[Sugar-devel] Sugar Digest 2013-01-25

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Fri Jan 25 18:04:11 EST 2013

== Sugar Digest ==

There are certainly cases where applying objective measures badly is
worse than not applying them at all, and education may well be one of
those. --Nate Silver

1. Not to be deterred by Nate Silver's words of warning, Claudia Urrea
and I continue to work on mechanisms for visualizing learning Sugar.
Along with the Pacita Pena and other members of the Learning Team, we
have been designing rubrics that capture the level of fluency with the
technology as well as the creative use of the individual Sugar tools
by children. The rubrics are captured automatically in some Sugar
activities, e.g., Turtle Art and a modified version of Write.  We are
aiming for evaluations that look more broadly than those data that are
captured by standardized tests. We just submitted a paper,
"Visualizing Learning with Turtle Art", in which we present some
measurements calculated from 45 Turtle Art projects [1] created by
children working with Quirós Tanzi Foundation [2].

We claim that the rubric serves as a partial evaluation tool for
open-ended projects. Partial, because it is only a measure of how the
children used Turtle Art to express themselves, but not what they made
or why they made it [3]. But the rubric does have the potential to
give some assistance to the teacher who is working within the context
of accountability, without adding an additional burden of analysis
above and beyond looking at the work itself.

We want children not just to learn about the computer, but also to
learn with the computer. Providing activities such as Turtle Art that
engage them in computational thinking in the context of personal
expression is necessary, but not sufficient. Giving them tools for
reflection enhance the learning experience. Giving their teachers
simple-to-use mechanisms for assessment increase the odds that
activities like Turtle Art will find more mainstream acceptance.
Making it easier to assess open-ended projects lowers one of the
barriers that are preventing more use of the arts in school.

2. Google Code-In ended last week. We had 52 contestants working on
almost 200 tasks supported by 22 mentors. On February 4, Google will
announce the two winners from Sugar Labs. But in the meantime, I want
to thank everyone who participated and thank Google for this
opportunity for outreach. Chris Leonard, the co-administrator from
Sugar Labs, has made a page in the wiki [4] summarizing the
accomplishments of our students. Worth checking out.

3. Sean Daly, our PR guru, is back with a vengeance. We are planning
to make some noise around Google Code In, the up-coming Sugar 1.0
release, and many other accomplishments in order to broaden our
community of contributors and users. Please contact Sean if you have
themes we should consider promoting.

4. Belated thanks to Luke Faraone for once again doing a great job
running the Sugar Labs oversight board election.

5. I just released Turtle Blocks v170 [5]. It has a number of
enhancements and bug fixes with help from the usual gang: Cynthia
Solomon, Tony Forster, Alan Aguiar, Jeff Elkner, and Luke Faraone.
Among other changes, the color model is improved: its
three-dimensional nature is exposed more consistently and the color
blocks, rather than just setting hue, set hue, shade, and gray, which
eliminates some confusion caused by the black and white blocks. The
other major change is a change from using a .ta suffix to a .tb
suffix. (.ta files will still be recognized, but .tb makes more sense
for Turtle Blocks and it makes the distinction between Turtle Art and
Turtle Blocks more apparent.)

I added a few more sample projects, including an ambition project (640
blocks), game-trianglepaint.ta. The inspiration comes from a simple
paint program that Brian Silverman wrote in Javascript and that Lionel
Laske has packaged for Sugar. The Turtle Blocks version is not really
usable as a paint program, but it does work and it exposes a lot of
different ideas that will hopefully inspire some up and coming young

Finally, out of the blue, yet another third party Turtle Blocks plugin
has appeared. The Logic plugin [6] was written by Roman Pollak. It
adds more bitwise operations to Turtle Blocks, such as AND, OR, XOR,
NOT, logical shift left, logical shift right. Nice to see that people
are using the plugin mechanism. We should consider generalizing it for
all activities.

=== In the community ===

5. Tincho (Martin Abente) wrote with an update on the Sugar developer
course he is teaching in Asuncion. You can follow the progress at [7].
Tincho told a "funny story" that says a lot about the Sugar community
and Free Software:

> Today one of my students was really impressed by this
> 14ish years old hacker (Ignacio from Uruguay) wanting
> to help him with his assignment (look at Grupo 2 assignment).
> He said something like "I just can't believe it, where did he
> came from", he just could not believe someone (a kid) from
> another country contacted him just to help him, out of nowhere
> haha...

I wrote back to let him know that Ignacio is only 13!

6. Gerald Ardito was accepted to present his work developing the
Regents Living Environment curriculum into a self-directed learning
experience at a Educational Media conference in British Columbia this

7. I am after-dinner speaker at the 25th anniversary of the Human
Vision and Electronic Imaging Conference, a conference I used to
frequent quite often, before I distracted by One Laptop per Child and
Sugar. My topic will be the many ways in which human visual and
electronic imaging influenced both the design of the XO and the Sugar
user experience. Should be fun.

=== Tech Talk ===

8. Cool visualization of the week [8]. Anyone want to code this up?

9. Daniel Francis has been working on a tool [9] to run Sugar Build on
distributions that cannot be directly supported by Sugar Build by
creating a virtual Ubuntu environment and building Sugar within it.
Very cool.

10. Satellit (Thomas Gilliard) reported that we have an image built
for Raspberry PI (See [10]).

=== Sugar Labs ===

Visit our planet [11] for more updates about Sugar and Sugar deployments.



[1] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/File:QTFprojects.png
[2] http://fundacionqt.org/conectandonos.htm
[3] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/File:QTFscores.png
[4] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Google_Code-In_2012/GCI2012_followup
[5] http://activities.sugarlabs.org/en-US/sugar/downloads/latest/4027/addon-4027-latest.xo
[6] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Activities/TurtleArt#Logic
[7] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/CursoSugar2013
[8] http://www.datapointed.net/visualizations/math/factorization/animated-diagrams/
[9] http://git.sugarlabs.org/sugar-virtual-env
[10] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_Creation_Kit/sck/Advanced_Topics#Tests_of_f17-fedora-remix.3B_Raspbian-PiscesMATE.3B_and_rasbian_debian_on_RPi
[11] http://planet.sugarlabs.org

Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

More information about the Sugar-devel mailing list