Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Exploration continues...

Most students continued exploring Sugar Activities yesterday, while a few others expressed a desire to return to Scratch. Here is what 11 year old Satya had to say:
One of my favorite programs on Sugar is the Scratch program. On Scratch, you can create short videos and share them with other people and vise versa. You can also animate stories or make cartoons. Even though Scratch is great, there is one thing I would do to make it better. I would have created Scratch so that you can type your own short commands, have the computer recognize them, and follow that - versus you having limited choices on the moves you can make. This Summer, I became interested in Scratch after exploring a XO I got for Christmas last year. Thinking the computer was slow and boring (seeing it had no computer games) it was cast aside and not used. but classes at the Career Center showed me what Scratch is about and how fun it can be. It has inspired me to want to grow up and become a cartoonist. To simplify it: Scratch is Magic.
The problem is that to use Scratch effectively, you need to be able to download other people's Scratch programs from the website and take them apart, modify them, and remix them. Despite days of trying, we have not been able to find a way to download a file from Sugar's Browse Activity to a place where Scratch can find and open it.

With that in mind, I'm moving the students interested in Scratch off the XOs and onto a regular Ubuntu 9.04 desktop. I thought about just focusing more on Turtle Art and Physics 2, but since Sugar lacks the very powerful ability for learners to easily share their creations through the web, it made more sense to return to Scratch.

What Sugar Should Learn from Scratch

It seems to me that there are two very powerful, but at the same time different kinds of sharing that make discovery learning work:
  1. Direct, immediate, peer-to-peer collaboration: Sugar is quickly becoming the best learning environment anywhere to support this kind of sharing. It is what Sugar was designed to do, and it does it very well.
  2. Learning by investigating previous practice: Scratch does this better than any learning environment I have ever seen. Anyone interested in what Scratch can do can simply visit the Scratch website and see thousands of programs written by others. Find one that you like, and you can down load it, look at how it was written, change and remix it to suit your needs (and then upload your changes so others can see them too). Other users can post comments about what you've shared -- what they like and didn't like, other things to try, etc. It also permits a one to many sharing in a classroom environment where each learner can take the floor and show what they have done to the rest of the class. Anyone in the class can easily grab what they see and explore it themselves.
Sugar does not yet support this kind of learning well. If it did, I think Sugar would become the most compelling learning platform in existence. With that in mind, I suggested on the #sugar irc channel that Sugar Labs, DC might be able to make that challenge its main focus. Here is the conversation that followed.

1 comment:

  1. It is worth noting that keeping control over their repository and keeping everything going into that repository is one of the reasons that the Scratch team keeps Scratch unfree. They don't want people starting other repositories and they don't want a forked Scratch uploading incompatible activities.