[Sugar-devel] [IAEP] Child in charge of FOSS or Sugar

forster at ozonline.com.au forster at ozonline.com.au
Mon Sep 20 09:33:23 EDT 2010

>  *Tony* - *"Having  a FOSS culture means that lots of smaller design
> decisions are made which empower the learner"*


I find it a bit strange being asked to explain FOSS culture. I run Windows on my computer and see myself as a little bit of an outsider.

It is, I guess, difficult to define FOSS culture, as well as having very fuzzy edges, it has a poorly defined centre.

Where Sugar and education is involved, its also tied up with ideas of constructivism and constructionism 

Constructivism has the learner as an active participant in their learning, constructing or reassembling concepts inside their head. Constructionism adds the idea of creating a project to share with others. From the outset, OLPC was a constructionist project. FOSS was a natural fit with constructionism as well as being cheap, an important issue for the developing world.

FOSS and constructionism both value sharing and cooperative endeavour. They both support the idea of individual autonomy, the freedom to use the ideas of others in ways that were not anticipated, they are both experimenter or hacker cultures. Its these ideas that the words you quote, [freedom, sharing and open critique ] likely refer to.

You ask whether Sugar users are part of the FOSS culture. Perhaps the questions are to what extent will they share the values of FOSS and to what extent they benefit from FOSS.

You mention Nepal. I know too little of OLPC Nepal to comment but others may be able to.

So for argument, lets consider a deployment where cultural and educational values were opposite to constructionism. To what extent would Sugar, coming from a constructionist/FOSS community alter the education experience for users? Students might have strongly scripted lessons with clearly defined assessment tasks. Computer use outside these tasks might be discouraged. 

The operating system would still have constructionist features such as collaboration and view source. (Though it would be possible for a local software build to lock these features.)  Children would still experiment and find many of the constructionist features. They would hack the system, as they do already with Windows, and would find it much easier to hack because it has been designed from the outset to be hackable. If they searched the net they would find lots of information to help them because the OLPC is open software and hardware.

So I expect that it is inevitable that Sugar users will to some extent be influenced by the values of FOSS and that the learning experience will be different because of FOSS.


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