[Sugar-news] Sugar Digest 2009-08-17

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Mon Aug 17 19:13:48 EDT 2009

=== Sugar Digest ===

"He was guided by what he saw rather than what he wanted to believe."
– Vernor Vinge

1. While I am not chasing down Turtle Art bugs, I am catching up with
my summer reading. The quote from ''A Fire in the Deep'' seems a nice
summary of the discussion about teaching physics on the IAEP list
[http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/iaep/2009-August/007722.html]. It
is worthwhile reading the whole thread.

2. Some other summer reading includes a short article on behavioral
economics published by the New Economics Foundation
[http:neweconomics.org] that discusses some principles of behavior
that we may want to consider was we consider how to maximize the
impact of our efforts as a community. (I am unaware of any serious
study of Free Software by behavioral economists. This particular
summary is more useful in regard to understanding the motivation of
teachers whom we'd like to consider adopting Sugar and perhaps become
more observant about what they are doing with the platform in their

I am thinking about each of their principles as a vehicle for asking
questions that I am hoping community members may be able to discuss.

* "Other people’s behavior matters."
:This would suggest that we need to expose teachers to Sugar best
practices that they can then emulate. Can we identify the "mavens",
"connectors", and "salespeople" in our target communities? What
resources can we apply to influence their adoption of Sugar? For
example, I am working with a small school district in the Boston
metropolitan area that other, larger districts follow closely. If we
can have an influence with a "maven" district, we may get broad
leverage. It also suggests that we need to be vigilant as a community
to make sure that our examples for emulation are pedagogically sound.

* "Habits are important."
:This would suggest that we raise awareness about some of the habits
that are part and parcel with the status quo. What incentives can we
provide that would encourage change? What actions can we take to
sustain and reinforce changes in behavior?

* "People are motivated to ‘do the right thing’."
:We need to engage teachers in a discussion about what is "the right
thing" and remind them that the right thing is often hard work: "Sire,
there is no Royal Road to Geometry" – Euclid.

* "People’s self-expectations influence how they behave: they want
their actions to be in line with their values and their commitments."
:This is a tough one for us, because much of what we are doing is not
in line with expectations. However, we as long as we are on a sound
footing in terms of values, we are in a position of influence.

* "People are loss-averse and hang on to what they consider ‘theirs’."
:Sugar need not be an either-or proposition. (Sugar on a Stick means
there is nothing to give up in taking up Sugar.) And as Minsky has
pointed out, until you understand something from more than one way,
you don't understand it. Sugar can be offer another perspective on
their status quo.

* "People are bad at computation when making decisions."
:Further, they are often intimidated by the prospects of learning new
things (until they are actually doing it). "Immediate losses are
stronger incentives than long-term rewards." This would imply that we
really need to keep the "pain" associated with getting started to an
absolute minimum.

* "People need to feel involved and effective to make a change."
:We have a community with a potential for great discourse that
welcomes contributions. This is one of our real strengths."

===Help wanted===

3. Last week's discussion about feedback led to the suggestion that I
highlight feedback from the field in the ''Sugar Digest''. Please send
me reports that I can include each week.

===In the community===

4. There has been a lot of activity on our "community-powered" support
portal [http://getsatisfaction.com/sugarlabs]. The interface is a bit
clumsy, but much more friendly to non-developers than the  trac
system. Check it out. (Dennis Daniels has been including links to
screencasts with most of his posts.)

===Tech Talk===

5. In the run up to string freeze for Release 0.86, Simon Schampijer
led a triage session (See [http://dev.sugarlabs.org/milestone/0.86]).

6. Tom Gilliard (satellit) continues to experiment with alternative
formats for Sugar LiveUSB images (See

===Sugar Labs===

7. Gary Martin has generated a SOM from the past week of discussion on
the IAEP mailing list (Please see [[File:2009-August-8-14-som.jpg]]).

===Just for fun===

Another quote from ''A Fire Upon the Deep'': "Finally they pulled the
big, floppy ears simultaneously: the dataset popped open." Sounds like
he was describing an OLPC XO-1.

Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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