PM’s 1:1 program earns national honor

Penn Manor School District has been named a “District of Distinction” by a national magazine for its open source 1:1 Student Laptop Program.

The school district is one of 30 honored this month by District Administration magazine under a program that recognizes school districts that implement innovative ideas that yield measurable benefits.

At Penn Manor, every student in grades 7 through 12 receives a laptop computer running Linux, a free operating system, along with dozens of locally installed open source learning applications – instead of the commercial programs most districts rely on.

Penn Manor also implemented a 1:1 student technology apprenticeship program, an honors-level, independent study course that allows students to help their peers with computer problems.

The apprentices work alongside district information technology staff on hardware support, repairs, software setup and instructional tutorials. IT staff act as mentors, but there is no formal curriculum; instead, each day’s assignments depend on what problems arise.

Using free software for the 1:1 program has saved Penn Manor more than $500,000 in technology acquisition costs over the past two years. And the student-run 1:1 help desk saves about $100,000 per year over a system run by district employees, while providing a valuable learning experience to students.

With 2,500 1:1 laptops now in use and 1,500 open source computers at its elementary schools, Penn Manor now supports the largest open source education program in Pennsylvania.

“1:1 programs are not unique,” said Penn Manor superintendent Mike Leichliter. “What sets apart Penn Manor’s approach is the use of free open source software to reduce the cost of our laptops, which helps make the program sustainable.”

“I am pleased that District Administration, a national K-12 publication, also sees value in this program.”

Abigail McHenry, a student technology apprentice at Penn Manor High School, said working at the 1:1 help desk allows her to learn in a “work-like setting.”

“It doesn’t feel like a class, and yet I feel like I’m learning more in this setting than I ever would in a more traditional classroom,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

Congratulations to the Penn Manor students, teachers and staff who have made the program such a success!