Part of my morning routine, after looking through email, is checking through new and Flipboard postings.  I often have to check the date a story was posted originally, because even though it is “new” on the sharing sites this morning, it may be “old” news, and has been shared and re-shared again and again, only now turning up in the thread of a subject or person I follow.  That’s what happened this morning: an interesting title caught my attention scooped by Nik Peachey onto Learning Technology NewsResearchers Hunt for ‘Secret Sauce’ of Digital Learning Success – an EdTech Magazine story from March, 2015.  But never mind, it’s still relevant, and interesting.

Subtitled “A new report studies what worked and didn’t for five districts’ digital learning strategies” Frank D. Smith wrote about a 2014 report by the America’s Promise Alliance’s Center for Promise. The study is titled “Wired to Learn: K-12 Students in the Digital Classroom,” examining how five school districts implemented digital learning strategies to help students succeed in the classroom and how those initiatives performed. Hence the use of “secret sauce” in Smith’s blog post title!  (If you’re unfamiliar with the term, read this post at

The report’s publishers write that it “explores digital learning as a strategy to improve student classroom experiences, and highlights the efforts of five school districts across the United States as they use technology to reshape the traditional K-12 learning environment.  Our research findings illustrate how carefully planned and implemented digital learning initiatives can powerfully impact how students learn,” said Jonathan Zaff, Executive Director of the Center for Promise.  ‘Identifying innovative, yet practical ways to involve students in meaningful teaching plans that meet their individual needs and strengths is critical for creating positive pathways toward graduation.’ ”

The study’s five important points for tech integration in schools are:

  • planning and investing in bandwidth and wireless connectivity to power educational technology
  • providing ongoing professional development opportunities that equip educators to effectively integrate digital learning and employ new instructional approaches
  • restructuring the traditional classroom to personalize learning
  • developing creative strategies by connecting with stakeholders outside of the district, and
  • using data systematically to improve learning and instruction.

As is so often the case, serendipity was at work in my mail box: two unrelated sources expanding on the same idea at about the same time.  A few days earlier,  my email alerts for the IB OCC Web 2.0 in the IB classroom forum postings had brought these lines from Barbara Stefanics, reminding me of the IB Teaching and Learning with Technology documents: online at Teaching and learning with technology and a summary pdf at Teaching and learning with technology: An executive summary (PDF). (Visit my own OSC post about this document.)

Interestingly, the IB also lists five points illustrating that “IB schools benefit from sharing common understandings, policies and frameworks to develop their own concepts and choose the things that will work best with the IB curriculum. These things and concepts are presented here in this series as “IB technologies” to model the idea that the distinction between things and concepts aid in thinking about technology and how it functions in our communities”:

  • evident but seamless in the curriculum
  • accessible to all learners, used to facilitate classroom environments that are inclusive and diverse by design, and useful in enhancing curriculum design and lesson planning
  • adaptive to many contexts: cultural, physical and educational
  • supportive of intercultural understanding, global engagement and multilingualism—specific hallmarks of an IB education
  • helpful in fostering the collection, creation, design and analysis of significant content.

As you would expect, the points come from different perspectives, but work well together, and indeed, are often the same concept expressed differently. “Evident but seamless” means “planning and investing” accompanied by “ongoing professional development”.  “Using data systematically” is “fostering the collection, creation, design and analysis of significant content”.  “Accessible to all learners” is “restructuring the traditional classroom to personalize learning”.

Is there a “secret sauce” for the approaches to learning with technology in an IB classroom? Well, I think there is a “sauce”, but it’s not very secret. There are reports, documents, blog posts, videos, conference presentations, ad infinitum, in addition to schools full of undocumented experience. Like many good facets in good cooking, a “successful” “digital” implementation in  learning  takes research, communication, collaboration, organization, reflection, creative and critical thinking, and time.

Further reading on this topic:

Wired to Learn: K12 Students in the Digital Classroom. A white paper from the Center for Promise at America’s Promise Alliance. 2014.

The integration of technology in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Summary developed by the IB Research Department based on a report prepared by Lucy Cooker, Charles Crook and Shaaron Ainsworth The University of Nottingham April 2015.

The Integration of Technology in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, Final Report. Dr Lucy Cooker Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Nottingham Charles Crook Professor of Education, School of Education, University of Nottingham Shaaron Ainsworth Professor of Learning Sciences, School of Education, University of Nottingham. Also Pedagogical practice and technology integration in the Diploma Programme in IB World Schools, Paper presentation by Lucy Cooker (presenting), Charles Crook (presenting), Shaaron Ainsworth, at the European Educational Research Association Conference, 2015.

4 Reasons Technology Based Learning is Integrated Into the IB Curriculum. H International School, July 2016.

Promoting inquiry through technology. IB Community Blog, December 2015.

The role of technology in IB programmes, Sharing the PYP Blog, December 2014.

The Global Search For Education: Got Tech? IB Schools in a Virtual World. Huffington Post, October 2014.

Use of Technology in Secondary Mathematics, Final Report for the International Baccalaureate.  Paul Drijvers, John Monaghan, Mike Thomas, Luc Trouche, 2013.