[Sugar-news] GPA ain't the world (was: [IAEP] Sugar Digest 2009-08-11)

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Thu Aug 13 09:44:06 EDT 2009

On Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 5:42 AM, Christoph
Derndorfer<e0425826 at student.tuwien.ac.at> wrote:
> Sean DALY schrieb:
>> IMHO, close study of small deployments makes them incredibly useful to
>> all teachers and Learners. The observations and take-aways need to be
>> triaged of course, starting with what can/should be done by Sugar
>> Labs, but I am convinced many learnings will benefit large
>> deployments. Until reliable means of sharing experiences and feedback
>> (polls, questionnaires, council of deployers, etc.) can be put in
>> place, microscopic study of a classroom using Sugar is well worth the
>> effort, in particular for revealing blockers.
> I'm not sure I really agree with this statement...
> Extrapolating the data and drawing conclusions based on observations in a
> trial that represents less than 0,01% of all current Sugar installations is
> a risky endeavor at best and a serious mistake at worst. Even more so when
> the environment between the trial (in this case GPA) and the global
> deployments really couldn't be more different in just about every way
> imaginable (SoaS vs. XO, summer classes vs. regular year-long classes,
> Boston connectivity vs. Rwanda connectivity, 25 installations in a school
> vs. 1000 installations in a school, US power infrastructure vs. Nepali power
> infrastructure, having a team consisting of Walter / Greg / Caroline
> supporting the efforts vs. being lucky to maybe have a single person who has
> used a computer before, 25 pupils in a classroom vs. 80 pupils in a
> classroom, users that were raised in urban North America vs. users who don't
> have electricity at home, and I could go on...).
> Yes, some of the findings at GPA will indeed be of a broad and general
> nature and subsequent actions will benefit all Sugar users. Yes, projects
> like in Alabama, Austria, the UK and similar places will be able to learn
> many things from the GPA pilot.
> But let's not forget that the current million Sugar users and (if the
> reports are to be believed) also the next million Sugar users are much more
> likely to be found in Ancash, Kigali or Sichuan rather than Boston, London
> or Vienna. And I doubt that you'll find too many schools in those places
> that have a profile similar to GPA [1].
> Just my 2 Nepali Rupees,
> Christoph
> [1] "The Gardner Pilot Academy is the flagship full-service community school
> within the Boston Public Schools (BPS). The school's vision is to educate
> the minds and develop the characters of all students in partnership with
> families and community. To achieve this GPA provides high quality teaching
> along with a range of social, emotional and enrichment programs delivered by
> means of partnerships with an array of community organizations and
> individuals. Over the past twelve years, GPA has developed strong
> associations with four universities, several health and mental health
> agencies, the YMCA, and various organizations teaching visual and performing
> arts. As one of just 20 pilot schools in the BPS, GPA is exempt from
> district mandates. Therefore, GPA has autonomy in the areas of budget and
> personnel, along with the freedom to implement innovative curricula,
> assessments, and interventions."
> (http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Gardner_Pilot_Academy#Gardner_Pilot_Academy)
> --
> Christoph Derndorfer
> co-editor, olpcnews
> url: www.olpcnews.com
> e-mail: christoph at olpcnews.com


I don't think it was anyone's intention to paint this as an either-or
choice between small and large, local and global, rich and poor. As
you remark, some of what we have learned at GPA is directly applicable
to every deployment (for example, wearing my activity-developer hat, I
was inspired to modify Turtle Art to use integer rather than
floating-point notation when showing numbers--mundane, but important
to any Sugar deployment).

You are correct to point out that the GPA trial is different in that
it uses SoaS instead of XOs. The whole point of the trial was to
discover what issues we might encounter with SoaS deployments. More
efficient to uncover them with 25 children in a local summer program
than with 1000 children in a remote village. We've filed many tickets
that will lead to improved prospects for every SoaS deployment.

One may argue the merits of SoaS vs one laptop per child. I still am
of the belief that the world could afford to give every child a
laptop, but in the meantime, I see SoaS as a stepping stone, both in
Boston and Botswana. This too is not an either-or decision.

But thanks to both you and Daniel for reminding us that we need to
keep the global picture in mind as we pursue our local endeavors.


Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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