[Sugar-news] Sugar Digest 2009-02-16

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Mon Feb 16 10:58:19 EST 2009

=== Sugar Digest ===

1. Kathleen A. Madigan, the founder of the American Board for
Certification of Teacher Excellence, wrote a polarizing opinion piece
in the Boston Globe this weekend
"A repackaged education proposal", Opinion, Feb. 14) Madigan
demonstrates that she values what she can measure rather than measure
what she values. It is of course no surprise that a Hirschian,
"standards-based reform" will lead to higher scores on standardized
tests. But while Madigan assets that higher scores are a "success",
she does not present any supporting evidence that there is a
correlation between standardized test scores and achievement in the
"real world." In fact, many universities are dropping standardized
tests from their admissions requirements precisely because they find
little correlation between high scores and high achievement. Madigan's
characterization of Darling-Hammond's "critical thinking and
problem-solving" approach as antithetical to "academic content" and
"specificity" is unsubstantiated. Undoubtedly, having basic facts
readily at hand—on the "low shelf"—is important, but how you use those
facts is equally as important. We can achieve and measure such a
balance. A portfolio assessment that measures the whole child will
tell us more about our children, their teachers, and our schools and
closing the "knowledge gap" through authentic problem-solving can keep
learning relevant. Further, since much of life in "the real world"
outside of the classroom involves wrestling with open-ended problems,
re-instating the arts—for which there seems to be no part in a Madigan
standards-based school—should be part of any reform package that
aspires to develop life-skills in our children.

2. Several different discussion threads this week have prompted me to
write about the relationship between Sugar Labs and free software.

A question arose during a discussion about Sugar on a Stick (SoaS): Is
SoaS a product of Sugar Labs? While it is an important part of our
strategy to get Sugar into hands of more children, it is on par with
other such efforts, such as Sugar on Fedora or Sugar on Debian. Sugar
Labs "central" exists as a forum for the community to reach consensus
on its goals. The heavy lifting is happening in the leaves, both
upstream with those packaging the GNU/Linux distributions and
downstream with those packaging Sugar for deployment on specific
hardware or doing a Sugar deployment. Our product is the support of
those efforts.

An article on (http://www.olpcnews.com/people/negroponte/better_open_source_code_just_w.html)
OLPC News posed the question: Is free software better when written
just by volunteers? The motivation for asking the question was a
remark by Nicholas Negroponte, "Almost all the cutbacks were in
engineering staff related to the in-house support of Sugar, which is
far better done in the community. In fact, paying people to do it from
within created a degree of control that was unsuitable for real
open-source development." While the premise from which this question
is being posed is itself flawed (only a small fraction of the OLPC
engineering staff had ever been working on Sugar) the real confusion
lies in a more fundamental misunderstanding. Apparently it cannot be
said too often: "Free as in speech, not as in beer." The power of free
software (software libre) is that it can be "used, studied, and
modified without restriction." There is a residual in that it enables
the community to play an important role in development, but it does
not directly follow that <em>all</em> development can be done entirely
by a volunteer effort. The professional resources that Red Hat made
available during the development of Sugar were necessary in the
creation of Sugar and the development of Sugar "products" will require
dedicated in-kind contributions from industry and from the
organizations doing major deployments.

One essential role played by the community is that of critic (what Mr.
Negroponte describes as
counterproductive in-fighting). But it is anything but
counterproductive—it is one of our great strengths. While we have had
our differences, we have learned from each other and Sugar is the
better for it.

=== Community jams, meet-ups, and meetings ===

3. There will be a Family XO Mesh Meetup on Saturday, February 21st,
2009, 10 AM to 1 PM at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. 20002.

4. Michael Stone reported on some "awesome" deployment meetings (See
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Deployment_meetings/20090203) and

5. Minutes from the Friday the 13th meeting of the Sugar Labs
oversight board are posted
in the wiki.

=== Help Wanted ===

6. Simon Schampijer and the release team would appreciate more
feedback regarding the upcoming Sugar Release 0.84 (See
Triage Guide). Also, Tomeu Vizoso is trying to organizing more direct
feedback for 0.86 would like to propose the next Sugar release (0.86).
He is proposing that one point person be designated in each deployment
area to be the point of contact between the global and the local Sugar
communities. This person would "coordinate tasks where direct
communication between individuals is not practical" (See

7. OLPC will not be issuing a major software release this spring
(9.1), but is proceeding with an update to last fall's 8.2 release.
Chris Ball has announced "the first in a series of signed candidate
builds leading up to the release of 8.2.1."  For those of you using XO
laptops, the 8.2.1 release team would appreciate your help testing
(See http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Friends_in_testing#Preparation 8.2.1).

8. Christian Schmidt is looking for pictures from projects children
and teachers have created with Sugar to use as illustrations for the
new Sugar Labs website.

=== Tech Talk ===

9. Wade Brainerd has continued to develop the
(http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/ActivityTeam). He and Bernie Innocenti
have set up an RSS feed (http://git.sugarlabs.org/events.atom) to make
it easier to track changes in the git tree.

10. Simon, Tomeu, and Marco (Presenti Gritti) have been busy pushing
out new releases:
* http://download.sugarlabs.org/sources/sucrose/glucose/sugar/sugar-0.83.7.tar.bz2
* http://download.sugarlabs.org/sources/sucrose/glucose/sugar-toolkit/sugar-toolkit-0.83.6.tar.bz2
* http://download.sugarlabs.org/sources/sucrose/glucose/sugar-artwork/sugar-artwork-0.83.4.tar.bz2

=== Sugar Labs ===

11. Gary Martin has generated another SOM from the past week of
discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see


Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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