- "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
What is Sugar?
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 " and "reflective practice ". Through Sugar's clarity of design, children and teachers have the opportunity to use computers on their own terms. Students can reshape, reinvent, and reapply both software and content into powerful learning activities. Sugar's focus on sharing, criticism, and exploration is grounded in the culture of free software (FLOSS).
[Home_sharing] Sugar facilitates sharing and collaboration. Children can write documents, share books and pictures, or make music together with ease.
[Home_activities_1 ] Children interact with Activities. Activities includes an application, data, and history of the interaction that can be used to resume and reflect on the child's work .
[Home_backup ] Everything is saved automatically. It is our goal that you will never lose your work.
[Home_journal_1 ] The Journal is a diary of things that you make and actions you take. It is a place to reflect upon your work.
[Home_opensource ] Sugar is free and open-source software. Sugar is licensed under the GNU GPL; updates will always respect the freedom of its users.
The Sugar Philosophy
Information is about nouns. Learning is about verbs. The Sugar user interface differs from traditional user interfaces in that it is based on both cognitive and social constructivism. We believe that learners should engage in exploration and collaboration. The Sugar platform is based on three defining human principles. These are the pillars of user experience for learning:
- Everyone is a teacher and a learner.
- Humans are social beings.
- Humans are expressive.
Two principles define the Sugar platform:
- You learn through doing, so if you want to learn more, you want to do more.
- Love is a better master than duty—you want people to engage in things that are authentic to them, things that they love. Internal motivation almost always trumps external motivations.
Three experiences characterize the Sugar platform:
- Sharing: The Sugar interface always shows the presence of other learners. Collaboration is a first-order experience. Students and teachers dialog with each other, support each other, critique each other, and share ideas.
- Reflecting: Sugar uses a "Journal" to record each learner's activity. The Journal serves as a place for reflection and assessment of progress.
- Discovering: Sugar can accommodate a wide variety of users, with different levels of skill in terms of reading, language, and different levels of experience with computing. It is easy to approach, yet it doesn't put an upper bound on personal expression. One can peel away layers and go deeper and deeper, with no restrictions.
[RGB_logo_orange_300 ] Sugar was originally designed for One Laptop per Child (OLPC), as part of an effort to provide an opportunity for a quality education to every child through the distribution of connected laptop computers, our most powerful tools for expression. Sugar is the user interface used on the OLPC XO laptop. It is now available on other GNU/Linux
Sugar Labs is a non-profit foundation whose mission is to produce, distribute, and support the use of the Sugar learning platform. Sugar Labs supports the community of educators and software developers who want to extend the platform and who have been creating Sugar Activities. Sugar is a community project. It is available under the open-source GNU General Public License (GPL) and free to anyone who wants to use or extend it.
 Studio thinking is a term used to describe how visual arts teachers teach and what visual arts students learn. The term is detailed in Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education. Studio thinking includes "studio structures": demonstrations, projects, and critiques; as well as "studio habits of mind": develop craft, engage and persist, envision, express, observe, reflect, stretch and explore, and understand the art world. In the context of Sugar, studio thinking is applied not just to the arts, but to all disciplines.
 Reflective practice is a concept introduced by Donald Schön in his book The Reflective Practitioner. Reflective practice involves students applying their own experiences to practice while being mentored by domain experts. In the context of Sugar, the expert could be a teacher, a parent, a community member, or a fellow student.
The Sugar User Interface
The Sugar platform encourages learning through personal expression.
The user interface uses a "zooming" metaphor—each view represents a different scale of interaction. You move between a view of the network "neighborhood", your "friends", your "home page", and your currently open "Activity". Each view occupies the entire screen.
With Sugar, you zoom between views: from your network neighborhood to your current Activity.
Sugar supports sharing and collaboration by default. Sugar brings many of the rich collaboration mechanisms we are accustomed to from the Internet directly into the user interface. Sharing information, starting a chat, collaborating in a writing exercise, or playing a game with other people are never more than a single click away.
Sugar incorporates a Frame around the border of the screen; the Frame holds status information, such as alerts, a clipboard, open Activities, and your current collaborators.
Sugar maintains a Journal (or diary) of everything you do; it is a place for reflection. Activities automatically save your work to the Journal.
Sugar emphasizes discovery. Every object in the interface has a menu that reveals more details and options for action.
Sugar has clarity of design. Sugar uses color and shape throughout the interface to provide a fun, expressive, approachable platform for computing.
Sugar Activities focus on collaboration and expression and in their implementation - journaling and iteration. This represents an intrinsic quality of the learning experience we hope the children will have when using Sugar.
Presence is always Present
Everyone has the potential for learning and teaching. Sugar puts collaboration at the core of the user experience in order to realize this potential. The presence of other learners encourages children to take responsibility for others' learning as well as their own. The exchange of ideas amongst peers makes the learning process more engaging and stimulates critical thinking skills. Sugar encourages these types of social interaction with the laptops.
Most Activities have the potential to become network enabled. For example, in Sugar, sharing links is an integral part of Browse, transforming web-surfing into a group collaboration.
Tools of Expression
Sugar emphases thinking, expressing, and communicating using technology. Sugar starts from the premise that we want to use what people already know in order to make connections to new knowledge. Computation is a "thing to think with". Sugar makes the primary activity of the children one of creative expression, in whatever form that might take. Most Activities focus on the creation of some type of object, be it a drawing, a song, a story, a game, or a program. Objects are the primary stuff of creative expression.
We apply the principle of "learning through doing" to all types of creation. For example, we emphasize composing music over downloading music. We also encourage the children to engage in the process of collaborative critique of their expressions and to iterate upon this expression as well.
Activity developers can define object types and associated icons to represent them.
The concept of the Journal, a written documentation of everyday events, is generally understood, albeit in various forms across cultures. A journal typically chronicles the Activities one has done throughout the day. The journal embodies the idea of storing a history of the things a child has done and the Activities a child has participated in. The child, parent, and teacher can reflect on the journal to assess progress.
The Journal stores objects created while the student runs an Activity. This function is secondary, although important. The Journal naturally lends itself to a chronological organization. Objects in the Journal can be tagged, searched, and sorted by a variety of means. The Journal records what a child has done. The Journal is a portfolio or scrapbook history of the child's interactions with the machine and also with peers.
The Journal includes entries explicitly created by the children with entries that are implicitly created through the child's participation in Activities. The Activities, the objects, and the means of recording all tightly integrate.
What Is an Activity?
Sugar applications are called "Activities". Activities include an application as well as sharing and collaboration capabilities, a built-in interface to the Journal, and other features such as the clipboard.
The Journal Activity is pre-installed. Other Activities can be distributed as part of an Activity Pack. There are many, many others you can install yourself.
Activities you have specified as favorites appear as a ring of icons around the XO icon in the center of the Home View. All the Activities you have installed are shown in the List mode of the Home View.
Some Activities allow Sugar users to work and learn cooperatively. For example, Write allows several users to collaboratively create a document. Read allows several users to read the same document or a teacher to share a book with an entire classroom. Memorize allows a group of users to play a game together.
Another class of Activities allow users to write software. A variety of computer languages such as Logo, SmallTalk, CSound, and Python are supported within the TurtleArt, Etoys, TamTam, and Pippy Activities.
There are hundreds of Activities written for Sugar and new ones being created daily (A good place to look for new activities is http://activities.sugarlabs.org).
Below is a sampler of the variety of Activities created and supported by the Sugar community.
Browse is a simple Web application that lets you access and search the Internet and share bookmarks with your friends. (See the Browse chapter for more information.)
TamTam Mini is a fun, powerful way to perform music and play instruments. It is simple enough to be used by even the youngest ages.
The Chat Activity lets you type messages that can be seen by other Sugar users. It can be used by two people or an entire classroom. (See the Chat chapter for more information.)
Memorize is the classic memory game of finding and matching pairs, but with a twist: the items in a pair can be any multimedia object, such as images, sounds and text. You can play existing games as well as create new ones.
SynthLab is a mini-lab for acoustic- and electronic-circuit construction. It is designed for older children who are ready to venture into more sophisticated sound design.
TamTam Edit is an intuitive environment for composing music. You can create, modify, and organize notes on virtual "tracks", which allow for virtually limitless variations in musical styles.
TamTam Jam is a fun, powerful way to perform music, play multiple instruments, and collaborate musically with other children.
The Record Activity gives you a simple way to take pictures, view slide shows, and record video and audio—all content that can be shared with others. (See the Record chapter for more information.)
The Journal [journal]
The Journal Activity is an automated diary of everything you do with your system. You can use the Journal to organize work or revisit a past project. Teachers and parents can use it to assess a child's progress. (See the Journal chapter more information.)
Measure is a tool that can be used to observe physical phenomena and real-world events. With it, you can measure and log data and create graphs. You can explore the data and connect events with each other.
The Draw Activity gives you a canvas to draw pictures, by yourself or with friends. You can draw freeform images with a paintbrush and pencil, and use the dedicated toolbar to play and experiment with shapes. You can enter text, import images, and place items however you want.
Pippy Python [pippy]
Pippy is a simple and fun introduction to programming in Python, the dynamic programming language underlying much of the software on the laptop.
You can measure the distance between two laptops by measuring the length of time it takes for sound to travel between them. Along with the Measure and Record Activities, there are many ways to use the laptop to explore the physical environment.
Turtle Art [turtleArt]
Turtle Art lets you program a Logo "turtle" to draw colorful and complex artwork. Simple programming elements easily snap together, to bring art to life. (See the Turtle Art chapter for more information.)
Write is a basic text editing application featuring straightforward tools and a simple interface. It provides an easy way to write a story, craft a poem, or complete an essay. It also has more advanced features like image insertion, table creation, and layout operations. It also supports collaborative real-time editing, so a group can work together to edit text easily and seamlessly. (See the Write chapter for more information.)
Etoys lets you create models, simulations, and games with text, graphics, and sound. This lets you explore ideas and learn by doing. You can also share desktops with other Etoys users in real time, encouraging immersive mentoring and play. Etoys has a worldwide community of users and developers who are working to create content, curriculum, and examples. (See wiki.laptop.org/go/Etoys for more information.)
Read an eBook [ebook_reader]
Sugar has a built-in eBook reader. The XO laptop has a screen that rotates 180 degrees and folds down on the keyboard, so you can read while holding the XO like a book. Read your favorite book on the XO while sitting outdoors in the sunlight.
Calculate provides a generic calculator with a simple, straightforward interface. It is readable and easy to use for even the youngest children, but also supports more complicated mathematics.
X Windows [sugar_x11]
The X Windows Activity provides an X Windows System workspace within Sugar. Use this Activity to run standard X Windows programs.
There is an ever-growing array of downloadable content and built-in access to popular Web-based applications. This includes Google applications, SimCity, GCompris (a suite of award-winning educational software for children), and hundreds of other applications. There are currently thousands of software developers around the world developing content for Sugar. This community is interested in your feedback so that they can better serve the needs of children learning.
A primary goal of the Sugar learning platform is enabling students to learn and work together.
In a wireless environment, an access point (AP) is a device that allows your computer to connect to an existing set of communicating devices. The access point usually has a direct connection to the Internet, and can relay data between the wireless devices and the devices it can access.
Multiple ways to connect to others
- wireless access point (WiFi hotspot)
- wired network—may require an external adapter
- OLPC "School Server" mesh network
- OLPC "simple" mesh network, which lets you collaborate directly with other Sugar users