Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saving the World with Python

I had the great pleasure yesterday morning of having breakfast with with Cecilia Alcalá, Executive Director of Paraguay Educa, the organization responsible for the OLPC/Sugar deployment in Paraguay.

As we talked about our respective projects and shared ideas about how we might work together, I was viscerally excited that my original hopes for the OLPC/Sugar project may be coming to pass.

Cecilia was proud of the fact that her team did much of the heavy lifting in the release of Sugar 0.88, the version of Sugar that will run on the new XO 1.5. In addition to Paraguay Educa, Sugar 0.88 was developed as a joint activity between Activity Central and Sugar Labs, in collaboration with the Uruguayan OLPC/Sugar project, Plan Ceibal.

What we have here is a collaboration among grass roots software developers and educators from both South and North America to create educational resources for the benefit of learners the world over.

On a personal level, I'm happy that the community around this particular project is centered around the use of a common language.  I'm not talking about Spanish or English, but rather Python.

It was Guido van Rossum's 1999 "Computer Programming for Everybody", with its vision of a more democratic world where the programming of computing machines becomes part of the basic literacy of every day people, that brought me into the Python community.  There has been a small but vital subgroup within the community that is motivated by that vision.

At last year's Pycon, had a sticker at that read, "Python will save the world! I don't know how, but it will."  It may very well be that groups like Paraguay Educa are showing us how.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Setting Up SchoolTool with The SchoolTool Book

I just finished setting up SchoolTool for the GCTAA Summer program.  I added a school year, then a term. I set up the timetable, then added courses, teachers, and students.  It was so easy that it made me feel real good!

The thanks for this pleasurable experience go to the SchoolTool project manager, Tom Hoffman, who has crafted The SchoolTool Book. As someone who has spent many an angry hour trying to work my way through complex and impossible to read configuration manuals, I can recognize a well written manual when I read one, and this one is well written.  It is clear and concise, and has all the information the reader would want in just the right places.

The lesson here is simple:  all free software projects should have their documentation written by English teachers who are also free software geeks.  If only we could find more of those.

Thanks Tom!