Sugar Vision talk at FUDCON11 by Walter Bender, transcribed by Mel Chua. Edits/corrections welcomed, all mistakes are Mel's fault.
<mchua> walter: I gave this talk in 1984. <mchua> will be small and informal. <mchua> I want to talk about Sugar and Sugar Labs - not going to be talking alot about technology, since people have been getting that <mchua> more about the management <mchua> It's about learning. It's about making a change in the way that basic learning happens. * |tanya| (email@example.com) has joined #sugar-meeting <mchua> This was the original mission statement for OLPC as well. <mchua> This is 1983 in senegal (slide) - this is one of the first 1-to-1 computing things <mchua> Papert was working with a school in Senegal. <mchua> (slide shows picture of Papert, a child, and a computer) <mchua> the ideas behind Sugar has to be taken back to the work of Seymour from back then. <mchua> (Mel: These notes, again, are paraphrased.) <mchua> We had an educational technology called the "mimeograph machine" back then. <mchua> When we first started OLPC, there was an educational software company nearby and they made a software to help teachers make worksheets, because teachers are too busy to do that. <mchua> So this is 2008 (next slide: children with XOs in Thailand) - children with XOs. <mchua> The difference between this picture an the other people is that i'ts laptops and the nice thing about laptops it that they are portable. <mchua> s/people/picture <mchua> In this case, it's rural children documenting the forest in their community. <mchua> Marvin (Minsky) who is one of my favorite people at MIT, has made some statements about learning (slide: "The playfulness of childhood is the most demanding teacher we have. Never again in those children’s lives will anything drive them to work so hard. --Minsky") <mchua> Henry Jenkins used to study fans - like fans pushing air around. <mchua> One of his observations is that $word-I-missed are different from the rest of us - standard deviations from the norm. <mchua> $word-I-missed == explorers, perhaps? <mchua> When Jenkins described this I got really wary, because my kids at the time were little, 6-7 ish and they were doing all the same things that Henry's crazy fan people were. <mchua> (Mel: the word was either explorers or experimenters - formal scientists, I think) <mchua> But the mass production model of school doesn't encourage that. <mchua> That kind of thinking. <mchua> And my response to Bryan's comments about why this is difficult is - right, except what we want to do is make this opportunity happen whenever it can. <mchua> And then - science is important. Critical thinking is important. <mchua> much of what we're asking is asking people to be critical thinkers. <mchua> <shows slides of lots of education/pedagogy researcher names that have inspired Sugar> <mchua> So the other thing is - I used to ask audiences "what are the great learning moments in your life?" <mchua> rarely was it lectures. <mchua> I mean, this is not a great learning moment in your life right now. <mchua> <audience laughter> <mchua> Simon: It's a mixture - you can get new inspiration by listening to someone, and then go and do stuff with it. <mchua> Bryan: A lot of learning is hearing other people talk about stuff. <mchua> Walter: Some of it is lost in the hysteria about constructionism - you can't realistically expect that each one of us is going to invent *everything.* <mchua> so part of the idea is you want to balance discovery and exploration with expression. <mchua> Bryan: for instance, addition is a habit - you don't actually critically think, now, oh, 3+5 is... now I have to think about it - it's a mechanism you have developed in your brain. <mchua> Ben: Multiplication algorithms that little kids learn now were super sophisticated several hundred years ago - advanced math research. <mchua> Walter: The language we give kids around that knowledge is important. <mchua> We don't tell them about linearity, or the stuff that makes math interesting... we don't give them that vocabulary and grammar today. <mchua> I have to put in a special penguin (next slide) because I think free software is fundamental. <mchua> Bryan: One big point is that software is never done. <mchua> Michael: <turns around and says something I can't lipread. :P> <mchua> (Mel: Bryan was talking about how software - esp. open source software - can always be picked up and improved, made better.) <mchua> Someone I don't know yet: You set up this environment where you're intended to fail as part of the learning experience. <mchua> Walter: Abundance is very important. <mchua> It's about sharing, but it's also about critique. <mchua> The discussion about rpms vs xos - eventually the best idea will come to the top. <mchua> Bryan: The prevailing educational culture is that Someone says "This is what you should learn." <mchua> Ben: Guido van Rossum, Python's creator, criticized the OLPC project as "the 21st century equivalent of handing out Bibles in Latin America." <mchua> If you hand out systems that are locked and closed and preconfigured, then you're imposing your view on things. <mchua> But if we give them an open, empowering system,that's different. <mchua> (Mel: I disagree with Ben, but that's for later.) <mchua> Walter: Another place where we fall short is - look at the difference between a pdf and a wiki. One makes it easier to write margin notes and share things with other people. <mchua> I don't think we have the right affordances yet in Sugar to do this kind of thing. <mchua> Taglines of sugar: 1. Learning is not a service. Learning is a verb, information is a noun. <mchua> 2. You learn by doing. <mchua> 3. Love is a better master than duty. <mchua> Laptops can help deliver information on whatever you are interested in. <mchua> About sugar - here's the home view (slide: screenshot of interface) <mchua> <talks about the frame in sugar> <mchua> <discussion about zoom metaphor> <mchua> |tanya|: note how many people are typing on their laptops, see how bernie and simon are whispering to each other - there are a lot of backchannel conversations going on. <mchua> |tanya|: (we just may not be able to see them all) <mchua> Walter: One of the principles we have is simplicity. <mchua> One way of thinking about is that the world is complicated, so let's use simple tools to help us get at that complexity. <mchua> We don't want a simple world, but we want simple tools to get started. <mchua> Walter: <demoes tamtam> <mchua> (or rather, shows a screenshot of it) <mchua> Literally, 2 year olds can walk up to it and start using it with no instruction. I have seen it many times. <mchua> So some kids will grow beyond that, and they'll go to tamtam jam, and tamtam jam has multiple voices - you can sync your drums with other laptops... <mchua> ...and then there's tamtam edit, which lets you start laying down tracks... <mchua> (the first screenshot was tamtam mini) <mchua> ...and then tamtam synthlab - where you can make your own instruments. <mchua> (Mel: Walter is using TamTam as an example of progressive - but still simple - tools for dealing with the complex world, in this case sound/music.) <mchua> <Ben, Michael, Simon discuss technical details> <mchua> Walter: <talks about turtleart> <mchua> There's a lot of programming environments - like pippy. <mchua> TurtleArt is intro logo. <mchua> I'm the maintainer of this package now. <room laughter> <mchua> Ben: <complains about middle-endian notation of TurtleArt syntax> <mchua> <discussion on the nonintuitive design of TurtleArt> <mchua> |tanya|: Also, it's interesting to see how fast the discussion in the room can turn towards hacking and program design. ;) <mchua> Walter: One feature I added recently is an export function that turns your project into standard logo, berkeley logo. <mchua> But anyway, this is an introduction, it's meant to make you interested. <mchua> More neat ideas: turtleart with sensors. <mchua> Now we can interact with the physical world. <mchua> Another thing - we want kids to reflect in their work. The journal just captures things <mchua> We've been talking about the concept of putting a portfolio in. <mchua> I made a powerpoint-like thing out of turtleart. <mchua> <demo> <mchua> s/demo/talk about screenshot <mchua> The point is that kids can make presentations, but also that they can see that this is just another program that they can build stuff with. <mchua> I want to talk about collaboration. <screenshot: neighborhood view> <mchua> <screenshots of collaboration in various Activities> <mchua> It's rare that students have open internet access in a classroom, so it's hard for them to collaborate this way - but here, they can collaborate locally without that priv. <mchua> The Journal - it's this place that stores everything you do. <mchua> <screenshot: Journal> <mchua> I think by default that launching Activities - should be most recent instance of that Activity in the Journal... anyway. <mchua> One thing about Sugar is that it works. <mchua> Marco (lead Sugar developer): Are you sure? <laughter> <mchua> <screenshot: results from Peru - reading comprehension; less students failing, *some* students advanced (up from 0!)> <mchua> (Mel: That data - are we sure it's Sugar that accounts for that increase (and not the passage of time, or... anything else?) <mchua> Greg: It would be great to hear what actual users say - drill down from the bar graph. <mchua> Michael: <discussion of how hard it is to make many connections, even if the information is available, based on his Uruguay experiences> <mchua> Walter: We don't necessarily have that information access. I know there's some very detailed studies we just don't have access to. <mchua> Bryan: We're used to schools with nice parents and decent teachers - you won't see big leaps there. <mchua> (if Sugar is adopted.) <mchua> Walter: Grades aren't necessarily correlated with future performance. <mchua> Bernie: I can believe that kids that spend a lot of time hacking on a laptop might get worse grades in school. <mchua> Of course, if you engage in creative learning, you don't have the time to memorize this stuff in school. <mchua> Tony: There are many ways to learn things. Memorizing is just one of them. I bet you can find kids you can rattle you off baseball stats, because they're interested in them. <mchua> For example - we learned to touchtype as kids in school in a really boring class. But now we have kids that want to go on chat, so they're going to learn touchtyping because they want it! <mchua> Bernie: Sometimes you memorize because you have to, sometimes because you want to. <mchua> Walter: <slide on mission of sugarlab, comments on lots of distributions> <mchua> <discussion on sugar on a stick> <mchua> It will make a difference, because one of the big barriers is that sometimes you can't do 1-to-1 laptops, and sometimes admins don't want school computers to be touched. * |tanya| has quit () <mchua> <much scattered discussion> <mchua> Michael: Back to Walter! <mchua> <everyone gets quiet> <mchua> Walter: I'm done. <mchua> I can give the demo if people want. <mchua> (Of TurtleArt.) <mchua> <TurtleArt demo starts. I stop taking notes.>