Sugar labs has been invited to apply for a Knight Foundation grant on
the theme of communications. This is a draft, not for publication. I
am about to rewrite it completely from start to finish around what we
o Getting schools connected worldwide, in cities, villages, and refugee camps
o Necessary infrastructure, including renewable power, Internet,
microfinance, roads, and more
o Cooperative language learning
o Creating sustainable international businesses
o Giving the children and their communities their due voice in the
global conversation about our future
o Building civil society institutions
o Combating corruption and oppression
o Data gathering and mapping by schoolchildren and GIS professionals
working together, for weather, environmental pollution, groundwater,
health, species habitat, and much more.
o Comprehensive knowledgebases on the essential topics, including
agriculture, environment, sustainability, preserving cultures and
languages, and a good deal more.
o Textbooks and content for collaborative discovery in every subject
o Health care, including medical records and telemedicine
All organizations represented here, plus their partners in any related
projects, are welcome to suggest more ideas and discuss how our
various programs and projects can be integrated together. No wishful
thinking, however. We need real programs that we can document to the
Knight Foundation and then talk about extending.
I expect to get my first draft out later today.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Walter Bender <walter.bender@...
Date: Tue, Nov 25, 2008 at 9:18 AM
Subject: feedback requested
To: Edward Cherlin <echerlin@...
Can you give me feedback on this draft text?
You have been invited by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
to submit a full, formal proposal as part of the Knight News Challenge
THE KNIGHT NEWS CHALLENGE INITIATIVE SEEKS:
* New ways for people to communicate interactively to help people
better understand one another in geographic communities, share
know-how and generate passion in solving local problems;
* New ways for people to use information, news and journalism in
geographic communities to imagine their collective possibilities as
communities, and to set and reach common community goals;
* New ways to dig for news and act on it in geographic
communities, including new ways to collect, prepare and distribute
information, news and journalism that reveals hard-to-know facts,
identifies common problems, clarifies community issues or points out
practical courses of action.
Keep in mind the purpose of the contest is to develop digital
communication projects that will help better connect people in
physical space, in the communities in which they work, live and vote.
In the words of Jack Knight: "Thus we seek to bestir the people into
an awareness of their own condition, provide inspiration for their
thoughts and rouse them to pursue their true interests."
Sugar in Community: Learning as a Community Endeavor
Describe your project:
Social relations are key to individual development; social settings
that are marked by a limited number of shared social activities may
present troubling developmental barriers. But social settings are not
immutable. Introducing activities that are socially constructive may
provide growth. When the members of a social setting develop shared
social constructs, they engage in a cycle of critical development.
Without effective tools a task may be too difficult to be viable. The
right tool can provide opportunities for engagement.
Sugar is an award-winning learning platform. It promotes
collaboration, discovery and reflection. Sugar is used to reshape,
reinvent, and reapply both software and content into powerful learning
activities. A focus on sharing, criticism, and exploration is grounded
in the culture of free software.
We propose to extend Sugar to be used at a neighborhood scale—Sugar in
Community—to serve as a platform to discuss and debate community
issues; as a publishing vehicle; to organize social gatherings; to
organize youth programs; a neighborhood apprenticeship program; a food
coop; a crime watch; and as a vehicle for promotion of community
projects and events.
Communities will use Sugar for more effective sharing of ideas,
deliberation and collaboration. Sugar learning applications will offer
everyone in the community opportunities to add to their talents and
skills, as well as learn new ones. Learning is a lifelong, community
We will extend the Sugar neighborhood model to include physical
communities and communities of interest. Also, we will develop new
Sugar Activities in support of community publishing and the needs of
small enterprises. We will run a pilot deployment and evaluate Sugar
in Community in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, Mass.
How will your project improve the way news and information are
delivered to geographic communities?
Locally situated infrastructure: A neighborhood puts Sugar to use as
an organizational tool, demonstrating ownership over their social
setting, a catalyst for new, neighborhood-based development. The same
approach that can enhance the learning of an individual can help a
community stay interdependent.
Community as creator: Neighbors will use Sugar to coordinate and
develop their own programs, expand their communications, and begin
forums and social activities that are otherwise difficult to organize.
Slow Talk: In the spirit of the Slow Movement of human relationships,
Sugar encourages local production rather than global consumption.
Social construction: Sugar supports social relationships, shared
goals, and shared cultural identities.
How is your idea innovative?
We explored social constructionism in Boston, MA and Newark, NJ using
MUSIC, a pioneering research project from the mid 1990s. More
recently, we created Sugar, the first serious attempt to create a user
interface that is based on both cognitive and social constructivism:
where learners engage in authentic exploration. Sugar has been
successfully deployed in thousands of classrooms and is used by 500000
The Sugar collaboration model is unique: it moves fluidly between
local and global networks; the extensible Sugar platform is enables
learners to become agents of change in themselves, their families, and
communities. Sugar in Community leverages the knowledge from MUSIC
recast in the context of a culture of free software.
What experience do you or your organization have to successfully
develop this project?
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. Sugar is a community project: under the
Sugar Labs umbrella hundreds of software developers and thousands of
educators work together to build, disseminate and support the current
tool set. The core team has a depth of experience in electronic
publishing and social media, software engineering, project management,
community outreach and applied research.
Bender, executive director of Sugar Labs, was president of One Laptop
per Child, where he developed and deployed technologies that are
revolutionizing how the world's children engage in learning. Bender
former executive director of the MIT Media Laboratory, where he was
director of the Electronic Publishing group. In 1992, Bender founded
the News in the Future consortium; throughout his career Bender has
engaged in the study of new information technologies, particularly
those that affect people directly. Much of the research addresses the
idea of building upon the interactive styles associated with existing
media and extending them into domains where a computer is incorporated
into the interaction. He has participated in much of the pioneering
research in the field of electronic publishing and personalized
interactive multimedia. He has worked closely with pioneers in the
field of technology and learning such as Seymour Papert, Marvin
Minsky, and Alan Kay for 30+ years.
What unmet need does your proposal answer?
Computer is the best tool ever invented for organizing. But it is—at
best—sporadically used for community organizing and almost never used
in disadvantaged communities. Further, when the computer is used as a
community-organizing tool, it is only used by a small percentage of
the population. With the Sugar interface, to become an organizer—not
just one of the organized—becomes a possibility. We expect to see many
of the usual community structures to emerge: cooperatives, job fairs,
baby-sitting services, etc., but also expect that new structures—of
specific relevance to our pilot community—will emerge that we have not
anticipated. In-community genesis of community development is
ultimately empowering, efficient, and enduring.
What tasks/benchmarks need to be accomplished to develop your project
and by when will you complete them?
The Sugar interface will make tools for collaboration, communication,
and organizing both ubiquitous in reach and is approachable be even
those with no prior exposure to computing.
The first task is to make the tools available. The one community
organization we will help orchestrate explicitly—using Sugar itself—is
a community service center for supporting Sugar deployments. We will
work with youth in the community, helping them to set up a deployment
and service center that we believe could become a self-sustaining
local source of employment within 18 months of our start date.
Part of their task will be to distribute Sugar-enhanced computers
within the community: Sugar in the form of a LiveCD or LiveUSB runs on
almost any computer, including old computers that cannot run Vista or
OS-X, so distributing and maintaining used computers within the
community is suddenly economically viable. We'll help them to organize
donations of used computers and a subsidy program for new "netbook"
Using Sugar itself to boot-strap the spread of Sugar is Task Two of
the program: much of the power of Sugar is in how it can enhance
face-to-face communications. We will assist our youth task force in
going out into the community to spread the meme of community-based
social construction. We'll also leveraging our relationship with the
local elementary school, which has a long history of
community-outreach. We will also bring existing community programs
under our "tent."
Task Three is to ensure that the community has the mechanisms in place
to observe, critique, reflect, and iterate on their efforts. Much of
this process is built directly into the Sugar interface, but we will
enhance by interfacing Sugar to more traditional media, such as a
monthly community news letter. We'll also recruit a community editor,
whose will be responsible for ensuring powerful and relevant ideas
from outside the community are made available.
What will you have changed by the end of your project?
While the Internet explosion has enhanced access to information,
support of news as a "community service" has not yet been realized in
any general sense. The Sugar in Community model is one in which the
consumer of news is an
active, engaged community member—a builder of knowledge, not a
passive receptor. It places a critical emphasis
on the constructions that are
external and shared. Our model encourages two-way communication
between the traditional news provider and the consumer, and
communication within communities built upon common
interests. Thus news becomes a part of
the social fabric, a catalyst for
creating communities of interest, and a means of facilitating
Becoming acquainted with
one's neighbors is an act of extending one's self. Computer
networking is a technical tool that can support this endeavor.
However, the network is not the
active force; the people are. The critical agency is based entirely
upon the prerogatives of the people
involved. Sugar in Community will unleash this force.
We will see many changes as a result of the project: community members
will use Sugar to "develop activities on line
for off-line implementation." While the specific activities cannot be
predetermined, we expect to see organizations such as a community
garden, flea markets,
food coops, job fairs, talent shows, holiday and birthday celebrations, a
photography class and exhibition, and a crime watch
program. On-line discussions might include parenting, wellness, and
The community will demonstrate ownership over
their social setting in a way that can serve as a catalyst
for new, neighborhood-based leadership and development. Neighbors
will use Sugar to coordinate and
develop their own programs, expand their communications, and begin
forums and social activities that are
difficult to organize without these types of tools; Sugar it
encourages local production
rather than global consumption.
How will you measure progress and ultimately success?
The most basic measures of progress are the Sugar adoption rates and
the number and efficacy of projects that are created by the community
using Sugar. Through the Sugar neighborhood view, we can track the
aggregate use of the system while letting individual users remain
anonymous. We can also monitor the creation of public groups. Private
groups would have to be tallied through a survey mechanism.
We will conduct pre- and post-surveys of the community—capturing a
sense of change in their habits regarding news, collaboration, and
community activism. We'll include in the survey questions about the
tools they are currently using (if any) to help organize their
participation in their community and the extent to which they feel
invested in their community. Other topics we will survey include media
and computer literacy.
Sugar automatically maintains a journal that can be used by
individuals as part of their personal assessment of progress. We will
encourage the period "publishing" of a portfolio from the journal so
that the community can assess its own progress. Reflection on a
community scale is part of the learning process.
Do you see any risk in the development of your project?
The risk we face is in regard to the extent to which the community
will actually appropriate the tools. In our previous work with MUSIC,
we initially had the advantage that technology was being developed and
deployed by a community member, thus it was "owned" by the community
from its inception. In our Sugar deployments, we have taken great care
to ensure that teachers and parents are welcomed as full participants
in the project—indeed, one significant result of those deployments is
the extent to which parents have become involved in their children's
school. We need to make strides to ensure that Sugar not be seen as
something being done to them. It must be seen as something they do for
themselves. Engaging the youths as social entrepreneurs as an initial
stage in the planning will mitigate the risk of passivity on the part
of the community. We will have to discover or invent additional means
of engagement as well.
Sugar in Community will be successful because it is about giving the
community the power to make change. It doesn't try to be the change
There are some minor technical risks associated with a peer-to-peer
Sugar deployment on a community rather than school scale, but these
issues are being addressed on a global scale, so we have confidence
that any potential roadblocks will be circumventable. As a fall back,
we have a "Jabber server" solution in hand.
What is your marketing plan? How will people learn about what you are doing?
We need to reach out to several different constituencies and
consequently need multiple marketing plans for Sugar in Community.
First, we need a plan to reach into the community itself, initially to
attract a core of support and subsequently to create a broad community
of users. Given that we have an existing working relationship with the
local elementary school—one of the reasons we chose this particular
neighborhood for the pilot—we will begin our outreach from there.
We'll hold an organizational meeting in the spring in conjunction with
the Sugar roll out at the school itself. We'll also advertise at the
middle and high schools for youths who would be interested in summer
employment, to establish the support center.
From these beginnings, we'll reach out to parents, church groups,
small businesses, health clinics, daycare centers, public/government
offices, etc.—the existing community organizations—in order to
leverage their networks.
In addition to reaching into the community, it is important to reach
out to the global Sugar community, which has a wealth of experience in
using Sugar productively. There are several thousand volunteers around
the world working on software development, localization,
documentation, activity development, lesson plans, etc. We will tap
into this resource by utilizing preexisting channels of communication,
such as IRC, blogs, a wiki, and email. Sugar Labs is one and the same
as its community, so this will be a natural extension of our current
A third marketing need is from the community out to the world. We need
to encourage the community to be active not just in the global Sugar
community, but also to engage with resources beyond the geographic
borders of Allston. Spreading the word about their experiences will
not only help others to learn from their mistakes (and successes) but
also to attract resources back into the community. We hope to leverage
the Knight Foundation network as a principle means of outreach.
Silent Thunder (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) is my name
And Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, The Truth my destination.