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Open Source 1-to-1 Laptop Learning Program

Penn Manor School District
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In early 2013, budget cuts left Penn Manor School District’s plans for a 1-to-1 program—and the needed devices, software and IT staff—in jeopardy. Administrators developed an alternative: free and open source software programs, and a student technology apprenticeship program.

Since then, Penn Manor grew into Pennsylvania’s largest open source 1-to-1 laptop initiative. Every student in grades 7 through 12 received a laptop running the free Linux operating system, as well as dozens of locally installed, open-source learning applications—instead of the commercial programs most districts rely on.

The student technology apprenticeship program—an honors-level, independent study course—allows students to help their peers with computer problems. The apprentices work alongside district IT staff on hardware support, repairs, software setup and instructional tutorials. The IT team acts as mentors and facilitators, but there is no formal curriculum—instead, each day’s assignments depend on what problems arise.

Using free and open source software saved Penn Manor more than $500,000 in technology acquisition costs over the past two years. And the student help-desk apprenticeship saves nearly $100,000 annually, in lieu of paying for full-time technology support staff.