[IAEP] Child in charge of FOSS or Sugar

Søren Hougesen soren.hougesen at gmail.com
Fri Sep 17 09:27:02 EDT 2010

For about a month ago, I asked as a curious outsider, if kids were actually
hacking sugar.
This question is in the same ball-part. I’m trying to understand Sugar-FOSS
and the philosophy
of debugging and the child’s role in this process. As I understand it, the
term ‘Free’ in FOSS
means both free of cost (mostly –always??), and free as in learners are “in
charge of their
educational environment” (Mako Hill, 29.04.08). Or as stated on Sugar Labs:
 “What are the
benefits of using Sugar? - An emphasis on learning through doing and *
debugging*: more engaged
learners are able to tackle authentic problems” (sugarlabs.org).
It doesn’t take long to see Seymour Papert in all this.

*I’m wondering: *
If a child as the learner is in charge of the learning environment,
shouldn’t it be essential that the
child is doing the debugging (…in collaboration with others – students,
teachers etc.)?

In my search for bugging/debugging in Sugar I found the
‘BugSquard/Bugreport’ on wiki.sugarlabs and it says:

“If you're using Sugar on a
Stick<http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick>or another
of Sugar <http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Supported_systems> and find something

specific you think could be improved—maybe something isn't working the way
you think
it should work, or you have an idea for how something could be better—you
can file a *ticket. *
A ticket is a way for anyone to suggest to the software or project
developers that *they should work*
on something […]".

“[The tickets]” is the *most* important part—because reading the title of a
ticket *is how a developer decides*
if he or she is going to work on it”.

I thought it was the child/sugar-user that should *decide on working on
As Papert says on debugging: “Errors benefit us because they lead us to
study what happen,
to understand what went wrong, and, through understanding, to fix it”
(Mindstorms - 1980 (1993): 114),
which is essential for learning learning.

I have trouble seeing the correspondence between the child/sugar-user taking
charge, debugging
in Sugar-FOSS as a computational environment and a distant Sugar-developer
deciding on
debugging or making improvements. To me the ticket doesn’t look like the
child is taking charge.

I have 4 assumptions about this:

1.      The BugSquard doesn’t mean that the sugar-user/child can’t be in
charge and taking control
and doing own improvements and bug-fixing in Sugar-FOSS- environment. If a
child wants to release
Sugar 6.1 then by all means. The BugSquard is just there to help and assist
the child/sugar-user who
doesn’t have the technical know-how to do improvements.

2.      Not everyone can release Sugar 6.1, 6.2 etc. That’s the mission of
the Development Team. They…
“build and maintain the core Sugar environment. This includes specifying and
implementing new features
in conjunction with the Design Team<http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Design_Team>,
fixing bugs as they are found by the Testing team and the Sugar community

3.      Debugging and improving Sugar-OS is different from debugging and
programming as a learning-process
 *in* a Sugar-activity like “Turtle Blocks”, which is the reason why..

4.      …it is possible to run Sugar-activities on Windows. It’s not
possible to debug, improve, program and
hack Windows (not legally anyway). But you can still debug and program
Turtle as a Sugar-activity that
runs on Windows.

If I’m right about assumption 2,3,4 then children doesn’t benefit from Sugar
as a FOSS. That’s mainly
for Sugar-developers and the benefit of changing and reshaping Sugar for
specific cultural needs i.e.
languages, national curriculum-adaptation etc., a top-down-proces in a
specific cultural context, that
exclude children’s points of view. more like a 'cultural empowerment'.

Last assumption:
5.      Children benefits from Sugar because it’s a specific designed
learning environment, but children
(most of them) couldn’t care less about FOSS, and they are not in charge of
the FOSS-environment.
They are in charge of the progamming and debugging Turtle not the
Sugar-activity itself,

Just some thoughts and reflections

Please leave a comment or fill in some missing links.

Regards Soren

Student in educational anthropology at Denmark
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