Penn Manor: The power of open in education

In the spirit of the open philosophy,
we decided early on that we wanted our kids to be
engineers and inventors, and not technology tourists. And here’s where we
broke from tradition. During our class meetings, we spoke with all of our high
school students about the program. We brought them together, and we started that conversation
with the words, “We trust you.” What we didn’t want to lose sight
of was the fact that any one-to-one program, when you’re giving
every child a computing device, that is fundamentally
an instructional program. It truly shouldn’t have anything
to do with technology. Right, not that technology
isn’t important, but it is the learning
that is the focus.>>We’ve always been looking at
it from the standpoint of, we have to educate students for
life after high school, and with technology being
such an important factor, just about every job that
the student’s going to go into, It wasn’t matter of, should we do it? It was more of, when do we
provide students with a laptop?>>When you give students a chance
to explore, you’re teaching them to be responsible, and in their future,
hopefully in their careers, they will have learned in my class,
and in their other classes, how to be responsible
users of technology. It’s not going anywhere.>>So why would we ever
consider giving a 16-year-old root access to a laptop? I think the question we should be
asking is why would we not give students ultimate autonomy and control over their
technology devices. I think 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.>>Good morning,
how can we help you?>>Hi, my laptop, [INAUDIBLE]>>Just for frame of reference, one-to-one help desk
models are not unique. This model of having
student apprentices is, I shouldn’t say common,
but it’s not uncommon. The level we give our
kids is uncommon. I think that’s the differentiator. There is a cost associated
with allowing a 16-year-old to completely dismantle a laptop. They could cook boards, they could
fry things, the whole works could come out as a complete mess,
and sometimes it does. But the power in that,
is that the student learned, wow, I cooked that board,
now I know how not to do that. Or I learned,
that’s what I shouldn’t be doing. Right, the power is
in the experience.>>I think it’s a beautiful
thing that the students are there behind the help desk. Because that flattens that, well it’s just an adult
telling us what to do.>>Since we’ve gotten
the laptops in school, it feels like the teachers and
students are a lot more connected.>>It was a new experience,
collaborating with the student on teaching and not just, the teacher
teaches the student, but that he felt valuable
in the class as well.>>There is no distinction between
the teacher and the student. Everyone is on equal footing, and
the best ideas win. How can that not make sense for
education?>>For me to say,
this is how you do things. That would completely destroy
any type of collaboration.>>My students, a lot of what
they do is collaborative. I don’t think that they
learn the best from me.>>That’s where I think it ties
into not only an open source and the mentality of sharing and
making it better, but then in addition, to preparing them
for those jobs that we don’t know.>>Anyway,
I think we miss something, again I’m just babbling here, just a few ideas
and thoughts, but I think we lost
something when education became so rigid and formalized, and we moved
away from the apprenticeship model.>>The curriculum itself,
we don’t write, we couldn’t write a curriculum for
this, no matter what we did, because the problems
are different every single day. And not only
the problem’s different, they’re different across multiple
disciplines and subjects. So our students
are gonna be faced with, how do I solve x application problem
that applies to science, and then turn around and say,
well, this might be a network issue. Or maybe it’s a hardware issue. And now I’m working on a program
that is germane to art. How do you write
a curriculum about that?>>We do repairs. We do software. We help any way we can. But just being here
just makes me happy. I think the help
desk has really helped sort of introduce me to
a work environment as a teen.>>The program to me is just kind of
an escape from myself. I’m not really assessed on whether
or not I can memorize things for a test, it’s more of applying
myself and accomplishing goals. It’s not the normal classroom.
It’s completely different. This is one of those defining
moments in my entire career. Just working with the initial
group of students that were part of our one-to-one help desk. Here’s an example. Ben is one of four core
students that formed, really, the nucleus of the initial
one-to-one help desk.>>My name is Benjamin Loong Thomas. I graduated in the 2014 year.>>He was a kid that didn’t
really like school. We would go into
parent-teacher conferences and feel deflated at the end of them
because they just didn’t see Ben for what we saw at home.>>In my freshmen year, I didn’t
really have too much of a focus. I was kinda just like, all right,
I gotta wake up, go to school.>>He got an IEP,
I think in second grade? For a learning disability. And later, he was diagnosed with ADD.>>I remember sitting in an IEP
conference with a guidance counselor in 9th grade for Ben. And her saying that Ben’s not
going to be going to college and we shouldn’t plan on that, we shouldn’t focus on that and
that really was hard.>>So your sophomore year
you created the application?>>Sophomore year we
created the application. Junior year, we did the showcase, and
then that summer is when we started working on the applications
that we use in the student help desk. We kind of set up the building
blocks that most of the students today follow.>>The end of that year, we were at an
an IEP meeting with him and they were helping him plan out
his next year of classes, and all of a sudden they wanted him to
be in college placement classes.>>My college professors
definitely see that I’m a little bit ahead of the curve. The other students hadn’t really
had too much coding experience. They weren’t really
exposed to open source. I mean, this was just an opportunity
for him to showcase his talents. He didn’t have that
opportunity before.>>I would not be where I am today,
without the one-to-one program.>>But it was just remarkable
how it changes the conversation. When you say to a student,
you know something? You’re an important part
of your own education. It’s freeing,
it’s empowering, right? It makes them feel,
I think for the first time, they feel that education
is not being done to them. They’re actually an active
participant in their own education. And I think that’s
the power of trusting kids.

7 thoughts on “Penn Manor: The power of open in education”

  1. Oh… My God….     I couldn't help but lose a little bit of composure with this.  If I had a program like this when I was going through high school, it would've….. hell… I don't know…. The sky is the limit.  I want to commend everyone on a job well done, and every school in the universe should strive to do exactly what it is you are doing.

  2. Yay for more @OpenSource in Education!  Note that the school featured here are running @Ubuntu  in fact, on these PCs.  See Unity at 3:07 and 4:35.  Beautiful promo video, @Red Hat.  Here's an article from March 2014:

  3. Excellent ….. Truly open source……
    I feel open source means …… being true, Good human, Thinking very positive about All…
    Giving off everything..

  4. I work at a Open Source School in NZ. The IT departments of Open Source schools should stay in contact we need to start a mailing list so we can bounce ideas and get advice from each other. Open Source in schools comes with a lot of challenges and we need to learn from each others failures and successes.

    A mailing list would allow us to ask for advice or find out how other schools have found solutions to problems. I might look into starting a mailing list, if any one knows of any more open source schools please mention them as I would like to invite as many IT departments of Open Source schools to the list as possible.

  5. I'm from Germany and I was an exchange student at Penn Manor High School in 1991. Man, has that school changed! Today I am a teacher myself and I was truly inspired by the approach presented in this video. Makes me proud to have been a Penn Manor student!

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