Archive/Current Events/2016-05-04

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Sugar Digest

1. I promised to share the occasional Marvin Minsky story. I heard many that were new to me at his memorial service at MIT last week, one of which I'd like to share here. Cynthia Solomon, one of the co-inventors of Logo and co-author of the classic paper from 1971, "Twenty Things to Do with a Computer", was one of the speakers at the service. She recalled the many contributions Marvin made to Logo, the language, and to the pedagogy we associate with Seymour. What I didn't realize was the extent to which Marvin (and his students) were responsible for broadening the scope of computational thinking beyond the desktop. Cynthia shared some before and after slides of children using Logo in the late 1960s and early 1970s, after Marvin's influence had manifest itself. The excitement of using programming in the context of graphics, robotics, and music was palpable. We at Sugar Labs are very much standing on Minsky's shoulders.

2. The application period for Google Summer of Code (GSoC) has ended. We have 62 applications this year, exceeding our total from last year. Over the next week, community mentors will vet the applications and we will apply for slots from Google based on both the quality of the applications (quite high from my sampling) and the ability of the community to support the summer interns. If you are interested in being a mentor, it is not too late. Please contact me.

In the Community

3. Devin Ulibarri and I had the opportunity to speak at LibrePlanet. Our topic was "Education needs Free/Libre Software needs education."

ABSTRACT: The bad news is that educational technology has largely failed to deliver on its promise. Its focus on efficiency rather than on learning has resulted in a further reinforcement of education as a system of instruction to curricula rather than one of student-driven construction of knowledge.

The good news is that Free/Libre Software is the starting point towards a solution—not just because it tends to focus on putting powerful tools into the hands of its end-users, but also because Free/Libre Software espouses a culture of doing and sharing in a context of critique, reflection, and personal responsibility.

In this session, we will review some tangible ways in which Free/Libre Software is having and can have a positive impact on education and some things we can and should be doing better. We will then discuss strategies for advocating for Free/Libre Software in education systems both in the US and globally. The next generation of computer users are in school today. We need to ensure that the next generation is empowered to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by Free/Libre Software.

Unlike the session on Free/Libre Software at EdFoo, which was sparsely attended, there was standing-room only for our session. The recording should be on line within a few weeks.

It occurred to me afterwards that one simple call to action would be for every member of the Free/Libre Software community to adopt a teacher (or be open to being adopted, e.g., Devin, a music teacher, has adopted me). We need to make our voices heard.

4. David Crossland, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at LibrePlanet, has been busy recruiting GSoC students to write a Sugar Font Editor activity (a project that has long been on both my and Gonzalo Odiard's wish list).

David said out loud what many of us have been thinking: our wiki is a mess. He has issued a call to action to do some gardening. Specifically, he and I will be leading a two-day sprint on the weekend of May 14/15 in the Boston area (USA). The goal is to begin cleaning up the wiki content and other parts of Sugar Labs web properties, making them ready for the GSoC project to start.

If you'd like to participate, in person or remotely, please let Walter know. The final time and location details (most likely somewhere on the MIT campus) will be shared on the IAEP list nearer the time.

Tech Talk

5. Many thanks to Samuel Cantero, a member of the Sugar Labs systems team, who has been quietly maintaining and upgrading our servers behind the scenes. He recently fixed the breakage with our Trac system; our Wordpress instance; and some problems with the Sugar Activity portal. (Tip of the hat to alsroot for his help regarding ASLO as well).

Sugar Labs

6. Please visit our planet.