[Sugar-devel] [IAEP] Planning for the future (Samuel, Greenfeld)

Tony Anderson tony_anderson at usa.net
Thu Mar 19 05:37:19 EDT 2015

Hi, Sean

I think we are on the same page. The model of deployments (outside of 
those nationally sponsored) has been a sponsor in the developed world 
has supplied laptops to a school in the developing world. Sugar must 
grow in the developed world market to continue the flow of sponsors 
which are needed if those on the other side can maintain some semblence 
of progress.

The G1G1 concept was far more clever than the creators suspected. The 
Get1 folks learned what the laptops could do and that they were needed 
on the other side of the digital divide.

Mike Dawson is right, the current model is the feature phone with those 
with more assets wishing for a smartphone. What is important is that 
experience with using electronic devices with computing capability is 
diffusing rapidly.

However, I am not so hopeful of rapid spread of broadband internet at an 
affordable price. I was an accidental attendant at a meeting of staff 
from a local high school who are contemplating getting computers 
(Apple). They said the Department of Education will supply 48000 pesos 
per year to offset internet charges ($1000).  In South Africa and many 
other areas, the usage plans charge for the amount of data transfered. 
This would very hard on schools which allow some 50 concurrent users to 
surf freely.

The norm in the secondary schools is a computer lab. Some schools reuse 
old desktops (with CRT monitors) as 'thin clients'. The idea is to share 
one computer with multiple monitor-keyboard-mouse workstations (the thin 
clients). The problem with the Raspberry Pi is that it does not have a 
monitor (keyboard and mouse are easy - a touch-screen monitor may 
eliminate the need for a mouse). However, monitors remain very 
expensive, often cheaper when wrapped in an Android device.
My sense is that we could attach the RPi to a school server and the 
students could work with it through the school server using their own XO 
screens as the RPi monitor. This would be very useful to support a 
science lab with a school kit of sensors, robots and so on.

So where we are in clear agreement, success and acceptance of the Sugar 
initiative in the developed world is essential to keep the pool of 
sponsors we need for the other side of the divide. At the same time, I 
think we need to develop a proof of concept that shows that students can 
show significant improvements in learning by using Sugar - the point you 
are making with the Journalist.

I asked the principal of the school at the meeting what was the 
educational objective of the program. The answer was each school was to 
figure that out on their own.
Apple seems to have adopted the Negroponte model, buy them and students 
will learn (worked in Field of Dreams).


On 03/19/2015 04:43 PM, Sean DALY wrote:
> Hi Tony,
> I for one certainly don't feel Sugar is only for children in developed 
> countries. I believe Sugar offers benefits for all children. I do 
> think that widespread use of Sugar in developed countries would 
> encourage its use in the developing world, for several reasons. One of 
> these is the opportunity for major donors, journalists, and 
> influential educators - who could make a difference in developing 
> world projects - to experience Sugar directly, something they have 
> never been able to do without difficulty. I remember a testy exchange 
> with a journalist who described the XO (which he had never seen) in 
> his article as "a laptop running Linux". I told him that was 
> reductionist, like calling an iPhone "a FreeBSD terminal", and 
> explained that Sugar is an environment specifically designed for 
> children. His position was that the XO was challenging the market 
> position of Windows - childrens' learning or the digital divide 
> weren't the angles.
> In the past few years we've seen enormous changes, in particular the 
> rise of handheld tactile devices (smartphones/tablets/"phablets"), 
> which seem to offer advantages for schools (rugged, light, many fewer 
> moving parts, software keyboard easy to localize) but which are better 
> suited to consuming content rather than creating it. And in the 
> developing world, the incredible rise of mobile, a large percentage of 
> which are Internet-connected smartphones (see the Pew report of a year 
> ago: 
> http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/02/13/emerging-nations-embrace-internet-mobile-technology). 
> I have been astonished at learnings from the Nosy Komba (Madagascar) 
> "micro-deployment" managed by the OLPC France association (not 
> affiliated with OLPC). There was no Internet on the island, but 
> highspeed xDSL was available in the port on the mainland a few 
> kilometers over open water. OLPC France volunteers designed and 
> installed a wifi link (this involved climbing the island's volcano to 
> set up an antenna) after initial resistance from the local telco 
> provider. When the island's villages learned that the school had not 
> only computers for the children, but limited Internet access, the 
> school's attendance jumped (a dormitory had to be built as a result). 
> And the island's fishermen wanted to learn how to obtain weather and 
> tides information. My point is that even in remote areas, people know 
> that the Internet exists and that children need computers and 
> connectivity to develop opportunities - there will be fewer and fewer 
> schools which are completely off-grid. I agree that the children in 
> those schools need help the most, that with no connectivity a local 
> device (or device+server) is all-important, and that the XO is 
> best-suited as that device. However Sugar offers the possibility of 
> using a different device if XOs become unavailable. It's not 
> farfetched to imagine a hardware/Sugar education project based on a 
> RPi or other Single Board Computer (SBC), perhaps with an internal 
> battery, used for example with shared keyboards and screens at school 
> connected to a school server, maybe with satellite tablet screen for 
> outside school...
> To me, the goal of Sugar Labs is to offer its benefits to all 
> children, not just those lucky enough to have access to an XO. This 
> can certainly include children in developing countries - witness 
> Sugar's support for indigenous languages, always a step ahead of 
> commercial offerings, yet of only limited interest in developed countries.
> Sean.
> On Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 1:40 AM, Tony Anderson <tony_anderson at usa.net 
> <mailto:tony_anderson at usa.net>> wrote:
>     Sean,
>     I think you are getting at what I consider the heart of the
>     problem. SugarLabs sees Sugar as an alternative GUI for any
>     computing device with primary efficacy in the developed,
>     internet-connected world. This goal is understandable since the
>     XOs have a limited life and so Sugar must be operable on currently
>     marketed devices.
>     The project I signed up for is to place computers in the hands of
>     every child at a community school in the developing world where
>     electricity is an issue, the internet is unavailable, and teachers
>     as well as students have no prior experience with computing. The
>     goal of the project is to enhance the educational opportunities of
>     these students through the use of Sugar as well as access to
>     information others on the right side of the digital divide get
>     from the internet.
>     Tony

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