Friday, June 06, 2008

Bender on Sugar, FOSS, pedagogy

An interesting interview with Walter Bender over at Of particular interest are his comments on the interaction between FOSS philosophy and pedagogical imperatives (something Scott and I looked at in Chapters 3 and 4 of DL with regards to writing code and computer science education respectively). Bender goes on to talk about Sugar, OLPC's "desktop" and notes its potential for fostering collaborative learning:
At its core is the concept of an “Activity”. Activities are software applications such as a web browser, a word processor, or even a calculator, that, when “Sugarized”, are enhanced by three key features: (1) the application is readily shared with others; for example, to share what you are reading with others requires just one “button click”; in the word processor, Sugar provides the ability to do peer-to-peer editing, again with just one click; a chat window is always available for seeking help, sharing ideas, or exchanging data; (2) a journal entry is created every time an application is run; not only are files and data automatically saved, but a diary is created so that a child, his/her teacher, and parents can monitor progress; and (3) applications run full-screen in a simplified framework, yet there is no upper bound on the complexity that can be reached;
And lastly, there is an interesting discussion of pedagogical philosophy and its resonance with FOSS:
Papert and his students found that children learn best when they are in the “active role of the designer and constructor” and that this happens best in a context where the child is “consciously engaged in constructing a public entity” — something “truly meaningful” for the learner. Further, the creation process and the end product must be shared with others in order for the full effects to take root.


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