Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND
Yesterday I tried to think through some big-picture arguments for a Fargo deployment of Sugar. Today I am going to try out some small scale ideas:
1. Sugar is simply an alternative to other educational games. I see the non-Sugar games my kids play, and while the Sugar Activities like Maze and Implode are not necessarily graphically more interesting, they have some solid educational principles behind them: increasing complexity, immediate feedback, spatial reasoning. Sugar won’t displace those other games, but if kids spent an hour a week on Sugar activities, that would be a better use of their time than the “Lightning McQueen Let’s Read?” quasi-educational game. And just to give this argument teeth, my 5 year old is much more interested in Implode than Lightning McQueen Reads–at least for now.
2. Sugar is free, and therefore is cost-efftive for most schools to have on hand, especially if Sugar Labs at NDSU could provided CDs or SoaS. My 12 year old son reports that he finishes work in Tools for School and then is allowed to play online games. The kids in his class are directed to a particular site; it has lots of game, most of them of minimal educational value. He acknowledges that he seeks out the least educational among them. These 7th graders, and really all middle schoolers, could potentially be encouraged to use this downtime to explore Sugar, give feedback, and learn from these activities. One of the photos on the new OLPC site shows kids playing during some free exploration time. As long as students have downtime in school, why not give them more interesting things to do with their time?
3. Chris and I have been working with kids after school, and that works pretty well. We are outside the curriculum, extending kids’ interests and skills. Summer Sugar camps might be a hit. The in-school downtime could work. Actual curricular integration is going to be the massive challenge. I saw from the activities page that one activity had been written for a 4th grade math curriculum, but as soon as activities start to directly support curriculums, the constructivist pedagogy starts to go out the window. The activity “Clock” could be integrated into first-grade curriculums, but such an imposition might be seen as technological overkill. So my small idea here is to not try to force Sugar into the curriculum, to let it find its way in to the schools, with some strategic implementations when the time and personnel are right.