Sugar: A Linux Distro and Learning Platform For Kids

As a worldwide effort to provide every child with equal opportunity for a quality education, SugarLabs has created a Sugar Learning Platform that encourages critical thinking and collaborative learning for children. It first existed as a desktop environment for the various Linux distro, but has now become its own distro that can be run directly from the USB stick.

The “Sugar On a Stick” distro is based on Fedora and it is modified to run Sugar Learning Platform right from the start. Instead of the usual Linux desktop, it will boot directly into the Sugar desktop (with a BIG mouse cursor) which is full of graphical elements.

To get started, simply download the Sugar on a Stick iso file and burn it into a USB stick. You can then stick the USB stick into your laptop and boot it up. The benefit of using a USB stick is that there is no installation required. It doesn’t affect your existing OS and you don’t have to worry about any partition issue. You just boot it up and you are set to go.

When it boots up, it will first ask for your name to login to the desktop. No password is required. Next, you can choose a color for the icon.

sugar-enter-login-name

sugar-change-icon-color

Once you have set it up, it will bring you to the desktop, which is mainly a circle of applications.

sugar-desktop

As a OS for the children, I am sure it will have to function differently from the usual OS we are using. Most of the interface in Sugar is graphical, as they are easier to attract the attention of children. With close to 30 applications in the list. You can easily move the big cursor over the icon and click on it to launch the application.

There are a few applications that really catch my attention. The Speak application allows you to converse with the Speak robot. You type in your question, and the robot reply in speech. And the eyes move as you move the cursor. There is also a mode where you can hear what you type.

sugar-speak-application

There is also a browser where the kids can browse the web. I am surprised that there is no parental control option or site blocking option in the browser as I am able to load whatever site I want. For a distro that is meant for children, wouldn’t it be better to have some sort of parental control option to prevent the kids from visiting undesirable website?

sugar-browser

Other applications include:

  • Dimension – A pattern game to place the cards in the correct boxes/sequence.
  • Typing Turtle – A game to practice typing on the keyboard
  • Abacus – yes, an abacus application, but there is no tutorial in the application to teach the user how to use an abacus. You can learn as you use, but it is not intuitive enough.
  • Pippy – a programming platform that teaches the kids how to code Python.
  • and many more.

Personally, I find the interface lacking and it could be more polished with more explanation and tutorials. However, Sugar’s Activities have already been used by nearly 3 million children in more than forty countries, so I am probably not the right person to comment whether this is a good or bad distro. Some of the applications are interactive and could engage your kids for quite a while. The good thing about Sugar on a Stick is that you don’t have meddle with your existing OS to get it running. All you have to do is to boot from the USB stick and you have full distro running in your laptop. It is best to let your kids try it out and see if they like it.

If this is not to your (or your kids) liking, you can also try out Qimo, DoudouLinux or even this software packages for kids.

SugarLabs

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