When our team was tasked with finding human-centered open source stories, we searched through a lot of material. Charlie Reisinger, IT director for the Penn Manor school district, who helped bring an open educational model and a 1:1 laptop program to Penn Manor High School, kept resurfacing as a story with passion and potential that we couldn’t ignore.
Inspired by articles written about the unique program for opensource.com and by Reisinger’s Tedx Lancaster talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8Co37GO2Fc) we made a cold call and pitched our story. In three short weeks we had storyboards and a crew and were driving a fifteen passenger van with most of the seats taken out to accommodate our gear through the back hills of Pennsylvania to meet Charlie and his team.
The film follows Charlie as he shows how an open philosophy and a collaborative team of teachers, administrators and students leave traditional educational models behind in favor of a future of open possibilities. For three 14-hour days, we slogged cameras and lights through the halls of Penn Manor High School, met with teachers and staff and watched as teenagers worked to help their peers thrive in the digital age.
At one point during the filming, a battery pack and a connector cable for one of our cameras broke. We thought about running to the closest electronics store, but a student close by overheard our conversation and said that he could help us. In a matter of hours he had discussed our needs and possible solutions, scavenged some wire, soldered some connections, and put us back in action.
Open source is about a specific methodological approach to problem solving and sharing information, trusting your collaborators and letting the best ideas win. We saw first hand how implementing these philosophies early in the lives of students created individuals who are instinctively open in their thinking and changing the way the world innovates into the 21st century.
As Charlie says in the opening minute of the film, “We started the conversation with: we trust you.” Trust challenges and empowers students to be active participants in their own education so that “for once students don’t feel like education is something being done to them.”
When asked about why he brought open source to the school, Charlie responded with a small shrug and a sly grin, implying that it was both obvious and yet completely abnormal at the same time. He and his team advocated for an open source solution because they wanted their students to become “engineers, inventors and architects and not technology tourists.” Immediately we thought of future Red Hatters, developers and open source community members.
Ben Thomas is a student for whom the 1:1 program and the open source philosophy changed the trajectory of his life. On an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and diagnosed with a learning disability at a young age, Ben thrived his junior year in high school once given the opportunity to showcase his talents and pursue his passions.
We were honored to be able to spend time with the dedicated teachers, staff and students of Penn Manor and for their trust and collaboration in helping us tell their story. Their efforts are inspiring and we are excited to watch as they lead education away from traditional models toward a future of open possibilities.
We’d love to tell you more about Open Source Stories produced by Red Hat Films. Register to receive behind the scenes information and sneak peaks of upcoming films by visiting www.redhat.com/opensourcestories and follow our hashtag #opensourcestories on twitter.
Lastly, we are always excited to hear your stories. If you have a story you would like to share email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t promise to make a film out of each and every one, but stories build strong communities and we’d love to hear yours.