Episode 194

FOSSY 2023 with Timmy Barnett & Devin Ulibarri


August 11th, 2023

16 mins 34 secs

Your Host
Special Guests

About this Episode


Timmy Barnett | Devin Ulibarri


Richard Littauer

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain!  Richard is in Portland at FOSSY, the Free and Open Source Software Yearly conference that is held by the Software Freedom Conservancy. In this podcast episode, Richard interviews Devin Ulibarri and Timmy Barnett about their work with Music Blocks and Sugar Labs. Music Blocks is a visual programming language that combines music and computation, allowing users to explore musical and computational concepts. Sugar Labs is a non-profit organization focused on providing free software learning activities for kids and teachers. Devin explains that Music Blocks started as a collaboration with Walter Bender, co-founder of Sugar Labs, to create a tool that empowers kids to learn and create music using free software. The software aims to offer a creative approach to music education, helping students explore concepts and compose music from the very beginning. Download this episode now to hear more!

[00:01:28] Devin Ulibarri introduces Music Blocks. It's a visual programming language for music developed in collaboration with Sugar Labs, a non-profit organization promoting free software for education. Music Blocks combines music and computation, allowing users to explore both musical and computational concepts.

[00:02:26] Devin explains how it got started. He was interested in free software in education and attended a talk by Walter Bender, co-founder of Sugar Labs. They collaborated to create Music Blocks.

[00:03:43] There are more than 150 contributors to the Music Blocks project, and Japan has shown interest in using it in their national elementary school curriculum for teaching programming.

[00:04:21] Devin explains how you can use different instruments or even record a sample of a sound to create an instrument.

[00:05:14] Devin talks about being a musician and started a job at the Free Software Foundation last year, having played a significant role in incorporating Sugar Labs.

[00:06:20] Sugar Labs is used across the world and it’s impossible to really know with the nature of the software. However, there isn’t nearly enough people operating it in the U.S.

[00:08:23] Music Blocks is seen as an instrument, and the team focuses on reaching a critical mass of users to create a culture that promotes active learning and creativity.

[00:09:16] The main challenge is educating the public about Music Blocks and providing teachers with the necessary tools and materials to integrate it into classrooms effectively. Also. there needs to be a culture with it.

[00:10:15] There’s Music Blocks for musicians and music educators. It offers a creative approach to music composition and exploration of musical concepts from the very beginning, which can be beneficial for music education.

[00:11:15] They use an active approach to technology rather than passive. They hire students from music colleges to teach the kids via Music Blocks.

[00:13:39] Music Blocks allows students to explore musical concepts and start composing music from the very beginning, promoting a more active and engaging learning experience.

[00:14:35] Find out where you can follow Devin and Timmy on the internet.



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