[sugar] notes from the field - Mongolia

elana langer elana.langer at gmail.com
Tue Oct 7 15:48:08 EDT 2008

On Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 4:29 AM, Bryan Berry <bryan.berry at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sun, 2008-10-05 at 02:25 -0400, Benjamin M. Schwartz wrote:
>> Hash: SHA1
>> Bryan Berry wrote:
>> | There is something I would like to add. Folks from rich countries (like
>> | myself) underestimate the importance of narratives b/c we are surrounded
>> | by libraries, online tutorials in our native language, extensive
>> | versions of wikipedia in our language, etc. There's a real drought of
>> | narratives for poor countries.
>> I don't know what you mean by narrative.  If I were to pick a word to
>> describe libraries, online tutorials, wikipedia, and other similar
>> resources, I would choose "information".  I go to wikipedia to learn
>> facts, not stories.
> I basically mean "structured information" put into a structure by a
> human(s) intended to best build up concepts.
>> I agree that providing information is good and important for education.
>> I don't see how OLPC or Sugar lacks tools to provide information.
>> Including a digital textbook into a Sugar build for XO is extremely easy.
>> ~ We simply don't have the textbooks.  The problem, in this case, seems
>> much more like a lack of "content" and translators.  That effort is
>> important and worthwhile, but seems quite independent of Sugar.
> I agree on this. I don't see how narratives fit into Sugar. Michael
> Stone has some interesting ideas on this though. I think that Sugar
> should focus on collaboration and discovery and tools like Moodle can
> provide the narrative.

Actually, while I may be arguing a point that you might not have been
explicitly making, I think there are a few key ways in which we *can*
embed a better "narrative" into Sugar, and I think they will be very


This first of these is the Journal.  As Walter has mentioned a few
times, the Journal is meant to provide at once a container for all of
one's "things", as well as a space for reflection upon those things
and the actions taken upon them.  Right now, all we have is a
container.  The rest hasn't yet been built.

The vision for the Journal includes a view of a child's things which
includes context such as when and with whom a given thing was created,
who gave it to me, where I downloaded it from, who I gave it to, etc.
It should also provide information about events which didn't
necessarily produce a tangible "thing" (file), such as joining a
group, making a friend, changing the XO colors, etc.  This view will
provide all of this context, as well as inline previews of files, in
essence creating a true Journal of the actions a child has taken and
the objects they've made or interacted with over time.  I think this
will provide a rich narrative space which is perfect also for

Once we have a backup system in place, as well as a system for
cleaning out older and less relevant entries, it will become more of a
portfolio than a list of every file ever made, holding on to the items
which have been starred, used the most, or otherwise considered
important in the history of the child's interaction with the XO,
further emphasizing the Journal as a place for reflection.

Finally, if we can ever get a reasonable tagging system off the
ground, it will be possible to categorize the giant stream that
represents the entire Journal into streams for various projects and
purposes.  By filtering the contents to a specific tag -- say, "My
final science project", it will be possible to narrow in on a series
of actions, or a group of objects, or both, which exist within a
particular narrative stream.


Myriad concepts for the elusive "bulletin board" have been tossed
around since before Sugar existed.  These days, we have a revised view
which we think, finally, fits the primary need.  As an activity, the
bulletin board fits nicely within the activity paradigm already setup,
allowing kids to create as many of them as they choose, allowing them
to retain them in their Journals, and allowing them to share them with
their friends, with groups, or with everyone as a public bulletin

The bulletin board, as envisioned, provides a space for sharing
"things".  A child could post photos she took, or a song she composed,
or a story she wrote.  Others could then look at, or download, these
shared objects.  Others, likewise, could also post to the bulletin
board, to create a multidirectional sharing space.  There are some
technical details to work out of course; it's not exactly clear how
these posted objects (which are clearly just references to objects
hosted by the poster, or perhaps by a server, or perhaps by other who
have since downloaded them) get "resolved" such that I might download
one on request. I'm sure we can do something intelligent.

Another potential feature for the bulletin board comes in two flavors:
notes, and comments.  Bulletin boards are often a space for posting
messages, as well as objects.  Support for this could be built-in, so
that it's not necessary to first create a write document in order to
post some text.  Communicating should be easy in this forum.
Additionally, communication *about* the posted objects could (should)
also be supported, such that kids can provide feedback, rate, or
otherwise discuss the contents.  The ability to retain bulletin boards
in the Journal, as well as the ability to communicate ideas about
them, within them, lead to a narrative structure.

I think that bulletin boards will play an especially important role
for teachers in lesson planning.  Consider this example:

A teacher wants to create a lesson plan for science class.  This
lesson plan includes several URLs, some images for source materials,
an etoys project that serves as a simulation, and a list of questions
for the children to work on collaboratively.  To create this the
teacher makes a new bulletin board called "Today's science project".
She then creates a new Browse activity, and then bookmarks all of the
relevant URLs for the project, so that they're all available from the
link bar at the bottom.  She adds this activity to the bulletin board.
 She also adds some images (or a content bundle containing many,
perhaps) to the project.  Then she constructs the etoys project (in
Etoys) and the questions (in a Write instance) and adds both of those.
 Finally, she organizes the documents on the bulletin board, and adds
notes describing the various pieces of the assignment.

Once the entire lesson plan has been created, she shares it. (For the
moment, she does so publicly; in the future, she'll have the
opportunity to share this with only "The third grade class" group.)
The kids in the class can then join the activity, and access the
information, and download the various pieces to work on. Perhaps they
were instructed to work in groups on the questions.  At the end of the
day, each group then posts their finished questions *back to* the
bulletin board for the assignment.  In this manner, the kids have the
opportunity to share their work with the class, and the teacher has a
means to retain their work for future examination.

It seems likely that a number of these "lesson plans" could be
created, published, and shared.  There are details to hammer out, for
sure, but I see a lot of potential in a space which encourages this
type of sharing, communication, and "narrative".

- Eben

>> - --Ben
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