Middle School Laptop Program Parent FAQ

The parent information forum on the 1:1 Laptop Learning Program was held at Marticville Middle School on Wednesday May 13, 2015. Over 50 parents and students attended the session, which covered details of the August laptop distribution, student expectations, and classroom goals. A document summarizing frequently asked questions and concerns was made available to attendees. If you missed the session, grab the Laptop Program FAQ here. Additional resources, including the laptop policy, parent agreement form, and best practices guide are also available.

For the 2015-16 school year, all middle school students will receive a laptop computer for personal use in school and at home. The 1:1 program is designed to expand students’ access to resources that will enhance their personal intellectual development and help them construct knowledge for life after high school in a changing world. Penn Manor High School launched a laptop learning program during the 2013-14 school year. The district is excited to expand the program to all middle school students.

Shawn Beard Honored as Outstanding Employee

Shawn Beard, Penn Manor’s Enterprise Systems Engineer, was recently honored as an outstanding district employee for 2015.

Shawn’s is a somewhat elusive member of the PM Technology Team. His day-to-day tasks are often performed behind the curtain–but without him, we’d notice. Shawn is responsible for managing and maintaining our most complex and critical technical infrastructure. He diligently and expertly wrangles district networks and servers, and solves our toughest engineering issues. We call this stuff virtualization, IP routing, DNS, firewall rules, and SSL. To students and staff it means: “Hurray, the Internet is working!”

Shawn joined my team in the fall of 2000, and he has been instrumental in the design and launch of nearly every major IT system at Penn Manor. I have tremendous admiration for Shawn as a colleague and technologist. Year after year, he sets new records for technical excellence. He is incessantly innovative, and his work translates into outstanding learning experiences for our students. I’m so proud that he has been an integral part of my team, and the Penn Manor family, for the past 15 years. Cheers to my IT partner, Shawn Beard!

Three other district rock stars were also recognized. Amy Wiggins, Central Manor fourth-grade teacher, and Melissa McMichael, high school special-education teacher, were honored as Outstanding Educators of the Year. Dottie Bleacher, Marticville Middle School secretary, was named Outstanding Secondary Employee of the Year. Congratulations to this amazing group!

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.

1:1 Laptop Program for Middle Schools

MS 1to1 Feature

I’m thrilled to announce that the district 1:1 student laptop program is coming to middle school students this fall. Penn Manor’s board of directors voted on Tuesday night to expand the program into grades 7 and 8. Approximately 800 students will receive a district-issued laptop at the start of the 2015-16 school year.

The middle school 1:1 laptop program builds on the high school initiative originally launched during the 2013-14 academic year. Over 1700 laptops were issued to students in grades 9 – 12. Our middle school 1:1 vision mirrors that of Penn Manor High School: Pervasive access to rich personal technology energizes personal intellectual development and enables students to construct knowledge for college, careers and beyond.

We believe laptops provide the best learning device for Penn Manor students and classrooms. Laptops are not only excellent day-to-day instructional tools for reading, writing, and web research; they are modeling clay from which students create new and meaningful learning artifacts. With an ample menu of applications for programming, 3D drawing, multimedia, and science, laptops offer the diversity of tools needed to create amazing new things.

Student computers will be low-cost, durable 11.6” laptops running 100% free and open source software on Ubuntu Linux. An open source philosophy is a cornerstone of the high school 1:1 program, and will be central to the middle school program as well. The powerful combination of inexpensive PC hardware and open source software helps contain costs without compromising instruction or student opportunities.

The existing 1:1 program underscored the fact that self-directed student learning  happens outside of formal classrooms. Middle school responsible use policies will mimic those at Penn Manor High School; students will be trusted and given the opportunity to be responsible with their school-issued devices after school hours and at home.

As a public school district, it is incumbent upon us to provide every child with outstanding academic resources. The expansion of our 1:1 laptop program demonstrated a deep commitment to this duty. I’m so proud to be part of a learning community that help make it happen. More to come as the initiative develops!

Coding and Programming Resources for Students

Ubuntu Imaging Stations

As part of Computer Science Education Week, several Penn Manor High School Math teachers explored Hour of Code activities with their classes. District Systems Engineer, Chad Billman, and I talked with students about extending what they learned in class and provided tips on getting started in programming. Here are the resources we suggested in the sessions:

Safari Books Online
“Through a partnership with Safari Books Online, O’Reilly Media has committed to over $100 million of e-books and videos that will teach the next generation of students vital technology skills like coding, web design, and more.” Note: This site required a free Edmodo account. – https://schools.safaribooksonline.com/

GitHub Student Developer Pack
“There’s no substitute for hands-on experience, but for most students, real world tools can be cost prohibitive. That’s why we created the GitHub Student Developer Pack with some of our partners and friends: to give students free access to the best developer tools in one place so they can learn by doing. ” – https://education.github.com/pack

Penn Manor  Software Projects on GitHub
This is your chance to play with code developed by district staff and fellow students. How can you help make our projects more awesome? – https://github.com/pennmanor

Google Code-in Contest
“Google Code-in (GCI) is a contest for pre-university students (e.g., high school and secondary school students) with the goal of encouraging young people to participate in open source. We work with open source organizations, each of whom will provide a list of tasks to be completed by student contestants. Tasks can be anything an organization needs help with, from bug fixes, to writing code, to user experience research, to writing documentation. The contest takes place entirely online.” – http://www.google-melange.com/gci/homepage/google/gci2014

MIT OpenCourseWare
“MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity.” – http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/intro-programming/

Safe is Risky – For Schools Too?

What does this mean for schools? Discuss!