Sugar Digest 2016-05-25
1. Just a quick Marvin Minsky remembrance: Marvin, especially in the days of overhead projectors, would use a bit of theatrics in his talks. He'd walk up to the overhead projector, "accidentally" drop all of his slides on the floor, and then proceed to talk about whatever happened to be on his mind at the moment. Often, part way through his allotted time, he'd bend over, scan the slides, pick one up and say, "this looks interesting", and talk about the theme of the slide. Try doing that with PowerPoint (TM).
2. John Markoff, former technology writer for the NY Times unearthed a link to a classic paper by Alan Kay on personal computing from 1972, "A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages". Well worth the read. Alan was actively interacting with Marvin, Seymour Papert, and Cynthia Solomon at the time.
3. There was an article in The NewYorker last week, "Do we really need to learn to code?" The authors, Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis nicely summarize many of the core challenges in the quest to harness artificial intelligence to automate computer programming, but entirely miss the point of why we need to learn to code. As Cynthia remarked more than 30 years ago, "debugging is the great educational opportunity of the 21st Century." Marcus and Davis do observe that "a good programmer understands, deeply, a problem that needs to be solved, and then creates an architecture for solving a problem that’s never been solved before." The true value of learning to code is that it engages children in the rigors and discipline of problem-solving. For must learners, computation is a "thing to think with", not an end in and of itself.
4. The coding period of Google Summer of Code has officially begun. Please help us support the efforts of our six interns as they help expand the possibilities of Sugar over the next three months. Details can be found in this wiki.
5. A summary of the 6 May meeting of the Sugar Labs oversight board is also available in this wiki. At that meeting, and in subsequent email discussions, we passed a motion to fund an effort to do the Yoruba internationalization and localization. We also passed a motion to finalize updating the Sugar License from GPLv2 to GPLv3. The agenda of the 3 June meeting is posted in this wiki. Among the pending motions we will be discussing are a series of motions to restructure the finance manager position; a motion to adopt the 2016 vision for Sugar Labs; a motion regarding allocation of GSoC mentoring stipends; a motion to request a membership donations; and discussion of merits of applying for inclusion in GitHub Education pack. Please join us on irc.freenode.net, #sugar-meeting.
6. There has been progress along many fronts with the Music Blocks activity. Devin Ulibarri arranged for a meeting with his mentor, Larry Scripts, at the New England Conservatory (NEC) of music. Larry had positive and productive feedback for us and we hope to incorporate Music Blocks in seminar at NEC in the fall. I also had a fun meeting with Eric Rosenbaum and Derek Breen, along with Cynthia. (Eric was part of the team that created the lovely music widgets that appeared on the Google Homepage a few months back and he wrote a music extension to Blockly.) Eric introduced me to the sampler code in Tone.js, which I am now using for the drum set. What a difference a decent sampler can make!!! (I am using some of the samples that come bundled with the Tam Tam activity.) You can check out all of the latest updates to Music Blocks including a simple drum demo and read the updated guide. I think Music Blocks is finally stable enough that we should push on the localization efforts. I will be mining some strings from Tam Tam to make the process a bit less tedious for our translation team.
In the Community
7. Dave Crossland lead a team of volunteers on a weekend wiki gardening adventure. While there is still more work to be done, we managed to prune lots of stale material and we began migrating stable pages to the static website we maintain on GitHub. Thanks to everyone who volunteered. We'll probably have another go at it in July.
8. There is a nice article about Sugar on a Stick in the Fedora Insider blog.
9. Devin and I wrote a response to a call for comments by the US Department of Education on the role of education technologies on early childhood STEM education. Our focus was on the potential of Free/Libre Software in education. You can read our response in the wiki.
11. Sebastian Silva has been experimenting with GTK Broadway, a GTK backend to provide support for displaying GTK+ applications in a web browser.
12. Dave Crossland is exploring PocketChip, which he calls "the closest thing to an XO being released this year."
13. Please visit our planet.