Education Week’s Tom Vander Ark Interviews Michael on ‘Alive in the Swamp’, July 2013

Nesta recently published a report I did with Katelyn Donnelly called Alive in the Swamp, Assessing Digital Innovations in Education.

Alive in the Swamp provides an actionable guide to learning technology that will allow founders, funders, and teachers to make better decisions. It identifies persistent gaps in innovation activity and points to what needs to be done if we are to finally make good on the promise of technology to transform learning. We argue that we should seek digital innovations that produce at least twice the learning outcome for half the cost of our current tools, and to achieve this, three forces need to come together. One is technology, the second is pedagogy, and the third is change knowledge, or how to secure transformation across an entire school system.

The core of the report is the development of an Index that brings these three elements together, and which allows us to systematically evaluate new digital innovations.  We hope that the Index will be used to guide decision making, policy making and innovation effort.

As Michael Barber notes in his foreword: the future, will belong not to those who focus on the technology alone, but to those who place it in the wider context of what we know about maximizing learning and realizing system impact. The development of this Index helps advance that goal.

For Tom Vander Ark’s comments on the report, please visit:


One thought on “Education Week’s Tom Vander Ark Interviews Michael on ‘Alive in the Swamp’, July 2013

  1. Not a teacher, but a penrat. I loved school, how many kids say that now? In juniors every afternoon the teacher read aloud to us, we put our heads on the desk and relaxed listening to the lion the witch and the wardrobe and other classics, that fed my love of reading. Now they are tested on everything, no learning is for pleasure. In senior school they are given guided answers when studying text, their opinion is not required. All to get good grades. We had countless after school activities that enabled us to build a trusting relationship with teachers outside the classroom, we left school calm and relaxed, not hyper because we had been force fed all day with stuff that we don’t find relative to our lives now and pressurised and stressed in case we don’t get A* s in every subject. Working together is seen as cheating or collusion somthye have no team working skills when they get a job, there is a brilliant TED talk on this, which I will post if you are interested.Read aloud groups are run all,over the country, and instead of dissecting texts, the emphasis is on enjoyment, relaxation and reflecting on what has been read, sharing personal experiences too. When we finish a novel, we know the characters, have lived their lives, and know more than anyone studying it at school will. Young offenders who are full of bravodo are listening to Dickens, and finally getting it’ , older people, people from other cultures and faiths are sharing their experiences with people would never have met if they had not come to the grip. This is real learning, not the sausage factories we call schools. The arts’ are there to be enjoyed, not endured.

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