Canadian Education

A forum for discussion of issues important to the future of education for Canadians.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

So, there is at least one competent, informed, genuine leader in the world, who is serving his people, rather than serving corrupt corporations. Apparently, the speech given by the President of Brazil, the world's fifth largest economy, is now available on Youtube. And then there is this article, with a wonderful quote from Walter Bender:

The next talk was given by Walter Bender, who took a rather different approach. He's head of Sugar Labs, the software team that broke away from the One Laptop Per Child project when the latter decided to put Microsoft software on its machines, thus ensuring that young minds were enslaved by Windows even earlier.

Indeed, it was evident from Bender's presentation, albeit quite low-key, that he believes passionately that children have a right to free software, for the simple reason that they cannot truly learn with any other kind.

As the Sugar Labs site puts it: “emphasis on learning through doing and debugging: more engaged learners are able to tackle authentic problems.” That is, free software gives the unique possibility of allowing students to explore and modify their tools, whereas Windows- based solutions are simply used as given, with little flexibility.

I think this is a crucial point that not enough people in the world of education grasp. For them, software is simply a dumb tool, like a pencil: you just use it. For Bender, it's something much more exciting: it is part of the educational experience. If a learner can't hack it, it's not fit for the purpose.

He also emphasised how important the Sugar on Stick offering was. This is simply the Sugar software environment provided on a USB drive that can be plugged into any PC, and run without affecting the latter: