December 19, 2007 Edition

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Technology through the years

Junior Stormes
Guest Writer

(Bruce Watson provided facts for this article and assisted with its compilation.)

In our local school districts when you think of technology, the first name that comes to mind is Bruce Watson from the Northeast Arkansas Education Cooperative.

The first technology coordinators were hired in July and August of 1995 for each of the 15 education cooperatives in the state. This is when Watson began his journey as the technology coordinator at the NEA Co-op.

During this time APSCN (Arkansas Public School Computer Network) began constructing a statewide computer network at the NEA Co-op's main office, which then resided on the Hoxie School District campus.

This was the beginning of a statewide network. The plan was to connect every public k-12 school building and all education cooperatives in Arkansas to a single WAN (wide area network).

In 1998, APSCN became a division of ADE (Arkansas Department of Education). At this time only a small percentage of school buildings had been connected to the statewide network. That same year, the first computer lab was implemented for teacher training in the proper use of technology. Most early workshops consisted of e-mail, Internet, Windows and Microsoft Office, with workstations running Windows 3.1.

Also during 1995, the NEA Co-op's first network was piggybacked off the Hoxie School District's LAN (local area network) and even used their e-mail server with a 56K Internet connection. It wasn't until 1996 that the co-op received its first e-mail server and 56K Internet connection.

In 1997 the Northeast Arkansas Education Cooperative purchased the old shirt factory in Walnut Ridge, and all personnel from three different locations moved in together. Shortly after installing a second (T1) WAN connection that was 25 times faster than their old connection, the first Compressed Interactive Videoconferencing (CIV) was added.

By 2005 the increased usage of the CIV network exposed a need for additional support concerning distance learning. Jeanine Wood was brought on-board in 2005 and now is in charge of our CIV program.

With these improvements over the years Watson has brought educators and the general public through to the technology age. In the beginning he would make visits to schools and help the struggling to adapt to the newness of Windows 3.1 and e-mail.

Watson continued to grow in his abilities and began to give workshops on how to maneuver through the windows evolution. Some of the tasks at hand were explanations of: "what is a mouse and how does it work? Why has the floppy disk gone from a 5.5 inch to a 3.5 inch?" Also, more importantly was the fact that the CD ROM tray was not a cup holder.

Computers today have many new features and accessories. Information moves in and out of the computer in so many formats that it is really a user's choice. The co-op itself has a computer lab, several presentation rooms with projectors and a working portable laptop lab. We are so fortunate to have this kind of technology available to us. It is also comforting to know that Watson is on our side, ready to help us through our technology dilemmas.

Recently, the NEA Co-op has embarked upon a new form of education through distance learning. The distance learning format enables schools to offer courses using the advanced CIV technology. Students learn in a live video conferencing environment. Junior Stormes has been hired to help assist with this type of technology, which is believed to enhance opportunities for students locally and around the state.

As technology seems to leap ahead of our experiences, it soon becomes a challenge to keep up and virtually impossible to progress at the same speed. However, with the teamwork and combined knowledge of these technology coordinators, there is no reason to fear.

(Note: This is the final column in a series of columns by different employees of the NEA Educational Cooperative to inform the public about the services provided by the co-op.)

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