[IAEP] Sugar Digest 2012-02-11

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Sat Feb 11 15:23:30 EST 2012

== Sugar Digest ==

1. "Papert, of course, is well-known as the proponent of
"constructionism," an educational theory which holds that students
learn best by doing—often with little guidance from teachers."

Perhaps I overreacted to a recent article about OLPC in which Seymour
Papert was cast in the role of "anti-teacher." I've worked with
Seymour for more than 30 years and never once heard him disparage
teaching or teachers. And nothing in the "Constructionist" doctrine
suggests that teachers are not an important part of the learning
ecology. That said, Papert is a believer in the human capacity for
learning, where the role of a teacher is primarily to guide rather
than instruct. And yet the mischaracterization of Constructionism and
Papert persists, not only in the press, but in the writing of those
who should know better, educator researchers.

I apparently pushed the wrong button with an education researcher who
"who dismissed Papert's self-learning constructionism largely as a
'myth.'" I have several issues with the characterization, not the
least of which is the use of the modifier, "self-learning". The same
researcher back-peddled slightly:

> I agree that Papert does not generally talk about cutting teachers
> out of the loop entirely, though he does discuss learning about
> differential gears on his own and discovering more about mathematics
> from them than he learned in most of his mathematics classes. So
> the sentence "Papert, of course, is well-known as the proponent of
> 'constructionism,' an educational theory which holds that students
> learn best by doing—often with little guidance from teachers" could
> be misleading in that it doesn't fully articulate the "teachers as co-
>learners" aspect that Papert discusses in his writings, although it
> does convey Papert's view that teachers should take a back seat
> to children's interests and that some children may be inspired to
> learn on their own.

It is debilitating to all of our efforts that an educational
researcher with such a shallow understanding of Papert is being widely
quoted as an expert on one-to-one computing. But it gets worse still.
The data that are being cited regarding the use of Sugar are terribly
flawed. For example, rough estimates of what activities were used most
often tells us next to nothing about what is being learned. And those
data are interpreted in ways that are blind to the learning that may
be happening. For example, to summarily dismiss activities—such as
chatting—as "less sophisticated (and presumably less valuable) uses of
the computer" is to miss the point entirely. When a primary goal is
literacy, engagement in an activity that so directly encourages
children to read and write is a plus. Alas, the old saw, "we value
what we measure instead of measure what we value", sums up the

Meanwhile, the OLPC/Sugar Learning Team takes assessment very serious
and has been developing a number of mechanism to dig beneath the
surface. In addition to satisfying the needs of stakeholders and
academics, we are also trying to develop metrics that serve the
learner and the teacher. Hopefully our efforts will go some ways to
shining a light on what is actually happening in the communities using
Sugar—the good and the bad—so that we can learn and improve. In the
meantime, we will have to withstand a storm of misinformation and

2. Google Summer of Code (GSoC) [1] is gearing up for 2012. It is a
nice opportunity to get some new developers on board. As a community,
we need to get ourselves organized: specifically, over the next few
weeks, we need to identify potential projects that might attract
interns to apply to Sugar Labs. I've set up a page in the wiki for
aggregating project ideas [2]. Anyone in the community is welcome to
make suggestions regarding a project that you think would make Sugar a
better platform. (Projects that are relatively self-contained tend to
be better for GSoC since their is a finite window in which to work on

If you are interesting in being a mentor, please contact me. Also,
please encourage any talented university students you may know to
apply to the program. Applications are not due until late March, but
it is best to start the conversation sooner than later. (Note that
applications submitted to Google must be made in English, but
mentoring can happen in any language, e.g., Spanish. We will gladly
help potential applicants with their proposals even if English is
their first language.)

=== In the community ===

3. There will be a OLPC/Sugar documentation sprint from April 6-10 at
the OLPC headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Please contact Adam
Holt if you are interested in participating, either in person or on

4. There will be an eduJAM! in the  week of May 7-12 in Montevideo.
Details to follow.

5. The week following eduJAM! will be a Squeakfest, also in Montevideo
(May 16-18).

=== Tech Talk ===

6. Gonzalo Odiard has gone through the open tickets on
bugs.sugarlabs.org and identified easy tasks for those interested in
getting started as a Sugar developer. Bugs and enhancements with an
"easy-hack" tag refer to tickets we think can be solved by a "newbie"
hacker. The list is here [3].

=== Sugar Labs ===

Gary Martin has generated SOMs from the past few weeks of discussion
on the IAEP mailing list:
2012 Jan 28th - Feb 3rd (36 emails) [4]

Visit our planet [5] for more updates about Sugar and Sugar deployments.



[1] http://www.google-melange.com/gsoc/homepage/google/gsoc2012
[2] http://www.sugarlabs.org/go/Summer_of_Code/2012
[3] http://bugs.sugarlabs.org/query?status=accepted&status=assigned&status=new&status=reopened&group=component&order=priority&col=id&col=summary&col=status&col=owner&col=type&col=priority&col=milestone&keywords=~easy-hack
[4] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/File:2012-Jan-28-Feb-3-som.jpg
[5] http://planet.sugarlabs.org

Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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