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Hommocks Students Explore Solar System with iPad

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Everyday, Kesin Ryan Dehejia picks up a lab sheet and an iPad as he walks into his eighth period earth science class with Michael Sammartano, who has incorporated the new technology into his everyday lesson plan.

Ryan Dehejia, along with the 25 other Hommocks Middle School students in his class, has been using the Google Earth app on his iPad.

"I think it's cool that you can use Google Earth without having to leave the classroom to use a computer," said Ryan Dehejia, who has learned his iPad beeps every time he does something with an app.

Google Earth and Star Walk are just two of several apps students will be working with this year, that Sammartano and teachers nationwide have found to be a good collaboration tool with lessons in the classroom.

Sammartano was one of 50 teachers in the U.S. selected to participate in the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute, a one-week seminar held this July in Phoenix, Ariz. for teachers who are incorporating technology into the classroom.

Any teacher can apply. Sammartano submitted an application citing a grant he wrote in 2007 that introduced 10 iPod Touches into the classroom, and allowed four teachers to record review podcasts for their students.

"That's the product of that initial grant," said Sammartano, who added there are 91 review videos posted on the school's YouTube channel.

During that week, teachers were put into small groups and given a project. Sammartano's group was tasked with creating movies and lessons on how to use Apple apps for iTunes U, which takes the idea of iTunes and applies it to educational material. Sammartano said his group also found innovative ways to get students collaborating and working together using Apple devices, such as the iPad.

"Our goal is to have it replace the notebook, replace the textbook," Sammartano said.

One program, called Engrade, acts as a grade book, messenger, homework calendar, discussion forum, and attendance sheet. It allows a teacher to send out a message or question to all the students in the classroom, who can then reply back with any questions they have.

Ryan Dehejia and his classmates most recently learned how to use Star Walk, an app that can determine your latitude and longitude from a given point in the sky.

"It was cool, and it was fun," said Ryan Dehijia, who—like most students—couldn't help but play around with it.

Sammartano said he understands it's easy to lose focus and start fiddling with everything you can do with different apps, but is willing to deal with all the extra beeping if it gets his students interested in science.

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