Archive/Current Events/2013-05-08

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Sugar Digest

1. I have been on the road the past two weeks and consequently a bit behind in my communication. I don't recall if I announced beyond the sugar-devel list that Sugar Labs was selected to participate in Google Summer of Code. We have a great collection of project ideas and students are starting to engage in discussions. Please, if you are interested in being a mentor, sign up at [1].

2. One of my trips was to Sydney, Australia, where I spent a few days with the team from OLPC AU. I really appreciate their approach: a tight coupling of educators, technology, documentation, marketing and business. They are in the process of expanding their program with a systematic, sustainable approach. A seriously good website [2] and [3] is part of their strategy for supporting teachers. More on that theme in the coming weeks.

3. My other trip was to Finland, where I gave the keynote at the Finnish Interactive Technology for Education (ITK) conference. Jarmo Viteli was my host. There is the potential of intimidation, going to Finland, with its reputation for great schools, to talk about learning. But I found a receptive audience, appreciative of the fact that technology means more than fun and games. I began my talk with a reference to the former CEO of Nokia, who once described his role in his company not as a conductor in front of an orchestra, but as a member of a Jazz ensemble. I suggested that teachers are not conductors either. There was a real appreciation of the Sugar platform approach to reflection and collaboration. Also the FOSS culture in Finland seems alive and well -- the idea of children and teachers taking responsibility for their tools resonated with the audience. That responsibility and risk-taking are two complementary goals for learners. My talk should be posted on line soon.

4. Right before I left for my two weeks of airplanes and hotel rooms, there was an interview with Alan Kay in Time Magazine. A favorite quote he dusted off in the interview was “the music is not in the piano”. Nor is the music in the teacher. For a number of different reasons, Alan's interview is timely. As we see the proliferation of low-cost Android tablets into schools, it is important to ask if we are giving children toys or tools; and are we letting them play music or make music?

Another quote from Alan in the interview is: “people love change except for the change part.” Case in point, there has been grumbling on the sur list that Sugar keeps changing and as a consequence things break. While undoubted there are still plenty of bugs in Sugar (and even more in the older versions of the software deployed in, for example, Uruguay), the grass is not greener in the commercial software world. One need not look farther than the evolution of Android or iOS over the past 4 years to see vast amounts of change. As the Greek philosopher Heraclides said approximately 2300 years ago, "Change is the only constant." Get used to it.

I end with another quote from Alan: "Modern science was only invented 400 years ago, and it is a good example of what social thinking can do with a high threshold. Science requires a society because even people who are trying to be good thinkers love their own thoughts and theories — much of the debugging has to be done by others. But the whole system has to rise above our genetic approaches to being social to much more principled methods in order to make social thinking work."

In the community

5. Michael Perscheid from the University of Potsdam has been using Etoys as a game development platform with his students. Check out their work.

Tech Talk

6. The "github" experiment has been going well. Daniel Narvaez has been leading a team of reviewers through the reasonably efficient process of using pull requests and we have been able to clear up at least some of the backlog of features. But we still need more reviewers!

The basics for submitting a patch for review are:

  1. Fork the repo on the web UI
  2. Clone your fork
  3. Push the patches to your fork
  4. Make a pull request from the web UI

7. Daniel has also been leading a discussion of how to move forward on both the integration of Javascript and HTML5 into Sugar and the migration of Sugar onto a more web-centric platform, e.g., chrome. Follow along on the devel list (numerous threads).

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