Filesystems for kids

mokurai at mokurai at
Sat May 21 17:13:27 EDT 2011

On Sat, May 21, 2011 2:17 am, Carlos Nazareno wrote:
>> I don't know where you get the idea that files, hierarchical file
>> systems,
>> and text editors are simple concepts. I would be willing to discuss
>> introducing the Linux file system in middle school, but our issue is
>> programming for third-graders, or even earlier. Preschoolers can grasp
>> the ideas behind turtle art by acting the part of the turtle. Where would
>> you have them begin?
> Filesystems are not very hard to grasp. Do not underestimate first to
> third-graders.

Preschoolers, I said. Where would you have preliterate preschoolers start?

> I think I've mentioned this before, but here in the Philippines we
> have streetkids pooling money to take turns playing games in low-cost
> internet cafes, (rates of about $0.40 an hour or so) and I have
> personally seen 5-7 year old steetkids playing the 3D first-person
> shooter game Counter-Strike and the real-time strategy game Command
> and Conquer 3, things which are much much complex than simple windows
> folders.

Just like the famous Hole-in-the-Wall computer in India. Yes indeed,
motivation. Game designers are remarkably good at it. It is also true that
one-year olds learn significant fractions of whole human languages, among
other things, based on inborn motivation.

What is the reinforcement for third-graders to learn a file system when
XOs provide the Journal? Certainly that will work for programmers, after
they are comfortable with programming on a small scale, and need to
advance to multiple file apps, and understand where libraries live. Who in
the preschool to third grade age group wants to know badly enough, and

A single folder is simple. The entire Windows or Linux file system is
insanely complex. For one thing, essential system files have different
names and locations in every version of Windows, and in many Linux
distros, and sometimes in successive versions of the same distro.

> Third-graders are what, 8-year olds?
> Filesystems should be no problem for them at all. It's very simple to
> explain: just show them to concept of books/notebooks or folders in a
> shelf or bag.

Or even a filing cabinet. Except that none of these models is
hierarchical. How do you explain that? Yes, it's trivial to explain
containers and contents, as long as you don't care whether the children
can find anything in the hierarchy.

Here is a simple exercise for you. You are to imagine that you are helping
an amazing third-grader understand how the filesystem relates to Sugar
activity development, packaging, QA, and deployment, since it is all so
simple to you.

1. Which is your favorite Linux distro? Does it use apt or yum?

2. Tell me all of the locations where Sugar files are installed in that
distro. Activity and system code, configuration, libraries, fonts,
documentation, icons, graphics, .po files, Journal entries, log files, and
anything else included or generated.

3. Tell me all of the path specifications on your system that enable Sugar
activities to find their files, or files from other packages that they are
dependent on.

4. Now repeat for a distro using the other packaging system.

5. Send me the results.

6. Tell me what Sugar tools you would tell your third-grader to use to
perform this exercise on an XO. Terminal and what? Be specific. What
commands do you recommend? How do you expect this child to find out about

I am in the process of performing this exercise, and intend to publish the
results. Simple, yes, but not easy.

Alternatively, if you think you understand instructional design and child
development sufficiently, you can come to

the Sugar Labs Replacing Textbooks server, and write a guide to the Linux
filesystem for third graders. You may remix and rewrite material from the
Command Line book I helped write for adults and high-school students.

> --
> carlos nazareno
> --
> core team member
> phlashers: philippine flash actionscripters
> --
> poverty is violence
> _______________________________________________
> Devel mailing list
> Devel at

Edward Mokurai
ج) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.

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