[Sugar-devel] Sugar Digest 2009-03-10

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Tue Mar 10 12:42:27 EDT 2009

=== Sugar Digest ===

1. Now that the Sugar community and the Release Team have wrapped up
0.84, it is time to talk about our “Big Overarching Vision Goals for
2009” I've written some notes in order to kick off the discussion.

'''What are our objectives?'''

In an era of ''limited resources'' there is still pressure to equate
21st Century skills with learning to use Microsoft Office; it is more
important than ever to promote the use of free software that
encourages learners to acquire critical-thinking skills, and to
further the development of diverse communities of development and
support around the needs of teachers and learnings. Children are not
office workers and nothing in their future will resemble office work
from 30-years ago. Our collective future is dependent on our
children's ability to develop creative problem-solving and
collaboration skills, which is not the same as “excelling” in the use
of one word processor versus another.

'''What are our strategies for achieving these objectives?'''

While there are hundreds of instances of powerful learning tools,
there are only a handful of efforts to create learning platforms.
Sugar is such a platform. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution to
learning—the one right way; rather is about a change in culture:
computing as a resource employed by the learner as opposed to a
service provided to the learner.

Sugar is new; it is incomplete; it has its rough edges. Over time, it
will become more refined. But Sugar will always be demanding: We
impose a level of discomfort because we demand a level of engagement
missing from most educational software: Sugar is about the “hard fun”
of learning as opposed to the facility of empty consumption.

It takes time to make a deep, systemic impact that results in a change
in culture. Our collective efforts at Sugar Labs have influence, but
the many challenges posed by the economic crisis, budget cuts, the
energy crisis, global communication, “clash of civilizations”, etc.
are mandating real change to the status quo. We have to be cognizant
of these external influences.

'''What are our short- and long-term (measurable) goals?'''

Growth is an ambitious goal during a global recession; nonetheless,
the goals for Sugar Labs in 2009 are to grow its community, broaden
its code base, and most important, increase the number of children
using Sugar.

While the core of the Sugar software development community is
tremendously dedicated, tireless and talented, we are always going to
be in need of more hands. While we have been growing this community
incrementally—your enthusiasm is infectious—step-wise growth will
occur when local Sugar Labs start coming on line. The launch of a
half-dozen “labs” that engage local high-school and university
students in making real contributions to global free software project
in not an unreasonable goal for 2009 and it would easily double the
size of development community.

Coupled with growing the software development community is growing the
Sugar education community. We are beginning to cultivate a climate
where the teachers who have been using Sugar in their classrooms are
comfortable engaging in discussions among themselves and in some
cases, with the development community. This trend is especially
evident on the Sur list and in the blog sphere. Their feedback has
been of tremendous value. But most teachers not actually part of a
Sugar deployment are hardly aware of Sugar and until they make the
transition from awareness to giving it their attention, they will not
be engaged. Building a Sugar presence in the forums that teachers
habituate is an important goal for 2009.

Sugar is a learning platform, so it is only relevant when it is in the
hands of learners. By the end of 2009, we'll have reached over
one-million children through Sugar deployments on OLPC-XO-1 computers.
It is an ambitious but reasonable goal to reach as many children
through other means of distributing Sugar as well: Sugar on netbooks;
Sugar on a Stick; Sugar deployed through a terminal server. We have
laid the ground-work over the past six months, working with the
packaging teams of a number of GNU/Linux distributions; now is the
time to leverage those efforts.

'''What are the means of getting there?'''

Getting our message out—also known as marketing—is a key to our
growth. We've been living under the shadow of One Laptop per Child,
which has meant that we have been able to focus on creating great
tools arguable without (many) distractions. This has changed and in
response, our marketing team has stepped up the clarity and quality of
its efforts. (I am particular excited about the possibility of the
viral marketing of Sugar.) However, we are being diligent about not
over promising—we will stand behind our message.

On the technical front, we will be spending the next few months
setting the goals for Sucrose-0.86. High on my list are better
integration of SWF, Javascript, and non-Sugarized applications in
general. I think we can do more to bring the gap between Sugar and
other approaches, both so that we can invite more people under out
tent and also let Sugar be a part of other efforts. Sugar on a Stick
v1.0, will be launched in 2009 as well.

In terms of teacher outreach, we are exploring more formal and
informal means of engagement. The proposal to the US National Science
Foundation that we submitted last week focuses on a global assessment
of Sugar deployments. The survey we are putting together for the
teachers in Uruguay this week will be a vehicle for data gathering,
but also a means to bring to the attention of teachers the importance
of feedback. I expect that this by-product will result in a more
in-depth, on-going channel. Local Sugar Labs will help in this regard
as well.

'''Let the debate begin'''

These are my thoughts about our 2009 goals. I haven't mentioned
important topics such as support and documentation. And I am sure that
we'll find lots disagreement on the technical front. And as we are
always going to be shorthanded, we'll always have to make trade-offs
regarding competing goals and means. But by adhering to the principles
of free and open debate, we'll continue to be able to leverage the
benefits of our differences and our diversity. We will accomplish
great things this year.

2. The new "static" website is live. Please visit and enjoy
http:www.sugarlabs.org. Many thanks to Christian Schmidt for his great
efforts. This new landing site promises to be much more accessible to
parents and teachers than the wiki.

3. Dave Farning was the Sugar Labs representative at the Winter Camp
meeting of FLOSS Manuals in Amsterdam last week. The FLOSS Manual
effort continues to build momentum around community publishing. Anne
Gentle just sent out a call for volunteers to help refresh the Sugar
Manual in light of 0.84.

“Ideally we can complete revisions and screenshot updates by March
16th to coordinate with the software release itself.”

You can register for a login with FLOSS Manuals at

Once these updates are completed, FLOSS Manuals will offer a printed
book for sale on Amazon (once we get the process ironed out) and Lulu.
PDF and HTML versions are always available for free.

4. Recommended reading. Bernie Innocenti circulated a link to some
interesting reading about software projects. Don't be put off by the
title—there are some good ideas here

=== Community jams, meet-ups, and meetings ===

5. Fernando da Rosa is hosting a workshop for teachers, Jornadas de
Educación y TIC (See http://www.fedaro.info/) this week in Montevideo.
We hope to [[Education_Team/Survey_questions]] the attendees about
their Sugar experience.

=== Help Wanted / Help Received ===

6. We need to clean up the [[DevelopmentTeam/ProjectIdeas]] page for
our Google Summer of Code application. Please add any pet idea that
they would like an intern to tackle.

7. Bastien Guerry has set up a [[Translation]] page in the wiki.

8. We would very much like to include some photographs of children
using Sugar (as opposed to generic child with computer) for the
website. If you have any such pictures (or can take some this week),
please contact the Marketing Team.

=== Tech Talk ===

9. In addition to the update to the FLOSS Manual, the Release Team is
pulling together notes for Sucrose 0.84.  They are requesting help
from Activity maintainers. Please use the
[[DevelopmentTeam/Release/Releases/Sucrose/0.84/ActivityTeamplate]] to
create a page and link it appropriately
on the [[DevelopmentTeam/Release/Releases/Sucrose/0.84#Fructose_2]]
page. As an example, see the
[[DevelopmentTeam/Release/Releases/Sucrose/0.84/Browse]]release notes.

10. Daniel Drake has been doing some great testing of the School
Server in Paraguay.

11. Michael Stone is working on a new version of Rainbow that will
work whereever Sugar works. He is looking for feedback and testing
(See http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Rainbow).
=== Sugar Labs ===

12. Gary Martin has generated another SOM from the past week of
discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see


Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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