[IAEP] Sugar Digest 2012-06-10

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Sun Jun 10 19:23:19 EDT 2012

== Sugar Digest ==

1. The typical trip from Lima to Chachapoyas [1], Amazonas involves
flying and bus travel. A common way point is the city of Chiclayo, on
Peru's north coast. We (myself, Melissa Henriquez (OLPC), Reuben Caron
(OLPC), Raul Hugo (Escuelab), and Alexander Moñuz (Escuelab)) had a
several hours before our bus, so we took a walk through a sea of taxi
cabs and a cacophony of car horns. It reminded me of Lima from five or
six years ago: too many cars and drivers not yet acclimated to the
culture of driving. Lima, in contrast, while still overwhelmed by too
many cars and buses, seems tranquil by comparison: the culture of
driving has caught up with the increased availability of the
technology of driving. Yet another example of Papert's observation
that change is never a technology in isolation; it always has a
cultural component. A goal of our week in Chachapoyas was to help
shape the change in the culture of learning in Amazonas as more
technology is made available to teachers and children in the region.

The bus ride was only eight hours: better than the alternative, thirty
hours from direct Lima. Once the poorly dubbed B-movies stopped
playing on a television inconveniently placed inches from my face
stopped playing, I managed to get some sleep, despite the incessant
swaying of the bus as it snaked its way through the Andes. We arrived
at 6 Sunday morning to a sleepy town, built in the traditional style:
a grid with a central plaza. We had decided to use our one free day to
explore Kuélap, an ancient city another 2.5 hours from Chachapoyas, so
we didn't even manage a cup of coffee before heading up some even more
winding roads.

Kuélap [2] was settled at least 1500 years ago. It is an extensive
ruin on top of a 3000-meter peak. The most characteristic artifacts
are the circular foundations of the houses, packed together in a tight
matrix. Diamond-shaped patterns, reminiscent of snake skin were
frequent sights [3].

When we got back to town, we discovered that coincident with our
week-long teacher-training workshop was a week-long festival,
celebrating both the revolution against Spanish rule and some ancient
traditions regarding inviting the coming solstice. It meant parades
and firecrackers at sunrise, and music each evening. The rhythm of
week was established: breakfast at 7; at the workshop by 8; an early
dinner at 7; evening sessions beginning at 8:30; and dancing from 11
to 1 AM. The music and dancing offered an opportunity to get to know
the teachers outside of the workshop. It was also an opportunity to
observe some of the local ways. Most notable to me was the way in
which the crowds organized themselves: tight circles of 10 to 15
people. If you took an aerial photograph of the festival, you'd see
the same circle patterns as we had just seen in Kuelap. Sometimes a
culture expresses itself in unexpected ways.

Monday morning, we were joined by Elver Guillermo (our host), Alex
Santivanez (DIGETE), and Jorge Parra (DIGETE) (Alex and Jorge arrived
from Lima that morning). And 60 teachers from across six different
regions from Amazonas. We began the week with a question: "how do you
use XO/Sugar for learning?" It was no surprise that most teachers
answer with, "No sé." Even the few that had had some minimal
experience with the XO answered with mundane themes, such as doing
research on the Internet. We asked the same question at the end of the
week, and although I haven't seen the survey results, I am certain
that the teachers expressed a wealth of ideas around communication and
expression, math, science, and the arts. We also asked the teachers if
and where they hung out on-line. Almost all of them were Facebook
users, so Raul set up a Facebook group,
[http://www.facebook.com/groups/370964266297045/ Amazonas XO], for
them to use as a forum for sharing experiences.

At the end of a day using Write, Record, Fototoons, Memorize, Mind
Maps (Labyrinth) and Paint, we introduced the teachers to Portfolio,
and they created their first reflections on the week. That evening, I
reviewed the variety of Sugar activities available and introduced the
Sugar concept of the "gear": the invitation of create your own variant
of an activity. I also showed them a new Sugar activity I wrote Sunday
night after visiting Kuelap: Amazonas Tortuga [4], a variant on Turtle
Confusion that uses images from the region. A long day "drinking from
a fire hose." Time for some music and dancing. A party in a different
barrio each night.

On Day Two, we did sessions of Turtle Art and Scratch. Melissa and
split the groups into two. My first group of Turtlistas made rapid
progress from pretending to be a turtle in the courtyard of the
school, dragging a piece of chalk when "pen down", to mastering Stacks
(Accions) and Boxes (Cajas). The second group, which had been working
in Scratch for three hours, struggled with the programming concepts of
Turtle Art. On the other hand, Melissa reported that the group that
had used Turtle Art soared in Scratch class, much more will to
explore. We still need controls: Scratch followed by Scratch and
Turtle Art followed by Turtle Art, but it seems that using Turtle Art
before Scratch helps Scratch proficiency while using Scratch before
Turtle Art impedes Turtle Art proficiency. It is worth looking more
deeply into this.

The evening class was dedicated to programming. We began by looking
into a bug in Labyrinth encountered by the teachers that day. I showed
them how to access the Log activity and look for errors in the log. We
discussed the error message, a ValueError and took note of the file
name and line number. Next, I introduced View Source. We found the
line in the code responsible for the error, and I discussed the
reasons for the error: simple_scale wants integer rather than float
input. We also discussed casting floats to ints as a potential
solution. Next: we used the Duplicate function of View Source to make
a clone of Labyrinth in which to apply our patch. Using JAMEdit to
edit the file, we were able to fix the bug. Finally, I showed them the
bug-tracking system and walked them through the process of writing a
ticket. By that time, it was late and the concert had begun, so I only
quickly reviewed the merits of Free Software -- I imagine we would
still be on hold with the Microsoft call center -- and described the
process of using git -- and commit messages -- to manage software

Wednesday morning, Melissa, Raul, and Alex demonstrated sensors on the
XO, in Scratch, Turtle Art, and with WeDo. Alex and I built a WeDo
project using found materials in Turtle Art, while Raul showed how to
make sensors to use with the XO mic-in. Much of the rest of the day
was dedicated to technical issues: servers, updates, etc. Reuben and
Jorge walked the teachers through these topics and then issued a
screwdriver to each teacher, who used it to disassemble and reassemble
their laptops. Not casualties. A second portfolio was created and
uploaded to the School Server before heading out to the festival. We
partied with the teachers from UGEL Rodríguez de Mendoza.

Thursday, Alex and Melissa focused on curriculum development with
Sugar. Alex described a process by which one could develop a
curriculum unit and the teacher, broken into groups, designed
curricula around the themes of communication and math. Thursday night,
Raul, Alex, Elver and I stayed late to help teachers with their
projects. One problem was posed by a teacher who wanted to write a
program for inputting numbers and rendering them different colors
based on magnitude. We got into an interesting discussion about how to
represent the concept of magnitude as it relates to place when writing
numbers. For example, to write the number, 123 from left to right,
first you right 1, then you write 2, but that immediately changes the
meaning of the 1. It is suddenly a ten. Writing 3 means that the 1
becomes 100 and the 2 becomes 20. While programming this in Turtle Art
is not difficult, it was an interesting exercise, because it forced
the teacher to think about how we represent numbers.

Friday was a day for show-and-tell. In the morning, the teachers made
presentations of their curriculum plans. In the afternoon, Alex
arranged a project fair, where each teacher chose one project to show
off to their peers. Finally, a third portfolio for the week. Then
photos, lots of them, and goodbyes. I had an opportunity to discuss
our progress with several officials from the region over coffee Friday
morning. They seemed both encouraged by the progress made by the
teachers and the sentiment that the next workshop should be led by
people from the region, not just attended by people from the region.
An important step towards appropriation.

Before getting on the overnight bus back to Chiclayo, Jorge gave me a
file with images of Peruvian Soles, so I was able write a Soles plug
in for Turtle Art [5] on the overnight bus ride. (Again, I could not
sleep due to the movie playing inches from my face.) Raul, who was
sitting a few rows back from me, joined a shared Turtle Art session
and we stumbled upon a new use for a well-worn activity: chat. By
sharing text with the Show block (and as of TurtleBlocks-144 [6],
text-to-speech with the Speak block), you can engage in an interactive
chat or forum, which includes sharing of pictures and graphics. What

There had been the threat of a delay due to landslide, but the road
was cleared and we arrived back in Chiclayo at 6AM. We walked a few
blocks to a restaurant know for its fresh ceviche where we enjoyed the
food and sights. Then back to Lima, where I gave a trip report to a
gathering at Escuelab. (I used the Portfolio tool to make an annotated
slide show, which I projected from an XO.) Then back to the airport in
time to see the Boston Celtics lose Game 7 to the Miami Heat. A flight
to Miami, a quick connection to Boston, and home again.

2. While I was in Lima, I got another chance to meet with Irma Alvarez
and Aymar Ccopacatty. I gave Irma an XO on which to test her Quecha
translations. Her translations of Turtle Art landed while  was in
Chachapoyas, which was nice to be able to report to the teachers

With help from Reuben we guided her through the process of installing
language packs [7]:

    1. with Browse, download the .sh of the language you wish to install;
    2. copy the file from the Journal to ~/Documents by drag and drop
in the Journal view;
    3. From terminal,
 cd ~/Documents
 sh ??_lang_pack_v2.sh
      where ?? should be replaced by the language code of the file you
    4. Restart Sugar.

3. Peter Robinson announced Sugar on a Stick 7 (Quandong).

Many thanks to Peter and the Sugar and Fedora communities.

>From Peter's email:

Some of the key new features of this release include:
* Based on Fedora 17 and it's new features
* Massively improved x86 Mac support
* Sugar 0.96 with initial support for GTK3 Activities and many other
* Return of Browse, now based on WebKit
* The long awaited return of Read and inclusion of GetBooks
* Enhanced hardware support with the 3.3 kernel
* An increase in default Activities by nearly 50%

The release name, Quandong, continues the tradition of naming releases
by types of fruit. The Quandong or Native Peach is a native Australian

You can download the release from [8]. It can also be installed as
part of a standard Fedora 17 install and is shipped as part of the
official Fedora installer DVD and the Fedora Multi Spin Live DVD. It
can also be installed from the GUI package tool within a running
Fedora install or by command line:

 sudo yum install @sugar-desktop

=== Sugar Labs ===

Visit our planet [9] for more updates about Sugar and Sugar deployments.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chachapoyas,_Peru
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuelap
[3] http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/17/Building_ruins_of_Kuelap.jpg
[4] http://activities.sugarlabs.org/en-US/sugar/addon/4585/
[5] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/images/5/52/Soles.tar.gz
[6] http://activities.sugarlabs.org/en-US/sugar/addon/4027
[7] http://translate.sugarlabs.org/langpacks/
[8] http://spins.fedoraproject.org/soas/
[9] http://planet.sugarlabs.org


Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

More information about the IAEP mailing list