Conventional wisdom suggests that part of any winning formula for education reform will include better uses of technology in the classroom. A couple North Carolina school districts learned on Tuesday they will be rewarded for steps they’ve taken toward that end with multi-million dollar federal grants to put technology innovations on a fast track.

Guilford County Schools and Iredell-Statesville Schools are among 16 selected from 372 applicants across the country that will get a portion of a $400 million “Race to the Top” grant, the first time the program has been directed to individual districts instead of states.

Terrence Young, Guilford's chief information officer, said the $30 million grant his district is receiving is by far the largest anyone in the county can remember. He said the money will be used to get the district's 17,000-plus middle school students a tablet-like device that facilitates learning better than printed textbooks. The devices track each student's mastery of concepts being taught so teachers can more effectively individualize curriculum around a student's specific needs. Extra opportunities for teacher development will also be made available, training and support will be offered to students, families and teachers, and administrative staff will be added.

"We're all excited about this opportunity for our middle school students," said Young, who led the district's grant bid. "It's another great resource for the teachers." Iredell-Statesville plans to fund a blended learning initiative in the system's middle and high schools that includes a one-to-one technology component. Superintendent Brady Johnson said in a release the $20 million grant the district his getting "will enable us, not only to continue this work, but also to enhance and expand the customization of student learning to help all children be successful." "We couldn't be more proud of the work our teachers and young people have done to lay the foundation for our district to be among the recipients selected to take this next important step," Johnson said.