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Charlie Reisinger: Using FOSS to Empower Students

The Video Screening Room

When Pennsylvania’s Penn Manor High School launched the state’s largest free software learning program, they did it a little differently than most schools. As click-baity ads on FaceBook like to proclaim: You won’t believe what happened next.

If you’re an open source believer, you must see the tremendously inspiring and informative TEDx talk by Charlie Reisinger, IT Director of the Penn Manor School District, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Viewing this video makes me want to jump out of my chair several times to cheer. One of the most powerful lines is: “Together these problems create a costly chain of vendor software lock-in and student learning lock-out. How do we break free?”

Reisinger is writing a book about the Penn Manor story and I had the great privilege of a draft of it. He’ll be distributing the finished version of the book as a PDF for free — perhaps as early as this summer. I would not be surprised at all if National Public Radio, the BBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal or the New York Times did a story about the Penn Manor School District. To call these folks very smart, courageous visionaries is somewhat of an understatement.

Leave a supportive comment on this YouTube video, if the video resonates with you. Reisinger will notice and appreciate it.

Editor’s note: This article was updated 4/26/16 at 10:23 p.m. EDT to correct information about Reisinger’s book.


  1. Carling Carling April 26, 2016

    I have been promote this video at every opportunity I get since the day I first saw it. Yes it is an eye opener on how much Microsoft is costing the American education tax payers. Penn Manor High School saved $360.000 annually by moving from Microsoft to Free Open Source Linux Operating System and free Open Source Linux application software, Just think what Could/would be saved if every education department moved to and used Linux, FOSS (Free Open Source Software) for those that don’t know what FOSS stands for

  2. W. Anderson W. Anderson April 28, 2016

    This project, as described in article and video is very noble and much needed in today’s educational programs in USA.

    However, every person I have shown the article and video had one conclusion – that the whole program was “perceived” as geared to only those students interested in technology/computer science courses and courseware, and that there appeared to be no female students in video, which has always been and proven a hold-back to general education of “all” students and with too much focus on technology at the expense of other very exciting class subjects.

    I agree with much of the sentiment expressed above, both as a 25 plus years technology professional, with much of that time immersed in use and promotion of Free/open Source Software (FOSS), even as representative for one of the largest FOSS technology projects in existence. I had also spent considerable time teaching FOSS technology, and making presentations on subject at one of the very largest technology corporations in USA and Internationally.

    Two comments I would make of the generally very positive advocacy of FOSS in video.

    One is omission of reasons school administrators “lock down” students’ ‘proprietary’ software based computers, which should be clearly spelled out as added value proposition for FOSS adoption – the exorbitant costs and lost productivity that is guaranteed in selection of proprietary software. Schools know the headaches and frustration experienced with malware, poor reliability and tactics of exorbitant subscriptions costs for support and upgrades imposed on schools for proprietary software.

    The second is excessive emphasis on the technology aspect of FOSS, with far too little time enunciating the valuable creative aspects of FOSS use in Art, History, multimedia, social communications, personal productive use and several other topics that are just as important in the development of students minds for the twenty-first century.

    I do hope this trend of enlightening educators and general public on FOSS continued unabated, since the critical factor of “cost savings”, while not the most important attribute of FOSS, has not been lost on school systems, and indeed the whole societies in areas like the Caribbean, Central and South America – whose economics as just as dire as poor and/or struggling regions of USA, but also in Europe and Asia where FOSS is substantially more respected, appreciated and adopted as a substantial percentage of the best tools for technology use in almost all aspects of everyday living.

  3. Galo Villarán Galo Villarán April 28, 2016

    deepin 2014-2/20014-3 were very charming but solid, quick and stable os, appelling to ex Windows XP/7 users with WINE easylly installable.

    deepin 2015, 2015-2, etc. are still apelling but are not stable, and has difficulties to maintain a wifi connection… and installing WINE has became difficult.
    I do nat recommend it any more.

    So, I biased, for personal laptop, installed elementary o.s.

    Of course, for a vast majority Mint is king.

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