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iPads for all

The Master’s Academy Principal Mitchell Salerno and Superintendent Dr. Bill Harris hold an iPad, one of 300 that will be given to the school’s students.

The Master’s Academy Principal Mitchell Salerno and Superintendent Dr. Bill Harris hold an iPad, one of 300 that will be given to the school’s students.

Isaac Babcock

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Mitchell Salerno had a big idea. The Master’s Academy’s high school principal wanted to leap his school ahead of the competition, blowing away public schools in quality of education. But he needed a hook. He needed something catchy.

Monday night, Dr. Bill Harris, the Oviedo school’s superintendent, and Salerno stood on a black stage with a black backdrop like Apple’s Steve Jobs was about to emerge from behind the curtain.

A video played. Teachers from the school, in front of a stark white background, mimicked an Apple commercial with their own list of “iWishes”. When Salerno came on screen a minute later, there were already whispers in the crowd of students at Master’s darkened gymnasium.

Then a curtain dropped in front of the banner — The Master’s Academy was about to become the fourth high school in the world to offer iPads for every student. The program had been a closely guarded secret for months. Now the whole world knew. In the amassed crowd of hundreds, jaws dropped as Salerno welcomed students to the 21st century of education.

“Everyone in here knows about Facebook,” Salerno said. “Our students are entering a world where this isn’t going away.”

So the school dove right in. Around the room, teachers were already set up with iPads at high-top tables waiting to show their students the next leap in education.

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Master's Academy students celebrate that the Oviedo school is one of four high schools worldwide to give all students iPads

Standing off to the right side of the room, Brenda Castaldi, an AP psychology teacher and college certified instructor, was clicking through the anatomy of the human brain.

“I’m excited about all the applications it will have in the classroom,” she said. “It has more detail than the book has.”

Her finger sweeps over the screen, and another layer of the brain comes into view.

“It shows everything in 3D,” she said. “The more I find, the more I’m excited about what it can do in the future.”

Student Nick Noble, 17, already has an iPod Touch, but said he was looking forward to what he can do with an iPad.

“I’m excited to see the opportunities it’ll give us…having an app that literally watches the stock market as we’re learning about it,” Noble said.

All of that will be possible, Harris said, thanks to an emerging plethora of apps and programs putting a new world at students’ fingertips.

“It’s going to really benefit our kids,” Harris said. “They’ll be so much farther ahead than kids who don’t have this opportunity.”