OERs in Indiana

The Fort Wayne, Indiana LUG recently asked members what versions of Linux they use. I use Ubuntu and Sugar on Fedora most of the time, but I have used, tested, and documented many other kinds of Linux and Unix. I told the LUG about Sugar running on multiple Linux distros, and about Replacing Textbooks with Open Education Resources (OERs). Then I concluded as you see here.

“Fort Wayne Linux Users Group” <fwlug@fortwaynelug.org>

On Thu, May 5, 2011 12:55 pm, Simón Ruiz wrote:
> On Wed, May 4, 2011 at 5:03 PM,  <mokurai@earthtreasury.org> wrote:
>> But perhaps that is more information than you require. ^_^
>> —
>> Edward Mokurai
> Cool stuff.
> If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of OER stuff is available on
> Sugar nowadays?

There are numerous platform-independent OERs, some of which you can find at

General catalog

California Learning Resources Network Free Digital Textbook Initiative


Most of these are PDFs of existing content. Some are available in other formats, for example for book readers. Some have been written specifically for digital distribution. There is not a lot of interactive material built around educational software or tools, other than commercial products like Plato and Mathematica.

But we have enhanced Bible and Qur’an readers, and some of Sugar, such as the GCompris math series, is specifically tutorial. We have a number of tools for creating much more, such as Etoys (Smalltalk), Turtle Blocks (with presentation tools added), and Pippy (teaching the Python programming language). FLOSS Manuals has a book (PDF or print on demand) for how to write Sugar activities.


The most important part of the project is not software or content. It is reanalyzing what we want to teach and how children learn, and presenting ideas in ways that resonate with young children so that they can explore them in the same way that they learn to walk and talk, without apparent effort. Little children can grasp the fundamental ideas of calculus, algebra, logic, set theory, geometry, probability, statistics, and much more, as long as we do not put notations and calculations as obstacles in their way.

For example, put a straightedge up to any curve to show the direction of the curve. This is the basic idea behind the derivative. Move the straightedge along the curve and observe how its direction changes. That is the derivative function. Now we have to decide how to measure the direction, whether by angle or slope (rise over run), and how to represent the continuum of directions (using Cartesian analytic geometry), and work out the rules for taking an expression representing a function and deriving the derivative function from it. After that we can solve maximum and minimum problems and much more.

Similarly, the integral is fundamentally the area inside a closed curve, where the integral of a function is a special case with three straight sides. Draw the curve on construction paper, cut it out, and weight it on a sensitive scale or balance. Or outline it in clay, pour in water to a depth of one centimeter, and then pour into a metric measuring container. Or weigh the water. Then ask the children how many other ways they can think of to get the area.

Most of this can be and has been done with Cuisenaire rods (including Riemann integrals), and the rest requires only a little more apparatus. Notations and calculations can come in due course, with much greater effect if the students have had time to digest and apply the concepts, and use them in other courses.

If the LUG would like a demo of any part of this, I would be happy to oblige, particularly if I can get gas money. I’m in Columbus, an hour south of Indianapolis.

> Simón

Similarly for anybody else who would like a demo and is willing to pay travel expenses, anywhere in the world.

^ _^


About mokurai

Generalist; End poverty at a profit for all
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