[IAEP] Flash at Sugar Labs

Chris Ball cjb at laptop.org
Mon Jan 5 15:03:33 EST 2009


   > When the primary mission - educating the world's least served children
   > - comes into conflict with Software Freedom, which one wins?  How do
   > you explain that to the deployments?

This is a fine question.  Here's my shot at it.

First, I think it would be a mistake to think that we're the only group
of people, or the only software project, interested in educating these
children.  It would be helpful for me, then, if we could be more
specific about what we in particular are trying to do (although it
contains the risk that we won't agree on that).  It seems to me that
Sugar exists because we claim at least the following failings of most
educational software projects:

* they don't allow the knowledge they contain to be *appropriated*.  For
  example, translated into other languages or cultures so that it can be
  useful for the entire world, or modified, commented on and discussed.
  They might choose to disallow this technically (by not providing a
  method to perform the appropriation) or socially (by actively
  disallowing it).

* they don't allow children to be *creators*, and not just consumers.
  We believe, as a consensus, that the best way to learn is by creation
  and problem-solving rather than by being dictated to.

* they don't allow learning to be *collaborated upon*, critiqued,
  and conducted jointly.

I'm sure this is less eloquent than the text that's already been written
on our goals, but it's a start.  What follows from it is that we should
build software that:

* is eminently modifiable by all, so that it can be appropriated into
  areas of the world and use cases that its authors did not consider.

* should allow not just the consumption of content, but its outright

* should provide for pervasive sharing.

Why did I just repeat all of this?  It makes it easy for me to see that
a system like Flash is not (yet) appropriate software for learning as
we envision it, because it would not support our strategy of _how_ to
achieve education of the world's children, and that strategy is our
reason for not sitting back and letting the rest of the software
projects out there solve the problem for us.

For this reason, I would support having Sugar Labs advocate against the
use of Flash, and think I can do this in an intellectually honest way.
This doesn't mean I would stop someone from writing a Flash player
wrapper if they want to, and it means I would likely change my mind
if free Flash players and editors became more available.


- Chris.
Chris Ball   <cjb at laptop.org>

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