This Philadelphia school replaced textbooks with iPads

Teachers at Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter School create custom learning materials with iPad, iTunes U, and iBooks Author. As the city’s largest tuition-free K–12 charter school, they implement STEAM curriculum that emphasizes academic and artistic excellence equally. And with Apple technology at the core of teaching and learning, their teachers design their own curriculum, and students create multimedia projects that reflect their individual creativity and knowledge.

You won’t find any books at String Theory Schools’ performing arts campus. iPads are the only tool both teachers and students use to teach and learn.

In thinking about new ways to develop and deliver curriculum, they decided to abandon traditional textbooks in upper-middle school and high school. Teachers are free to develop their own customized curriculum the way they want to teach and the way students will learn best. By allowing students to express their newfound knowledge however they choose, iPad helps them become more self-reliant.

“It’s how we believe we are producing a generation of creative problem solvers,” said Christine DiPaulo, the school’s Director of Innovation and Instructional Technology. “Our teachers collaborate and build curriculum in teams.  This brings their collective genius to the table.”


The emphasis in courses is providing challenges instead of following chapters in a textbook. For example, students will solve real-world problems either in the school, or out in the world. One physics class analyzed videos of a String Theory gymnastics class to see how they could improve the gymnasts. Analyzing the gymnastics videos in slow motion helps the students determine torque, angular acceleration and rotational motion. All the while, the course is public, live, real-time and collaborated on by both students and teachers.

Teachers are able to provide multiple assignment options through iTunes U courses, letting students choose between shooting a video, writing a song, drawing a sketch or creating a presentation.

Students film a ballet performance.

In one class, ballet students were practicing for a show while film students were capturing the session via Apple’s Blackmagic cameras. It was a perfect example of two artistic mediums coming together to yield new, interesting results.

“To give those types of skill sets to students — it just really puts them at an amazing advantage coming into college and the workplace,” said Jason Corosanite, the school’s Chief Innovation Officer. “We believe that we’re creating the next leaders of a creative society.”



Jason Sherman

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *