[IAEP] Sugar Digest 2009-01-29

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Thu Jan 29 11:51:39 EST 2009

=== Sugar Digest ===

1. I have a bad habit of losing myself in programing. Not that I am
much of programmer these days, but once I start in on a project, I
have a hard time attending to things happening around me. I don't
regret my decision to use Turtle Art Portfolio for my presentation at
LCA (linux.conf.au) in Hobart last week, but I haven't been able to
let it go. I spent too much of my time Down Under debugging Python
code rather than debating the larger questions facing Sugar Labs.
Nonetheless, I did manage to get things working reasonably well for my
talk last week. (I cannot seem to find the link to the videos, but
they are posted on line somewhere.) The talk itself was not my most
inspired. I let myself get bogged down in some some questions at the
end regarding human-centric versus learning-centric design. Had I been
on top of my game, I would have been a bit more clear with my answers.

Thanks to Mike Usmar, who is the force behind the Computer Clubhouse
efforts in New Zealand, I had a second (third and fourth) chance to
debug both my code and my talk. From the post talk discussions, I
think things went better in Wellington and Auckland. I had a chance to
meet the wonderful Wellington Testing Group led by Tabitha Roper at
the office of Catalyst, Ltd. There were representatives from the
ministry of education there as well. It was a good discussion, about
pedagogy and the pragmatics of getting things going in the region. The
ministry doesn't tell schools what do to, but they can play a role in
helping to spread the Sugar meme by supporting teacher workshops and
offering credits toward continuing education when teachers work with
Sugar. In Auckland, I had a chance to meet students and faculty at the
university. Tabitha's father, who coincidently is studying portfolio
assessment, had some great feedback—collectively we have a ways to go,
but we are progressing and the vector is pointed in the right
direction. (I also saw some student work that has good potential as an
alternative Journal/portfolio view—a potential Summer of Code
project?) I also met with the teachers of an Auckland school. An
independent-minded and inspired group, they are going to start a
one-to-one program for middle- and high-school students. My one small
contribution to their plans was to relay to them a lesson I learned
from Carla Monroy Gomez: use the introduction of the computers as a
reason to hold a community celebration that draws the parents into the
school as stakeholders.

A highlight of my trip was the day I spent with Bill Kerr and Tony
Forster in Melbourne on my way between Hobart and Auckland. Tony lives
in the countryside about 45 minutes outside of the city. We sat and
talked, coded, debugged, debated, and ate a delicious barbecue. I have
a long list of things that need improvement. It is real pleasure to
spend time with people who are both grounded in the day-to-day needs
of the classroom and are fluent in the works of the likes of Marvin
Minsky. I learned a great deal from some gifted teachers. (Had I not
been up to my nose in Python code, I probably would have learned even

2. Speaking of Minsky, I posted his latest essay learning this week
(See [http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Education_and_Psychology]) in which he
discusses ways in which we can "provide our children with ideas they
could use to invent their own theories about themselves."

3. A new a non-profit organization, Squeakland Foundation Inc, will
take over from Viewpoints Research as the guardians of Squeak Etoys.
The new board includes: Tim Falconer, Kim Rose, Walter Bender, Rita
Freudenberg, Kathleen Harness, Marta Voelcker, Scott Wallace, Yoshiki
Ohshima, and Milan Zimmerman (See

=== Sugar Labs ===

4. 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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