Open source opening educational doors in Appalachia

No readers like this yet.
open source button on keyboard

Like other non-profit organizations, The Partnership for Appalachian Girls' Education (PAGE) faces funding challenges as it aims to achieve its mission of delivering innovative out-of-school learning opportunities for adolescent Appalachian girls.

"PAGE is innovative, in that we take the rich narrative transition of the Appalachian region, and bridge that into the 21st century, in what we call our 'Digital Learning Lab'," says founder and Executive Director Deborah Hicks. "Each participant in the program creates a digital story, incorporating literary techniques that they learn in the program, using photo editing and video editing software in the lab to create a short video. This video is presented to the community at the completion of the program. It's really a way to provide lessons on literacy, technology, public-speaking and leadership."

As the program has grown over the past years, the cost of licensing for the video editing software has grown as well, beyond the operating budget of the organization. Faced with this challenge, PAGE turned to open source technology.

Elizabeth McIntosh, a member of the Steering Committee for PAGE, led the charge. "I'd heard about the open source movement through my friendship with Brendan Szulik at Duke, and thought it might be able to help us."

PAGE participants historically used Final Cut Pro to document and edit their digital stories, but this year will use open source alternatives Kdenlive and Blender. Both offer a good user experience, without the heavy scale-up costs associated with non open-source solutions. The ability to rapidly learn the technology and to use it as the program continues to grow are the largest benefits.

"Our program continues to rapidly expand in the Madison County, North Carolina area, and we have a vision of the program continuing to expand throughout the Appalachian region. Under the past way of doing things, license cost would have been a major component of our operating budget. As we grow and use open source, we can maintain the same experience, while spending money on the more impactful areas of the program. We can accomplish a big part of our mission—to teach adolescent girls 21st century technology and literacy skills—at a cost we can afford," Hicks says. "As PAGE expands over the coming years, the girls' digital learning lab projects will serve as testimony to the power of providing democratic access to cutting-edge technology resources—even in the smallest of rural mountain communities."

Creating a digital learning lab can be a costly task, especially in an economically distressed region such as Madison County, North Carolina. Open source has made educational opportunities possible for Appalachian girls, opening doors wider than would be otherwise possible and helping to spread the mission of the Partnership for Appalachian Girls' Education.

More about PAGE

PAGE was founded to promote 21st century educational opportunity for Appalachian girls. Its goal is to help adolescent girls in rural Appalachia enjoy success while they are in middle and high school and create futures that include graduation and college. The program offers mentoring to help girls envision pathways from middle school to college and a career, and a digital learning lab that melds one of the oldest Appalachian traditions—storytelling—with 21st century skills. With the girls' rich heritage of ballad singing and storytelling, digital stories can introduce them to the world of technology while linking this world to their rich past. The PAGE digital learning lab allows these girls to embrace new technology as they find their voices in a wider world. For more about PAGE and to watch some of the girls' stories, visit the organization's website:


Thomas Mirc currently runs the Vendor Management and Strategic Sourcing Office at Red Hat and is an active advisor and consultant on business process outsourcing and domestic sourcing. Thomas was a member of the inaugural panel for Domestic BPO at the Momentum Americas BPO conference, September 2013.

1 Comment

So cool. Thank you for sharing.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.