Constructor Lab
Leadership Summit
Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

Building an Open Source Student Learning Community

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Lecture

Wednesday, June 26, 10:30–11:30 am
Location: 126AB

Charlie Reisinger  
Open source is more than free downloads and OER. Open source software principles promote learning freedom, curiosity and communities of practice. Discover how open source inspires Penn Manor’s 1:1 laptop program and student help desk. Learn how you, too, can go open source and build a powerful learning community.

Audience: Chief technology officers/superintendents/school board members, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: BYOD/1:1 instructional programs
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM, Computer science
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

On which side of the command line should kids stand? What would happen if we trust students with technology and offer the freedom to explore and experiment with school-issued devices? How can we provide students with a powerful computing platform for art, design, and programming? How do we upgrade more K-12 schools to open and empower students to make something that changes their school and their world? The open source model provides inspiration and answers to these questions.

The session will define and describe the open source model and discuss open source in the context of student agency. Participants will understand open source alternatives to proprietary software and leave with a list of free and open software tools for art, music, design, video, and programming. Additionally, we will provide actionable advice and guidance on running an open source student help desk program.

With 4000 student laptops running Linux and open source software, Penn Manor School District supports a unique open source and free software learning community. The district’s one-to-one Linux laptop learning program, and student apprenticeship program, has received national awards and recognition. Using Penn Manor as a case study, this session will outline the district's open source educational philosophy and plan, review challenges to the wide-scale adoption of open software in education, and share inspiring success stories of students who have impacted their school, peers, and community. Participants will also learn how to structure a similar program in their school.


1. Overview of open source software and the 1:1 Linux laptop initiative at Penn Manor School District – 5 Min
2. A curated list of high-quality open source software for schools – 10 Min
4. The open source student help desk apprenticeship program – 15 Min
4. Student success stories and steller open source projects – 15 Min
5. Sage Advice, best practices, and tips for adopting open source – 15 Min

Supporting research

Reisinger, Charlie (2016). The Open Schoolhouse: Building a Technology Program to Transform Learning and Empower Students. Kindle Edition.
District of Distinction Award:
The Power of Open Mini-Documentary:
High School's Help Desk Teaches Open Source IT Skills:

More [+]


Charlie Reisinger, Penn Manor School District

Charlie serves as the Technology Director for Penn Manor School District in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. Under his leadership, Penn Manor implemented an internationally recognized and award-winning one-to-one laptop learning program and student help desk using Linux and open source software. The program was featured in the documentary film, The Power of Open in Education. Charlie is a passionate advocate for open source education and a frequent speaker and writer. His book, The Open Schoolhouse, chronicles more than 15 years of innovative open source learning programs at Penn Manor School District. He is also a contributor to the online community.

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