposals for Sugar 0.96. There are a number of proposals that have already been submitted (See Features). Gonzalo Godiard and I have aggregated a number of proposals concerning the Journal in a collector page. These proposed features are a result of the past month of discussion with the Learning Team. Additional feedback on these and all of the new-feature proposals is most welcome. Please add to the discussion on the "Talk" page of each individual proposal.

3. I mentioned last week that I wrote a plugin for Turtle Blocks that adds a palette for creating models for the Physics activity. (Physics uses a 2D engine called Box2D.) I've made a few additions this week, including a block that creates a gear. Building a simple machine should be a bit easier than trying to use the tools exposed by Physics. Of course, there are limits to what one can do with a simple machine. Working directly with sensors may be a more productive approach. But I have to say, it is really fun to create Box2D models in Turtle Blocks. (See Activities/TurtleArt#Plugins for more details on how to load the plugin and run it.)

It is difficult to strike a balance between giving the student a tool and giving the student the skills to make tools. I've wrestled with this quite a bit in Turtle Art over the years. Lately, I am leaning more towards exposing more functionality in the form of predefined blocks than asking that these blocks be built by the user. For example, I recently added blocks for getting mouse x,y coordinates, whereas before, I shipped Python code that could be loaded by the user to accomplish the same thing. Of course, View Source is still available. But where to draw the line is not obvious, at least to me.

4. Cherry Withers pointed out Mr Steve's Exploratorium Blog earlier this week, but I thought it merited mentioning it again (See

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Gary Martin has generated SOMs from the past few weeks of discussion on the IAEP mailing list.

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