Student Linux Laptops Presentation

At our March IU13 Technology Directors meeting, I joined several district colleagues for a sharing session on student 1:1 programs. The discussion was titled: “1:1 Implementation: Choosing the Right Device”. I spoke about our Penn Manor’s guiding principles, open source philosophy, student apprenticeship help desk program, and how Linux offers unique learning options for students and teachers.

Slides from my potion of the talk are online here.

For those who inquired about the presentation format, the slides were created in reveal.js, an amazing HTML/CSS framework for building attractive presentations.

Join the Penn Manor IT Team

We are seeking a department program assistant and a school tech support specialist.

Program Assistant
You will provide administrative, clerical, and customer service support to ensure the effective day-to-day operation of the IT department. Duties include phone assistance, digital record keeping, 1:1 laptop program and child registration clerical support, scheduling, ordering, and general office functions. You’ll support our department with strong organizational skills, diplomacy, and the confidence to manage a variety of tasks and assignments.

A high school diploma is required and secretarial experience is preferred, especially in a school or technology setting. You’ll work with the internal IT team, as well as students, teachers and parents. Excellent customer service abilities, superior communication skills and a self-driven work ethic are essential.

This full-time position is based in the district office and will report to the IT Director. The starting salary is 32K.
Job description: Tech Program Assistant.

Support Specialist
As a building technology support specialist, staff and students will rely on you for friendly help and assistance. You will install, maintain and troubleshoot hardware and software in a complex, multi-platform, mixed-vendor academic setting. Penn Manor’s learning technology mix is 25% Mac, 50% Linux (Ubuntu) and 25% Windows. Automation is crucial to our work. We regularly use Puppet, Casper, and Windows Deployment Services to help our small team manage a huge number of classroom devices.

Excellent customer service abilities, superior communication skills and a self-driven work ethic are essential. A degree in a related field, 2 to 3 years Mac, Linux and Windows support experience, and a desire to create exceptional classroom support experiences are required.

This full-time position will support district elementary schools. The starting salary is 41K, commensurate with relevant experience.
Job description: Technology Support Specialist.

To apply: Email a PDF cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to Charlie Reisinger, Technology Director, Penn Manor School District: charlie@pennmanor.net. Be sure to include the position you are applying for in the subject line.

Serious applicants should review our guiding principles to better understand our team values and expectations.

Application deadline for all position: April 7, 2015.

You are a marvel

“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.”

Pablo Casals

MikroTik RouterOS Training Class

Penn Manor engineers are moving to MikroTik routers as part of a district network equipment upgrade. MikroTik RouterOS is packed with powerful features and the equipment is significantly less expensive than similar routers from Cisco. To help accelerate our learning we are excited to host a public MikroTik Certified Network Associate (MTCNA) training course at Penn Manor School District in March.

The two-day router training course will cover MikroTik official certification material. Students will obtain an understanding of MikroTik RouterOS, and learn skills that can be applied to current networks and projects. The course includes labs where students configure RouterOS and build networks. At the end of the class students will have the chance to take the Official MTCNA test provided by MikroTik.

The course is scheduled for March 30th and 31st at Penn Manor School District’s Hambright Elementary School Training Room,
3000 Charlestown Rd, Lancaster, PA 17603. We are located approximately 90 minutes north of Baltimore and 90 minutes west of Philadelphia.

For more information and to register, please visit the MikroTik Lancaster course site.

Amazing August Tech Updates

The summer months are always a time of intense activity for district staff. Penn Manor’s IT Team has worked ardently to prepare for the 2014-2015 school year. Here are a few project highlights from a summer that felt entirely too short!

Centralized Online Student Registration
After a successful spring trial of online Kindergarten registration, we implemented centralized online registration for all new students enrolling for the 2014-2015 school year. The new system is a major reconfiguration of our registration procedures and represents the first significant process change in over 15 years. Changing PDE data reporting requirements are a driving force behind the change. Nearly 350 new students have been registered via the new system. Welcome to Penn Manor!


Relaunching the PM High School 1:1 Program
We’re excited to start the year with our 1:1 student laptop program fully engaged. Laptops have been refreshed with the latest version of Ubuntu (14.04) and dozens of open source learning software. Approximately 350 students took advantage of a our summer take-home program. All other Penn Manor High School students will receive their school laptop during the first week of classes.


Teacher Laptop Upgrades
Marticville Middle and PM High School teachers are returning to new laptops as part of the district’s 4 year teacher laptop refresh. Teachers were given the choice of devices. The options were a single 13” Macbook Pro or the two-for-one-deal of a 15” touchscreen Acer laptop plus a 10” Android tablet.

Teachers received the new laptops during an August technology workshop. Along with the laptop upgrade we have fully implemented ownCloud, a district-hosted automatic backup and file synchronization service, for all K-12 teachers.


Hambright Elementary and Manor Middle School Building Technology
New construction and building renovation work mean new data cabling, new projectors, and new classroom technology systems. Both buildings received serious network infrastructure upgrades, including high-capacity fiber and CAT6 network cable. We’re also very excited to implement HDMI audio/video in each classroom.

These highlights are only part of the summer story. The overall volume of district IT work during the past three months has been extraordinary. I’m so proud of my capable, creative and tenacious IT team. August could have been awful; my staff worked together to make it awesome!

 

Enabling Students in a Digital Age: TEDxLancaster

It was an incredible honor and privilege to be selected to present our open source 1:1 laptop learning initiative and student apprenticeship program at the inaugural TEDxLancaster event on May 3, 2014. I hope I successfully captured the spirit of our program, and venerated our remarkable student tech team.

Help Desk Phone Support Changes

Penn Manor School District is a big place. With 10 buildings and a 110 square mile footprint, providing immediate tech support for staff and students is an ongoing challenge. I am fortunate to have stellar IT staff, but my small crew is often stretched a little thin. For example, our help desk line consists of one dedicated person, Gina Brubaker. There are times when calls fall into voicemail simply because she is already on the phone, away from the desk, in a meeting or helping another staff member.

Experimental attempts to clone Gina have thus far proven unsuccessful, so we are trying a new plan. We recently restructured the 1776 help desk line to behave more like a classic call center. Various members of the IT Team log into the help desk line throughout the day. When a support call arrives, Gina’s phone rings first. If she is already on a call or otherwise unavailable, the call transfers to the next available tech support person. The new call routing system provides backup for Gina, and increases the likelihood of reaching a live person when help is needed most.

Behind the support curtain, the Penn Manor IT Team now uses an internal IRC server for real-time communication. In addition to our tech support chats, status reports from our Kayako ticket system and Nagios network monitoring tools are piped into the IRC stream. All chat transcripts all logged to an internal webpage, so my team can go back in time to review history and tech support discussions. Personally, I love the IRC server because it establishes a convenient space room for my entire team and provides a central dashboard on district technology support.

While staff replication experiments will continue in earnest, I think the new help line configuration and IRC server will create better customer support experiences for our academic community.

Call us!

Photo credit: scott1723

Welcome to the Laptop Machine

Penn Manor’s 1:1 student laptop program reached another milestone this past weekend. After a two-day setup marathon, 1725 laptops are now ready for distribution and delivery to Penn Manor High School students. Manor Middle School’s cafeteria was transformed into a computer assembly line as the PM IT Team, student help desk apprentices and community volunteers worked to unbox, inventory, configure and prepare the laptops for distribution to students at the start of the second semester.

Manually installing an operating system and applications on such a vast scale is impractical. Central to our setup process was a customized software toolkit developed by Penn Manor senior, Andrew Lobos. The software, titled Fast Linux Deployment Toolkit (FLDT), is derived from several open source projects. True to its name, FLDT makes Linux software setup fast and easy. Andrew’s program rapidly copies our custom Ubuntu image from one master laptop to as many as 50 laptops at a time. The entire FLDT copy process completes in less than two minutes and accelerates the process of cloning software to hundreds of laptops.

The FLDT system was tested and refined by student tech apprentices over the past several months. It performed exceptionally well as our team processed thousands of laptop images. In the spirit of the open source community, FLDT and other district open source projects are available via GitHub, a software development sharing site: https://github.com/pennmanor/. We encourage other schools to freely use and contribute to the code.

While the FLDT quickly replicates our custom software images, physically handling and processing over 1700 individual laptops takes a great deal of human effort. A large part of the setup work involved unboxing, labeling, scanning, inspecting and adding laptops to our inventory system. After nearly 24 hours of work with a 13 to 20-person crew, the laptops were ready to be shipped to Penn Manor High School.

It is difficult to overstate the incredible power of this learning experience. Pictures simply do not capture how our students demonstrated genuine ownership of the setup process, or their incredible passion for building systems that their peers will use daily. Pride and enthusiasm was palpable as traditional classroom roles dissipated and students assumed leadership roles in their individual functional areas. The project was a potent, authentic learning experience, one that I suspect our students will recollect for the rest of their lives.

For more on our approach to open source in education, check out this article on Opensource.com: http://opensource.com/education/14/1/trust-your-students

The Penn Manor Tech Technology Team thanks these students,

Collin Enders
Aaron Jandzio
Nick Joniac
Andrew Lobos
Ben Moore
Bri Reisinger
Tom Sowers
Zack Schucker
Ben Thomas

…and the following volunteers!

Jill Billman
Charlie Goodrich
Dylan Kostelich
Allen Markes-Lyon
Teresa Reisinger

MiniTimeLapse

Penn Manor Tech News and Stories

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