1:1 Laptop Program for Middle Schools

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

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/

Penn Manor Mobile App

PM Mobile AppPenn Manor’s updated and expanded mobile app is now available for download on your phone or tablet!  The app includes a number of features not available in our previous district news app. Students and parents can now stay connected to school news, events, calendars, menus and more. Unlike paper calendars and schedules of the past, the app is updated on-the-fly as events are added, rescheduled or postponed. Plus students, parents and staff can receive breaking updates on weather closings and other district news.

The free app is available immediately for both Android and iOS phones and tablets. A number of new features are already in the works. Watch for changes and additions to the app over the next few months.