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Ariz. education leaders tour Hall County schools
Visitors view how technology is incorporated when class is in session
Snow White, of Dell Computers, sits with Da Vinci Academy sixth-grader Jackson Hart as she and others from Arizona tour the school Friday afternoon to glean ideas about technology in schools.

Furthering its reputation as home to some of the country's most innovative classrooms, Hall County Schools played host to Arizona education leaders and policy makers on Friday.

Arizona State Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, and other Arizona education leaders toured Hall classrooms with an eye toward viewing how new technology is incorporated when class is in session.

Crandall, chairman of the Arizona Senate Education Committee, said what impressed him about the Hall school system was its ability to effectively use the technological tools it already has.

"(In Arizona), we don't have the money to buy a laptop for every student," he said.

Instead, the state senator said, the state and local school districts would have to be creative in implementing existing technology in the classroom and make smart investments in new tools.

In that area, Crandall said Hall is "ahead of most (systems) in this nation."

"Like Hall County, we're just going to learn as we go," he said.

Crandall not only took time to ask questions of teachers and school leaders but students as well.

As Da Vinci Academy seventh-grader Chris Lewis and his classmates filmed a book report for class, Crandall talked shop about editing software with the students to gauge their knowledge of the subjects.

Also on the tour was Denise Birdwell, superintendent of the Higley Unified School District in Arizona. Birdwell said she was looking for how teachers integrated technology into the classroom, particularly since her school system has invested in iPads. Birdwell took notes on some of the useful applications and websites students used in the classroom.

But what impressed Birdwell the most was the system's willingness to share what it had learned along the way - both successes and failures.

"That really streamlines the process for us," she said. "Too much education is done in isolation."

Hall similarly opened its door to local and state community leaders last week with a 21st century education tour.

Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said he intends to make these kind of open houses a regular occurrence both as a way for the school system to share its ideas, but also to bring in constructive criticism.