Kokrobite Eye Health, Micro Business, and Education

What can be done in Ghana villages

Sugar a Shorter Introduction

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29 Mar 2010

From SugarLabs, a brief introduction: “The award-winning Sugar Learning Platform promotes collaborative learning through Sugar Activities that encourage critical thinking, the heart of a quality education. Designed from the ground up especially for children, Sugar offers an alternative to traditional “office-desktop” software.”

When text books are in short supply students must try to memorise their teacher’s lectures. They will certainly be ahead once they have unlimited access to free text books. When a teacher becomes a sort of authority figure, memorising is not the same as thinking and learning.

A brief personal note.

About 1962 I came across the NY Times Magazine article on Martin Buber and eventually wrote an MA Thesis “Martin Buber’s Sublime Citizen” under Political Science Professor Norman Jacobson at University of California at Berkeley California. I was very lucky in school. Professor Jacobson was a great teacher whose seminars were always vital and remarkable.

Buber held that dialogue either involved interaction with a live potential for commitment between the parties or it was manipulative. Carried to an extreme, manipulation degrades and even destroys “freedom” in a given political environment.

Buber is especially famous for his theory of dialogue which he derived from the Prophets of the Bible. These men avoided both court and priesthood. Rather they stood at the city gates and exhorted the people to do the right thing.

Collaborating, Solving Problems Together

With this as background I realized that the authors of http://en.flossmanuals.net/sugar had underscored something of particular importance.

“A primary goal of the Sugar learning platform is enabling students to learn and work together…in a wireless environment…
“Children learn most effectively when there are multiple computers running Sugar.  This configuration allows children to use Sugar’s sharing and collaboration features. All of the computers running Sugar must be connected to the same Jabber server. You can set the Jabber server in the Network panel of the Sugar Control Panel.

As to “Collaborating: There are two similar but different modes of collaborating within Sugar:
• Send an invitation to collaborate on an Activity.
• Share an Activity in the Neighborhood View.
The difference between the two modes is subtle but important. When you send an invitation, you have specific control over who joins you. When you share with the neighborhood, you are opening your Activity up to anyone who is visible in the Neighborhood View.”

Economics of Education

In addition to increasing the both scope and quality of dialogue between larger numbers of students we ask what might Sugar do towards making more efficient use of educational funds especially where educational budgets are financially constrained? How can an individual student simply learn “more?” during a given period of time,.a term for example? How can the nation get more from its school for it’s Cidi, Dollar, etc.

We take it as a given that students learn from personal interactions with one another. Once on line and collaborating they will learn how to improve both their academic standing through through academic links. Networked computers can help students see the value of sharing ideas with expanded and more diverse numbers of students all to their mutual advantage. Thus it as hoped learning in that school activities will thus prove to be the more cost efficient will derive from this.

We further infer that all students from primary school on up who are engaged in “collaborating activities” will have learned “more” during a given period of time. Beyond this we believe that they will have acquired improved habits of mind which will enable them to stand out as better worker candidates either for low entry level jobs or better, or for more advanced studies. And problem solving will become a part of their job descriptions

I believe this is as true for the 18 year old finally graduating from the 4th grade having being held back to help support his or her family. Poverty!. Ditto for secondary school, college and university students.

More on Sugar from the Floss Manuals Introduction:

“We like to think that a child’s play is unconstrained but when children appear to feel joyous and free, this may merely hide from their minds their purposefulness; you can see this more clearly when you attempt to drag them away from their chosen tasks. For they are exploring their worlds to see what’s there, making explanations of what those things are, and imagining what else could be; exploring, explaining and learning are among a child’s most purposeful urges and goals. 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.” —Marvin Minsky, The Emotion Machine

“Sugar is a learning platform that reinvents how computers are used for education.

Collaboration, reflection, and discovery are integrated directly into the user interface. Sugar promotes “studio thinking [121]” and “reflective practice.”

“You can run Sugar from a Live CD as a quick way to explore its features. Note: Sugar is not yet available for installation on Microsoft Windows® or Apple OS-X®. Please refer to the Live CD section below if you are interested in trying Sugar on one these platforms.

Recently a friend tried to explain to me how the teaching of OLPC MATH proceeding from shapes and counting to calculus and god knows what higher levels of math can or soon will be available on Sugar.

Very likely the following references will give you a better idea.

http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Math4Team/Resources/Curriculum_Chart

http://en.flossmanuals.net/ especially http://en.flossmanuals.net/TurtleArt/Introduction

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Manuals#Manuals

http://en.flossmanuals.net/read

If collaborating and problem solving are habits of mind that can be should learned in school we will stand a better chance of bridging all kinds of boundaries encountered in life such as: racial, ethnic, religions, tribal, and economic ones providing it is interactive. However without give and take collaboration degenerates to being merely manipulative.

We are aware of the advantages of Community Centers in American Inner Cities where family life there has declined because of jobs losses, drugs, incarcerated parents and siblings. – community centers present themselves as an alternative to gangs which can fill important needs in children’s lives. But there are not enough of them. Collaborating on networked computers can help.

Feather Bedding, a false working requirements specifying for example that a fireman (who once shoveled coal to make steam) ride in the cab of a diesel locomotive runs counter to collaboration as to job efficiency. A shirt factory in Africa that could only produce 7 shirts/man/day closed its doors for no good reason except that it could not touch the Asian standard of 20.

Religious rioting instigated by illiterate fools telling other illiterate fools to go and do mayhem could have been forestalled if people only talked to each other.

As a result of recurring crisis’s the people of Bawku in N. Ghana have suffered many deaths and burned houses for score of years. A long time ago the Kusasi’s asked the Mamprusis to help defend their crops from a third tribe the Bisas. Recurring chieftancy crises has been exacerbated by party politics. A Kusasi friend living near Accra told me that he hangs out with both Kusasi and Mamprusi friends here. They miss their old Bawku home. However my friend added that when he finally retires to Bawku and the fighting starts again “I will fight like my father did before me.” When two or more peoples who share positive memories why can they not remain on friendly terms where ever, even at home. What might not grow out of an OLPC program set up in Bawku schools?

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Written by george pope

March 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Blogroll, education

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