The third edition of SugarCamp in Paris organised by OLPC France this last week-end, on the 12th and 13th, was a event rich of discussions (everyone is very passionate about what he does !), information sharing and ideas debated. Something not surprising considering the recent news related to OLPC is that most of the discussions were spent over the future of the couple OLPC/Sugar/XO and the importance, or need, of seeing these three names stick together. Most of what was discussed deserve deeper and longer thinking but there are some highlights that already stick to my mind:
- Sugar has active users and already contributed to many success stories. As highlighted by Walter, 30% of the patches in the latest version of Sugar comes from end-users (kids!) and 10% of activities are also provided by them. It can be observed that they take appropriation of the tools given to them in order to develop the things they need. Rather than the traditional carrot and stick motivational model, it is here the combination of autonomy, mastery and sense of purpose that drives these kids to do something. They get satisfied of doing something that solves a problem they had and are very proud of showing it around. Furthermore does this not necessarily happen only in “big” deployments, many the “micro” deployments with only one or two classrooms also exhibit this kind of results. This is the kind of story that need to be shared widely to convey the interest of learning differently and show the meaningful role Sugar can play in it.
- We need to construct evidence of the effectiveness of Sugar. The hype associated to distributing funny looking computers to deprived children and see the magic happen is mostly gone. After almost ten years into the project and 2 millions laptop deployed, deciders expect to see concrete proofs of the learning progress of the young learners. Statistics become an hot topic, it is important to gather data and derive some meaningful information from it. This will also contribute to the self-assessment capabilities offered by Sugar which up to now only consist in looking at the content of the journal. It won’t be easy though as the massive processing of the journal content raises some privacy issues. Gathering dedicated information will also bring its set of specific challenges (define target usages, get rights, define data archiving policies, …). Progress will have to be made on that front but in a very cautious way.
It was also interesting to see more of non-XO/Sugar related education talks this year, this enlarge a bit more the scope of the community and is rather relevant because what we are concerned with is an education project after all 😉