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Shining Beacons on Penguin Hill

The use of free open source software in schools is already quite big, and yet it’s still in its infancy.  Here is a story about two different people and the remarkable results they have created with free open source software in the education communities they lead.  What’s common to these stories is the educational value of involving students in the development and implementation of their technology.  If you are wondering what can be done with free open source software in education, look first to these two leaders as an example of the great thing that can be accomplished.

Screenshot from 2015-04-03 11:00:44.Charlie.Reisinger

Charlie Reisinger delivering his TEDx talk on free software in education.


Charlie Reisinger.  Charlie wanted to experiment with free open source software in education, and he decided to go big.  He envisioned high school kids taking home Linux notebooks.  But not just the techie kids.  All of the kids.  He eventually rolled out an install base of 1700 notebook computers in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, school district.

But the particularly cool thing about his project was the way he included students into the project.  Doing the project became an education experience in itself.  Working under close adult supervision, the kids installed Ubuntu GNU-Linux on the laptops.  And the kids are also part of the support team, with their support team blog here, and their twitter support account here.

His effort was so successful that he was invited to give a talk on it at the famous TEDx conference.  If you want to get a big picture of what Charlie is doing with his Linux in education project, click here on his TEDx presentation.  If you want inspiration about what free open source software can do in education, be sure to watch Charlie’s TEDx talk.  And you can follow Charlie on Twitter here.

Not content to rest on his laurels, after just one year of running the one-to-one laptop program in high school, Charlie is planning to roll it out to middle school students in the Autumn of 2015.


Screenshot from 2015-04-03 10:55:00.Stu.Keroff

Stu Keroff’s Staff Photo for the Community School of Excellence in St. Paul, Minnesota.


 Stu Keroff.  Stu orchestrated the acquisition of a cart of 30 Linux computers and a Linux mini-lab of 5 machines for a middle school called the Community School of Excellence in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Most of the students at the school are Hmong and Karenni.  Stu has called on the students’ common cultural heritage to foster a strong sense of community identity with his young Linux technicians, who call themselves the “Asian Penguins“.

You feel that sense of community by watching the videos on the Asian Penguins’ website.  In watching those videos, I was struck by how articulate, mature, and responsible these middle school students are, shown in this local TV news story about the Asian Penguins.  They don’t seem to be silly or giggly in doing their technology work.  They seem to understand the value of having control over their technology, of taking ownership of it.  For example, they also seem to do a good job of taking charge of the installation of Linux computers in the homes of people in the community, as shown here, where a group of girls install a Linux computer in someone’s home.  As with Charlie Reisinger, Stu Keroff understands that the practice of working on these Linux machines, managing the machines, and installing them in homes is itself a hugely valuable educational experience.  You can follow Stu here on his Twitter page.




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