[IAEP] Sugar Digest 2013-10-22

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Tue Oct 22 10:33:46 EDT 2013

== Sugar Digest ==

"Free software gives the license. Sugar provides the means."

1. I'm back from a week in Paraguay and Uruguay to celebrate Turtle
Art Days in Caacupé and Montevideo.

Turtle Art Day Caacupé exceeded my expectations. 275 students, their
parents, and 77 teachers joined educators and Sugar developers from
eight countries throughout the Americas and as far away as Australia
(Tony Forster). Brian Silverman and Artemis Papert, the co-creators of
Turtle Art, led workshops to a room full entralled children. Martin
Abente, Andres Aguirre, and Alan Aguiar similarly led Butiá/Juky
robots workshops, using TurtleBots. Claudia Urrea and I led workshops
using Turtle Blocks, where the emphasis was on sensors and mutlimedia.
Tony led a seminar with teachers on pedagogical framework for Turtle
Art. We were assisted by "Evolution" children, youth leaders in
Caacupé who attend school in the morning, teach in the afternoon, and
on weekends supply technical support to school programs (I hope we are
able to recruit many of them to participate in Google Code In, should
Sugar Labs be chosen to participate again this year). While I have
come to expect that children will deeply engage with Turtle Art, the
fact that they maintained intense focus for three consecutive two-hour
workshops, 70 to room, with only short breaks, was unexpected. Many
thanks to Mary Gomez, Pacita Pena, Cecilia Alcala, and the Paraguay
Educa team for all of the work they did behind the scenes (and in the
classrooms) to make the day a success.

Turtle Art Day Montevideo was teacher-focused rather than
child-focused. Organized by José Miguel García, it attracted 70
teachers to ANEP for a series of workshops.  Claudia and I began the
day with a short lecture on pedagogy. The workshop themes included
sensors (led by Guzman Trindad), robots (led by Andres and the Butiá
team), advanced blocks, and turtle mathematics. During the robots
workshop, we implemented inter-robot communication by taking advantage
of some new collaboration blocks in Turtle Blocks (ported to
TurtleBots): we mapped the accelerometer from one machine to the
motors of another to make a remote-control steering wheel. In
discussions the following day with Mariana Herrera, who works with
children with severe physical disabilities, we came up with a simple
adaptation that may enable her students to program Butiá using some
buttons embedded in pillows.

Sdenka Zobeida Salas Pilco and the children at an Aymara-speaking
school organized a Turtle Art Day in Puno as well: "Children and I
organized quickly this event, they provided some ideas for
celebrating, it was their idea to arrange the classroom and sticking
balloons to the walls. Girls asked me to were the traditional local
clothes. They helped me a lot. Also, they prepared a song, a poetry
and riddles in Spanish and Aymara language. Finally, the little ones
worked some codes, 4th graders were exploring the activity, and 6th
graders organized the event."

Other Turtle Art Days are following: in Costa Rica, Malaysia, and
possibly Singapore. While the primary purpose of these Turtle Art Days
is to promote children learning through programming, an important
secondary goal was also achieved: programming is not just in service
of geometry (what Papert called "Mathland") but also in service of
whatever passion drives the child. (Artemis refers to the work she and
Brian do as "Artland". Work with sensors, robots, multimedia, etc.,
offer many "mountains to climb".)

2. Other activities in Paraguay and Uruguay this week included EduJam
in Asuncion, a Sugar Hackfest, a meeting with Pablo Flores and the
Python Jóven, a Butiá workshop, and a Ceibal event for educators in
Montevideo. Leticia Romero organized the first EduJam to be held
regionally, at the National University of Asuncion. (I handed out >100
copies of Sugar on a Stick to interested attendees thanks to the
generosity of Nexcopy [1].) It was well attended by educators and
engineers from Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, et al. The
hackfest was also well attended. It included testing of Sugar 100 in a
session orchestrated by Gonzalo Odiard (a number of bugs were
discovered and fixed), an introduction to the new HTML5/Javascript by
Manuel Quiñones, and a discussion of a proposal Brian to use an
embedded Logo environment in the Arduino "brains" of the various
robots programmed with TurtleBots. The Butiá workshop was an
opportunity for me to observe how children use TurtleBots in
programming their robots -- a few of my observations led to some
fine-tuning of the UI in TurtleBlocks-192. And a chance to get direct
feedback from teachers who use Turtle Blocks in a wide range of
activities. Eye-opening. We discussed the ongoing challenge of
providing both a low floor and a high ceiling. The Ceibal event was
also an opportunity to observe how teachers use Sugar. There were
perhaps 100 booths set up with teachers showing their projects. What
was most impressive to me was that these projects were developed
locally by the teachers, not handed down to them by the commercial
sector: a testimony to the fact that teachers, when given the
opportunity, will learn and use that learning in their classrooms.

Many thanks to everyone from both .PY and .UY who were so welcoming
and hospitable. It was great to see old friends and make some new one.
I am looking forward to returning to the region soon.

3. For the first time ever, four members of the Sugar Labs oversight
board managed to be physically in the same place at the same time.
Daniel Francis, Gonzalo, Claudia, and I met at a coffee shop in
Montevideo and had a chance to discuss a number of topics:
(a) We agreed that we would apply again to Google Code In. It is
imperative that the community come up with challenges for the contest
as per [2]. We'd like to focus more on  bug-fixing tasks this year.
I'll be preparing the 2013 pages in the next day or two.
(b) We discussed the need to have more regular meetings (with preset
agendas). I'll be soliciting preferred times for a monthly meeting,
beginning in November.
(c) We need to hold an election for four positions on the oversight
board. Claudia, Daniel, and Gonzalo are continuing. The terms for
Adam, Gerald, Chris and I are all expiring. Details to be posted
(d) We discussed the need to amplify direct communication with Sugar
deployments. We'll try to organize regular IRC meetings with technical
and learning representatives from deployments.
(e) We discussed the possibility of establishing local "ambassadors"
to deployments to also increase communication.
(f) We also want to hold brainstorming sessions on some specific
topics, e.g., accessibility.

=== Sugar Labs ===

4. Please visit (and contribute to) our planet [3].


[1] http://recycleusb.com/
[2] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Google_Code-In_2012
[3] http://planet.sugarlab.org


Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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