Open source tech education culture at Penn Manor

wowPenn Manor is a short film sponsored by Red Hat as part of the Open Source Stories series. The film tells the story of Penn Manor, a secondary school in the United States in which IT director Charlie Reisinger introduced open source software and culture as part of a 1:1 laptop program. Open source was integral to the program because Reisinger wanted students to become “engineers, inventors, and architects and not technology tourists”.

At Penn Manor, hands-on learning is the focus. Instead of locking down student laptops, student are trusted with full access to their computers and are encouraged to modify and personalize them. As Reisinger explains, “By unlocking devices and giving kids truly open technology, it empowers them to not only understand what’s underneath the hood, but understand that they can impact the world through software, through technology. They can be part of the decisions that are being made, and not the result or the end user of someone else’s decision.”

Students are also responsible for program support, providing help desk services for other students. The program seeks to break down distinctions between technician, IT teacher, and student, and in the process has transformed the connections between students and teachers. With all stakeholders on equal ground, students feel their input is valued and the best ideas win, no matter where they come from. In a great example of a project-based curriculum, students are expected to apply themselves to practical goals rather than simply memorise facts and take tests.

Watch the film:

Penn Manor educator Charlie Reisinger talking at TEDxLancaster: