Archive/Current Events/2013-01-25

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Sugar Digest

1. We have a newly elected Sugar Labs oversight board. Joining us are Claudia Urrea, Gonzalo Odiard, and Daniel Francis. Continuing are Adam Holt, Chris Leonard, Gerald Ardito, and Walter Bender. It is a nice group -- quite diverse -- which will bring some new perspectives to the board. Departing are Chris Ball, Aleksey Lim, and Sebastian Silva. All three will be missed: Chris's calm, thoughtful guidance, Aleksey's cool insight into the needs of developers and also the reminder that our mission is broader than just our current collection of tools, and Sebastian, who lives and breathes on the ground of Sugar deployments, and has well represented their needs. I hope that our departing members will continue to participate as non-voting contributors to our discussions and I also am very grateful for everything they have contributed in the past.

2. Two more weeks of Google Code In. It has really been fun trying to keep pace with all of these new contributors to Sugar. If you have ideas for "tasks", it is not too late to add more. Please contact me or Chris Leonard.

3. 2012 is coming to an end, a natural time to reflect on where we have been and where we are going.

From the technical perspective, Sugar 0.96 and 0.98, which include the port to GTK3 and support for touch are important milestones. The tireless work of the development team under the leadership of Simon Schampijer has really born fruit. They have guaranteed the stability of Sugar on GNU/Linux for the foreseeable future. (A tip of the hat to Martin Langhoff and OLPC Association, who generously supported Simon and much of the devel team in 2012.) Their work will be featured as the OLPC XO4 is unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) early next month.

From the learning perspective, through the participation of Claudia and the Learning Team, we made a lot of headway on understanding how Sugar is used and how it can be used to have more impact on learning. Their work on "making learning visible" has both academic merit and practical implications for the learner.

From the user perspective, we continue to expand our user base, both in terms of new deployments and new platforms. In 2012, we made renewed headway in the US market, with projects in Miami, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina (sponsored by the Knight Foundation). On the other side of the globe, Barry Vercoe has launched a program in New Zealand. Meanwhile, existing programs, such as those in Nicaragua and Paraguay, continue to expand. In Argentina, while the growth of OLPC has been slow, the growth of Sugar on other platforms is steadfast. While it is difficult to track where it is being used, the number of visits to the Sugar-on-a-Stick download page is >> 600,000.

We have also grown our developer community. Of particular note is that the next generation contributors is in large part coming from Sugar users. Daniel, Agustin, Christofer, Ignacio, Rafael, and others whom Flavio Danesse has been mentoring in Uruguay have become central to the Sugar development process. They have realized our goal of having real responsibility for learning and the tools for learning lie in the hands of the learners themselves. This is an unprecedented accomplishment for which the Sugar Community should be proud. Sugar Labs participation in Google Code-in is icing on the cake. We've got >50 new youth contributors since the contest began in November.

From the point of view of localization and internationalization, the highlights of 2012 are the progress we have made in Aymara and Quechua. Edgar Quispe and Irma Alvarez have done wonders. (A tip of the hat to Chris Leonard and Aymar Ccopacatty for their help and support.) Barry Vercoe has personally funded work on Maori and we have had much progress on several indigenous languages in Mexico. Meanwhile, Chris has made numerous contributions upstream, both by hosting some upstream projects on our Pootle server, but also by being a strong voice and advocate within the glibc and pootle communities.

More technical highlights include the work of Daniel Narvaez on sugar-build, which provides a much more stable development environment than the unwieldy sugar-jhbuild environment. Under the shepherding of Peter Robinson and Tom Gilliard, Sugar on a Stick and our virtual machine support continue to improve in quality and stability. Aleksey, Sebastian, and Laura Vargas have made contributions to enhance our ability to support off-line deployments with their work on the Sugar Network. The work by Team Butia on expanding Sugar into the sphere of robotics continues to impress me and the work of Guzman Trindad and Tony Forster, integrating Sugar into the world of rich sensing, provides endless pleasure.

Another highlight, seemingly innocuous, was the creation of the Amazonas page in Facebook. This simple use of social media to provide a support network for teachers in one of the most isolated places on earth has exceeded my expectations. It has three times as many members as had attended the workshop in Chachapoyas, and it has daily updates of projects, questions, and progress. The recent work by Raul Gutierrez on integrating Turtle Art with Facebook is a harbinger of how we might make sharing of the Sugar experience more seamless in 2013.

Personally, my biggest thrill in 2012 was working with children, in Miami and in Khairat (India). I had a chance to teach Turtle Art workshops and in both cases, the children did dance animations that were impressive in their depth.

So what is next? In 2013 we will see the fruit of some of our efforts, including a chance to see Sugar with touch in the field. OLPC Australia will be the first deployment of the OLPC XO4. It will be interesting to learn what impact it has in the classroom. One thing we already know is that touch makes Sugar more accessible to younger (pre-K) children. It also is congruent with the expectations of children coming of age in the tablet/smart-phone era.

Daniel has been working on revitalizing our automated testing suite, which will help with maintenance and QA.

We will see advances in localization. Already, the Ministry of Education in Peru has opened a bid to follow up on the work of Edgar and Irma. Translation of other language groups is also being advanced.

The topic of support for Special Needs was raised numerous times in 2012. I hope to convene the various interested parties in early 2013 to lay out a new road map for Sugar in this area. (The work on GTK3 has helped in that we now have, for example, an on-screen keyboard. And by eliminating Hippo, we have removed the last vestiges of Sugar that were preventing us from using the GNOME tools.)

Perhaps these themes will be the focus of Sugar 1.0, due to be released in Q2 2013. A few things queued up include setting a background image on the Home View (thanks to Agustin Zubiaga) and multiple Home Views (thanks to Daniel Francis).

I also expect that we will be seeing more learning guides in 2013, a harbinger of which was pulled together for the Charlotte deployment: teachers sharing best practice.

There are two elephants in the room: The Cloud and Android. How we face these opportunities will certainly become more clear in 2013.

I hope to organize a Global Sugar conference in 2013. Perhaps at MIT or perhaps at a deployment. It is time to bring our community together face to face on a larger scale.

Finally, in 2012, I wrote a book about the OLPC story, which includes a chapter on Sugar, but I need to write a more complete story about Sugar, its goals and its impact. I am setting that as a personal goal for 2013.

In the community

4. Rita Freudenberg announced that a new Etoys book is available: Learning with Etoys Imagine, Invent, Inspire.

Sugar Labs

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