Archive/Current Events/2009-07-22

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Sugar Digest

1. As is evident from Gary Martin's self-organizing map of this past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list, the pilot programs that Caroline Meeks and I are running at the Gardner Pilot Academy and the Lilla G. Fredrick Pilot Middle School are foremost on my mind. We are working with three grade-level groups: second graders who are studying geography (through the lens of their community), number lines, and clocks; third graders who are also studying geography and the application of their math facts to problem solving; and sixth/seventh graders who are doing a digital storytelling exercise.

Mel Chua, Anurag Goel, and Greg Smith (1, 2, 3) have written extensive notes of their observations of our preliminary interactions with these young learners. In gisting my own observations, I found that the students are engaged, able to work at their own pace, each achieving a sense of accomplishment. They stay on task, help each other, and excitedly discuss their discoveries.

There are lots of little details in the interactions that have been revealed even over this short period, things such as the ease with which the children were able to insert their USB keys into a USB extension cable as compared to the difficultly they encountered with even USB slots on the front panel of the desktop; and the in-retrospect obvious need to use integer rather than floating point notation in Turtle Art. (The second-graders thought that 100.0 was one thousand.) At the Fredrick School, we sent sticks and helper CDs home with some of the children over the weekend. Only two out of five were able to launch Sugar at home, but two of those who were unsuccessful had been given no instructions at all, even to know that you need to insert the helper CD in before booting from USB. We will report new numbers next week.

2. Bernie Innocenti and I were invited to Oslo to present Sugar to the Nokia QT software team. After an overnight flight, I went right from the airport into a conference room and began my presentation, running jhbuild from my laptop. About half-way through my presentation, my laptop overheated and died. Not to be deterred, I pulled out a USB key, borrowed a laptop, booted Sugar and kept going. The presentation was not as smooth as I would have liked, but the room full of engineers was pretty forgiving and noted that the only thing that didn't crash was Sugar itself. The QT team expressed interest in a wrapper around existing QT/KDE education projects such that they could be run from Sugar—most of this work has already been done. We'll also start investigating the work involved in adding QT bindings to the Sugar toolkit so that QT activities could more directly leverage the Sugar platform.

3. Wayan Vota talked me into engaging in an "Educational Technology Debate" on Individual and Communal Computer Usage. I sidestepped the topic and used it as opportunity to talk about software.

In the community

4. Simon Schampijer has posted a page in the wiki with information about the November 2009 Sugar Camp in Bolzano, South Tryol, part of Software Freedom Week.

Tech Talk

5. Aleksey Lim has been working on an implementation of a redesigned Sugar toolbar. There is a screencast showing Write running with a first pass at the toolbars. While more refinement and testing are necessary, the initial look is quite promising—it seems that it should enhance discoverability, especially for early readers. One problem it addresses explicitly is the need to have some tools always available, e.g., Stop. You can follow the progress and the discussion on the Sugar Developer list.

6. While we strive to make Sugar discoverable, we don't have complete success. Ed Cherlin has started a page in the wiki titled "the undiscoverable" to describe Sugar features that you might have difficultly discovering on your own. Feel free to contribute.

7. Thanks to the efforts of Thomas Gilliard, Sugar is now listed in Distrowatch.

8. Also, check out Sascha Silbe's work on the datastore.

Sugar Labs

9. Gary Martin has generated a SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see SOM).