Keeping up with technology in Manila

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jason Baltimore is pleased with the strides Manila school district has made over the last five years in technology. Baltimore is the technology coordinator for the district. He has been with the school for six years.

Kindergarten and first grade students love the Smart Table. It teaches the students to work as a team and follow instructions. (Town Crier photos/Revis Blaylock)

When Baltimore joined the Manila staff the district had about 100 computers, no Smart Boards or projectors. Today the school has 550 computers, Smart Boards and projectors in every classroom in elementary and middle school and half of high school classrooms; the Front Row sound system in all of the elementary classrooms with four in Middle School and four in High School; document cameras in all the classrooms; all have projectors and mounted screens, and kindergarten and first grades have Smart Tables.

Elementary principal Diane Baugher said she is very proud of the state of the art technology.

"We are now in the 21st Century," she said. "We appreciate Jason and all he does to keep everything up and running."

The Smart Response System is a favorite tool used by the students. They can pick the correct answer with a click.

Almost any time any day of the week technology is at work in all of the classrooms. The Front Row sound system is used throughout the elementary. The necklace type sound device allows the teachers to speak softly and be heard by all.

One teacher said it helps hold the students' attention because they can hear what is said from anywhere in the room. The system can also be used for students to give oral reports, or read aloud.

The Smart Boards are also very popular in the classrooms. Students can do their spelling words, match games, etc. They enjoy using the hands-on touch Smart Boards.

Th Front Row system can be used by students when giving reports or reading to the class.

The Smart Tables are proving to be a great teaching tool in the kindergarten and first grade classrooms. The young students love it. It teaches them to follow instructions and work as a team.

Classrooms are equipped with the document cameras giving teachers the ability to project all documents on the big screen. It saves teachers time by not having to make copies for each student.

Kindergarten teacher Ginger Baltimore said the students love the technology. First grade teacher Emily Despain said it is a tie between the Smart Board and the Front Row.

"The students love the Smart Board and the Front Row," she said. Both are great teaching tools. The students beg to work on math and reading."

All classrooms are equipped with computers as well as a total of six computer labs throughout the campus.

Students in the third and fourth grade use the computers to publish writing, do research, and much more.

Students doing research in the Middle School Library.

Baltimore said the school has added 30 Megs of internet band width giving classrooms more internet accessible programs.

"We were about maxed out so we added the 30 Megs opening more sites for teachers," Baltimore said. "We use content filters to protect the students and we do block inappropriate material."

Becky Ritsmon, fourth grade teacher said in her 17 years of teaching, this has been a big year for technology.

The elementary, pre-K through fourth grade, computer lab is under the direction of Phyllis Clark. The lower elementary lab features 24 stations and every student attends computer lab once a week.

Students are also enjoying using the Smart Response System. Students have hand held devices; they log into the program, and choose answers from multiple choice questions. The teachers can see who has the correct answers and a graph is made.

"Not all students will speak up or raise their hands but with this system, all students have the opportunity to answer the questions with a click," Baltimore said.

The Gifted and Talented group have seven laptops. They are learning about journalism and create a school newspaper, The Lion Backer.

Tim Bassing, GT Adviser, said the students have learned a lot through the added technology.

Baltimore said they are in the process of adding more technology to the high school.

"We have 15 to 20 I Pads in the district but we are in the process of purchasing 40 more," Baltimore said.

This is Manila High Schools first year with Apple Mac computers that run on the MacX software in the business department. Tonia Eubanks, business instructor said they are getting there.

"The band width is great," she said.

Baltimore said Manila is probably in the top five percent of all schools in Arkansas in technology.

Chemistry teacher Cindy Bunch was quick to praise the technology.

"My AP Chemistry was using the spectrophotometer," she said. "This will be a great help to them when they take college chemistry."

Bunch said she is hoping to get Vernier Equipment in the near future.

"When our kids go to college they need to have had this," she said. "We appreciate our administration and the vision of our tech coordinator."

Superintendent Pam Castor said the technology has gone under a lot of change.

"We have been building our network over the last five years," she said. "We've worked on expanding our ability to the cutting edge in terms of technology. Our staff has been great taking up ideas and using the resources available. Jason has been fantastic at analyzing what is out there and what is best for our school."

Baltimore said if you went to other 3A schools, Manila would be up with any of them if not ahead.

"We are not lagging behind," Baltimore said.

In addition to the technology in the classrooms, a new sound system was built into the new cafeteria. Also, telephones have been placed in every high school classroom.

Baltimore said technology is an ongoing process and he is very happy with the direction Manila is going and looks forward to the future.

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