OLPC Shines at Project L.I.F.T. Annual Meeting

By: Torie Leslie, OLPC facilitator at Allenbrook Elementary School

On October 26th, 2012 the nine CMS Project L.I.F.T. zone schools and community
partners joined forces to host the L.I.F.T annual community meeting. This event
included breakout sessions centered around L.I.F.T’s commitment to appropriate
technology for all students. The “OLPC Lounge” stood out as a shining star during
this time as students, their families and community members enjoyed quality time
with XO laptops and OLPC support staff members. All visitors to the session had the
opportunity to ask questions and explore Activities on the Sugar Learning Platform.

One of my favorite memories from this event was when a 4th grade student was
sitting with his sister who is in Kindergarten and he explained how to open the
Speak Activity so she could type in her name and hear the robot speak her name. He
said to her, “You can use my XO for now but you’ll be getting your own soon!”

Check out this video from the evening created by my colleague, Monique Pollock,
facilitator at Ashley Park Pre-K-8.


Sugar Status – Google Code-in, Young developers, 8M downloads, SF summit and migration

By Walter Bender

Sugar Labs is applying to Google Code-in (GCI), “a contest for
pre-university students (e.g., high school and secondary school
students) with the goal of encouraging young people to participate in
open source.”

Why we are applying? Sugar is written and maintained by volunteers,
who range from seasoned professionals to children as young as 12-years
of age. Children who have grown up with Sugar have transitioned from
Sugar users to Sugar App developers to Sugar maintainers. They hang
out on IRC with the global Sugar developer community and are
full-fledged members of the Sugar development team. It is this latter
group of children we hope will participate in and benefit from Google
Code-in. Specifically we want to re-enforce the message that Sugar
belongs to its users and that they have both ownership and the
responsibility that ownership implies. Just as learning is not
something done to you, but something you do, learning with Sugar
ultimately means participating in the Sugar development process. At
Sugar Labs, we are trying to bring the culture of Free Software into
the culture of school. So the Code-in is not just an opportunity for
us to get some tasks accomplished, it is quintessential to our overall

Learn more about GCI and the Sugar Labs GCI effort.

Agustin Zubiaga Sanchez noted that last week we passed the
threshold of more than eight million activities downloaded from the
Sugar Labs activity portal. I echo his sentiment that “I’m very
glad to be a sugarlabs developer. Congratulations to all the team :)”

In the community

Last weekend was the OLPC SF summit in San Francisco, which was
followed by a three-day Sugar Camp. Although I missed opening day, Day
Two was quite interesting in that there was a lot of good discussion
about how to sustain and grow the various volunteer-run OLPC/Sugar
deployments. At Sugar Camp, although not much code was written, there
was an opportunity to get tangible and actionable feedback from the
likes of Mark Bradley (we pushed hard on Turtle Art as a multimedia
toolkit). I also had the opportunity to catch up with Raul Gutierrez
Segales, Ivan Krstić, and others.

 Tech Talk

The little coding I did do in San Francisco was in support of
migrating more activities to touch. Specifically, I worked on
integrating the on-screen keyboard into several of my activities:
Portfolio and Turtle Blocks. The challenge was that I was using
key-press events directly, rather than accessing them through a GTK
widget such as a Entry or TextView. With help from Raul, I managed to
get things working pretty well: basically, I just drop a TextView
widget under the cursor where I expect keyboard input. The details are
outlined here. I’m generally pleased with the results, but there
is a bit of fine-tuning of the interaction, e.g, you need to defocus
the TextView in order to dismiss it: not such a burden, but at times,
somewhat awkward.

Ignacio Rodriguez has been on a tear, helping me to migrate
activities to GTK 3. Over the past week, we converted: Card Sort,
Cookie Search, Color Deducto, Deducto, Flip, Fraction Bounce, Loco
Sugar, Napier’s Bones, Nutrition, Paths, Pukllananpac, Recall,
Reflection, GNUChess, Sliderule, Story, Yupana, and XO Editor. I also
worked with Agustin Zubiaga on Portfolio, Flavio Denesse on Ruler, and
Daniel Francis on Turtle Blocks. Whew.

Sugar Activities

Our “app store” continues to grow, thanks in large part to contributions from Sugar users who have made the transition to Sugar developers. More than 10% of our apps were written by children who grew up with Sugar. Meanwhile, we are approaching eight-million downloads.
The next generation of hackers
Not only are Sugar users becoming Sugar activity developers, they are also beginning to work on Sugar itself. A large part of the effort to migrate Sugar activities to GTK-3 has been accomplished by youths; and these same young hackers are submitting patches to the Sugar toolkit as well. They are full-fledge members of our community.
Internationalization push
Chris Leonard has led an effort to recruit and assist translation teams so that Sugar has better coverage in the mother tongues and indigenous languages of our users. Over the past twelve months, we have seen substantive progress in the languages of:

  • Oceania: Māori, Samoan (Gagana Sāmoa), Niuean (Vagahau Niue)
  • Central and South America: Huastec (Tének), Xi’úi (Central Pame), Aymara (Aru), Quechua (Cusco-Collao)
These efforts have often included working with the local experts to establish glibc locales for their languages, which will facilitate further localization work on any Linux-based system.
Sugar in the USA
While the majority of Sugar users are in Latin America and Africa, we are starting to make in roads into the United States. Programs like the ones led by Gerald Ardito have demonstrated the efficacy of Sugar within the US educational market. Larger-scale efforts by OLPC in Miami and Charlotte are driving growth.
Teacher communities
Teachers are forming communities around Sugar to provide mutual support and to drive further pedagogical developments. They are using social media tools to form communities in which teachers and developers discuss problems and opportunities. Amazonas, Australia, et al. are leading the way.
Community outreach
Sugar Labs provided support for several developer gatherings, including Sugar Camps in Lima Peru, Cambridge Mass, San Francisco CA, Prague Czech Republic, and GUADEC.
2. Isabelle Duston has created a database of images (http://www.art4apps.org/) that is intended to reduce the cost of creating educational apps in particular for literacy. Feel free to use these images in your Sugar activities and to contribute to the database. She is also launching an App Challenge (See www.educationappsforall.org); Sugar activities qualify.3. Edgar Quispe has finished 100% of Aymara for Fructose, a major step in supporting local languages in Peru. Quechua is also making rapid progress.

In the community

4. There are plans to hold the next OLPC SF summit in San Francisco the weekend of October 19-21. We are holding a Sugar Camp following the summit (Oct 22-24). Please register here.

Tech Talk

5. Simon Schampijer announced the “I am a GTK+ 3 shell” release of Sugar and the Sugar toolkit.

6. Daniel Drake announced that a new 13.1.0 development build is available (This one comes with the first development release of the GTK-3 port of Sugar and it is intended for developers to play with it and find bugs to help us solve them before release.)


Teacher from Nicaragua shares her experience with the XO

My name is Reyna Flores. I teach a combination of multigrade grades third through sixth at the little school Miguel Larreynaga in Tipitapa.

I hope that, like me, other teachers could have the opportunity to have the XO valuable pedagogical tool for improving the education of our children.

When working with the XO I tell my students that this computer is our “green little friend.” It includes great applications we call activities. We use them in any subject, and something else… We already have Internet! which allows us to enter the world of information.

Now, I want to share the pedagogical aspect in class:

As I teach four grades, the XO has been very important to increase the ammount of information, documents and materials that reinforce learning. I used to have difficulties when I taught geometrical bodies to third graders because there are children who have no geometric kits, then the activity called Paint Activity allows them to draw them.

When learning language arts, we use information obtained from Wikipedia and the children of the upper grades elaborate didactic schemes with the Maze activity as an alternative to reading techniques.

In physical education a stopwatch is needed to record the time-distance speed according to each student’s age. The XO has one.

In cultural and artistic expression we have no access to a marimba or the sounds that the student must know so here we come to the TamTamMini activity.

In science class, using the Record activity, children make their community tours taking pictures of what they believe is part of the environment and even pollution issues.

I also believe that the XO supports students who have some learning difficulties. For example, a child in third grade had pronunciation problems with the consonants L and R, so I asked him to write a list of words using the Sara activity, this way, the student could improve his diction.

At the end of each period, children take their homework and they relax with activities and Games that help them increase skills and mental agility.

Courage, dear colleagues! Let work for the children in Nicaragua. Lets focus on endeavor, affection, good will and the mystique that has always characterized teachers.

I invite other teachers to participate in the column “Teachers speak” because we must all learn from others’ experiences.

* Teacher at Miguel Larreynaga school, Tipitapa.

OLPC OS 12.1.0 SW release focusing on improving the XO-1.75 user experience

OLPC OS 12.1.0 is a new software release focusing on improving the XO-1.75 user experience, and undertaking a much-needed technological shift for Sugar’s internals to GTK+ 3.x. Additionally, XO-1.5 and XO-1 continue to be supported in this release, and we include a variety of new features and fixes.


During this development cycle, we have spearheaded efforts within the Sugar Labs community to make Sugar GTK3-ready. The changes you will see as a user are few. This work was limited to the back-end platform only. As we continue the transition in future, you’ll receive efficiency improvements, and activities will improve in quality from having more direct access to a wider range of system libraries.

Write to the journal anytime

Recent Sugar versions have shown a “naming screen” upon stopping a new instance of a Sugar activity. The idea was to encourage the learner to provide a good name for their work, and perform some self-reflection in the details field. However, some found this confusing (stopping an activity should be as simple as possible).

Sugar-0.96 changes this – the naming screen is no longer displayed. However, all activities now have a button in the toolbar that allows a description to be set. We hope that this will continue to encourage self-reflection while not being as intrusive as before.

Text to speech

A new icon in the Sugar frame allows for any currently-selected text to be dictated by the internal speech engine.

For more details on all the improvements visit the wiki here.

Training focused on the holistic development for students in Rwanda

By Desire Rwagaju, OLPC-Learning Development Officer

One Laptop Per Child Association in collaboration with Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) proposed, planned and is implementing a training that focused on the holistic development (cognitive & social) for its students in senior six and five. This Training aimed to strengthen the ASYV student’s knowledge on the use of OLPC laptop for deep learning, lesson planning and implementation of project based learning activities.

Brief history of ASYV:

After 1994 genocide in Rwanda, one of the biggest problems Rwanda faced was the vast number of orphans with no systemic solution to support their well-being and development. Anne Heyman and her husband Seth Merin (living in New-York City) were inspired by the similar challenge that Israel faced after the Second World War, when there was a large influx of orphans from the Holocaust. As solution to the problem Israel built residential living communities called youth villages. This is the model residential living communities brought to Rwanda by Anne Heyman, Agahozo-Shalom Founder. Called “The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV)” is a residential community in rural area in Rwanda. It is a home to youth who were orphaned during and after the genocide in 1994. Its mission is to enable orphaned and vulnerable youth to realize their maximum potential by providing them with a safe and secure living environment, healthcare, education and necessary life skills.

Education in ASYV and OLPC involvement:

ASYV aims on developing students both cognitively and socially. Village education focuses on both Formal Education (schooling) and Informal Education to expand each student’s talents, skills, and capacity to become not only functioning members of society, but leaders of their communities. This is where ASYV’s education aligns with OLPC’s learning philosophy and approach–using mobile technology to empower each student’s individual learning process in some of the most remote and difficult conditions. With connected laptops, learners are liberated to actively engage with others with similar interests in cultures of learning by doing without being limited by time or space. Children can learn by teaching, actively assisting other learners and freeing the teacher to focus her experience and expertise where most needed. It was seen as an opportunity for this village to benefit from this learning approach, which will enhance all the great initiatives already in place.

Trainees explore sugar learning environment, diagnosed and solved different hardware and software problems, as well as disassembling and assembling the XO.


At the end of the first phase of the training (August 10th) all trainees were going to vacation, they have been assigned to different schools received olpc laptop in previous deployment done by the government of Rwanda in 30 districts of the country. They will be helping the project with the upgrade of the anti-theft key, as they will be introducing kids and teachers at schools nearby their homes on the use of xo laptops. The Training will continue after they come back from vacation to reinforce trainee’s capacity of planning and conducting trainings for teachers.