[IAEP] Sugar Digest 2010-06-28

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Mon Jun 28 19:44:09 EDT 2010

===Sugar Digest===

1. Between World Cup matches, I have had a busy, but fun-filled June.

The month began with POSSE Worcester, organized by Mel Chua. Mel,
Peter Robinson, and I spent five days with about a dozen computer
science professors from Johns Hopkins, Clark, Union, University of New
Hampshire, and Worcester State in a workshop that covered everything
you need to know to become a FOSS developer. We used Sugar as our
example and walked them through how to modify an activity: everything
from cloning a project on git.sugarlabs.org to requesting a merge to
updating the wiki. They really got into it and over the course of the
week, some significant patches were contributed to Abacus, Measure,
and Physics. It was a bit unsettling to have all of these CS
professors digging deeply into my code (Abacus), but in fact, they
taught me a lot. (I think we should recruit engineering faculty to
review patches). Mel organized a great week and I think the
participants will undoubtedly generate interest in their students in
FOSS and Sugar when classes resume in September.

At the end of the following week, I headed south. I made a quick stop
in Miami in order to pick up a visa for Paraguay. I spent four days in
Asunción and Caacupé with Bernie, Raul, Cecilia, and Paraguay Educa
team. I got a chance to catch up with some old friends and meet
face-to-face for the first time many people I had only met in IRC.
Caacupé, about one-hour east of the capital, is the site their pilot
deployment; I had a chance to visit two schools and meet many
teachers, students, mentors, and even some parents. (The parents were
attending a workshop at one of the schools where they were learning
about the Sugar Journal. They voiced one complaint: the children don't
give them enough time on their computers!) The children were quite
proficient with Sugar and it was integrated into many classroom
activities. The teachers weren't asking how to use the computer – they
had mastered that; rather they were discussing how they could best use
Sugar for learning. My one disappointment was observing a Scratch
project where the children were using sensor input to control their
animations. It was clear that they had not made the connection between
their actions in the physical world and the reactions of their
avatars. My hypothesis is that Scratch is abstracting away too much of
the detail. A quick demo of Measure made the connection much more
tangible. (I need to finish the rebase to GST-Mixer in order to get
Measure working again on the OLPC XO 1.0 hardware.) Over the weekend,
Raul and I watched futbol: Paraguay vs Slovakia. Whenever Paraguay
scored, the crowds in the street jumped up and down, shouting: "If you
are not jumping, you must be Argentine!" Between goals, we spent time
with Patica and the learning team discussing tactics for deeper
engagement into powerful ideas by teachers and students.

The following Monday, I gave a Turtle Art workshop to the teacher
facilitation team. We covered a lot of ground – they each prepared a
Turtle Art portfolio presentation of some Sugar project that they had
worked on previously. We explored the use of Turtle Art collaboration:
we created a solar system simulation where each planet was a turtle
shared from a separate laptop. (The children had been using Paint to
draw models of planetary orbits, hence it was an obvious example. We
discussed using Sugar to explore different representations and
consequently looked at the Abacus activity. I demonstrated how you
could represent the same number on different abacuses and in
discussion, we invented a new (to me) abacus, which lets you add and
subtract common fractions. (I implemented the "Caacupé" abacus in v15,
which I released today.)

A final story from Paraguay. Cecilia told me story of a young boy who
wanted to know what his sister was texting to her boy friend. He
couldn't read, so he transcribed the text to the Speak activity in
order to listen to her words.

That night I flew to Argentina. I spent Tuesday in Buenos Aires with
Kalil Nicholas, Claudia Urea, and Antonio Battro. Antonio was quite
taken with the Visual Match activity, which he appropriately renamed
"Dimensions". We met with the City of Buenos Aires ministry of
education, to whom I demonstrated Sugar. (One of the ministry
delegation had Sugar running in a virtual machine on his MacBook.) I
spent the afternoon watch Argentina play futbol will talking Sugar
with Gonzalo Odiard. Gonzalo and the rest of Sugar Labs Argentina have
been doing a great job of squashing bugs, enhancing activities, and,
as I was to find out later in the week, helping with the La Rioja
deployment. Gonzalo demoed Paint, which he had modified to take
advantage of the slide keys at the top of the XO keyboard: running
your finger along the slider changes the brush size. It was exactly
what I had imaged when we designed the membrane keyboard.

Tuesday night, I was in Montevideo; I stayed with Pablo Flores from
Ceibal Jam. Pablo lives downtown, in the old city. Uruguay had already
played their last group game, so no futbol. Instead, I rented a
bicycle and took a 20K ride along the Rombla (coastal road) to visit
Ceibal on Wednesday morning. Stretching my legs after some much time
in airplanes as a necessary break. Fiorela Haim hosted my visit to
Ceibal (Miguel Brechner was in South Africa, watching futbol). Ceibal
has assembled a professional staff of almost 200 people. (The project
has generated many jobs for skilled workers.) As a rough estimate,
about 50% are working on connectivity, logistics, and infrastructure.
There is a large team working on pedagogy and producing materials for
the classroom. The Sugar team, although small, is productive and
becoming much better integrated with the upstream community. (Thanks
in large part to the efforts of Tomeu and the team from Paraguay.)
They are putting a lot of effort into adapting Sugar to meet the needs
of special education; work that is relevant not only in Uruguay, but
in every deployment. Wednesday evening, after another pleasant bike
ride, I ended up at the Faculty of Engineering, where I was hosted by
ceibalJam Gabriel Eirea. I gave a talk, got a demo of a Turtle Art
Arduino-controlled robot, and discussed Sugar with local community.

Thursday, I flew to La Rioja with Antonio and Claudia. We met up with
Jennifer Martino, who is leading the OLPC side of the deployment team.
She took us to see a wonderful tango performance – a nice break from
hacking. The next two days were spent drilling down into Sugar with
Jorge Cabrera's engineering team while Claudia and Antonio met with
the pedagogy team. We covered a lot of ground; the agenda was similar
to Mel's POSSE meeting, only compressed into 36 hours and more focused
specifically on the OLPC implementation of Sugar. None the less, we
managed to make a patch to Abacus and set up an IRC channel
(irc://freenode/olpc-larioja) where we've been continuing our work.
Jorge has a strong team; exciting things will happen in La Rioja.

I missed the US/Ghana game on the flight home, but I did manage to get
some coding done (See
[http://activities.sugarlabs.org/en-US/sugar/addon/4293]). (There
seems to be a high correlation – albeit no causal relation – between
success in the World Cup and Sugar.)

2. Don't be turned away by the subject field. This thread is worth
reading: [http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/iaep/2010-June/011094.html].

In the community

3. There is an active group in Puno, a city in southeastern Peru,
located on the shore of Lake Titicaca (See

Help wanted

4. Emmanuel Di Folco, who has been developing a telescope for the OLPC
XO, is looking for software engineering support – about 2–3 months of
full-time work.

Tech talk

5. Wade Brainerd announced Sugargame, a Python package which allows
Pygame programs to run well under Sugar. It is fork of the olcpgames
framework, which is no longer maintained.

Sugar Labs

Gary Martin has generated SOMs from the past few week of discussion on
the IAEP mailing list.

* http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/File:2010-June-19-25-som.jpg|2010 June
19th-25th (82 emails)

* http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/File:2010-June-12-18-som.jpg|2010 June
12th-18th (74 emails)

* http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/File:2010-June-5-11-som.jpg|2010 June
5th-11th (64 emails)

Visit our planet [planet.sugarlabs.org] for more updates about Sugar
and Sugar deployments.

Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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