Students make use of tablets and technology while working in small groups. Photo: Meredith Kolodner

Many people are seeking the “secret sauce” for digital learning.

As educators expand the use of education technology, they often face a tricky balance. These tools offer the possibility for innovation – trying something new in a quest to improve teaching and learning. But technology isn’t cheap, and the risk of failure looms.

To assure success, many educators try to find and follow a recipe for digital learning. But many crucial ingredients can’t be found in a case study about “best practices,” said Julie Evans, the CEO of Project Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization that advocates for math, science and technology education and annually surveys students and educators about their experiences with those topics.

Too often, educators ask how to reproduce another school district’s program, Evans said last week, when their first step should be to look locally. Educators must discover the needs of schools in their own community so the technology plan fits, Evans said. And, importantly, administrators must have wide support for that vision, she said, and that requires conversations with parents, students and teachers.

To be sure, these are heady times for education technology adoption in the nation’s schools.

Project Tomorrow’s latest national survey found that nearly half of teachers said their students have access to mobile devices in the classroom. And, among high school students, 58 percent of students said they have used their own devices in the classroom for educational purposes. The survey also took the pulse of blended learning efforts. About 45 percent of administrators surveyed reported they believe that blended learning programs in their schools are improving teaching and learning. For the full report on the survey: Digital Learning 24/7: Understanding Technology — Enhanced Learning in the Lives of Today’s Students.

This week, I expect to learn more about cutting-edge education technology during a New York City conference, The Tyton Education Summit 2015, whose theme this year is “How Innovation Scales.”

[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

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Nichole Dobo writes about blended learning. Most of her 10-year career as a reporter has focused on education. She has also covered stories about government, courts, business and religion. She was a staff writer at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., The York Daily Record/Sunday News in York, Pa., The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa. and The Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and has been published in The Atlantic's online edition. She won first prize and best of show for education writing in 2011 from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. She earned a B.A. in journalism at the Pennsylvania State University.