New Index Assesses Digital Innovations In Education

July 23, 2013

LONDON & OAKLAND, California, July 23, 2013 –  A new Innovation Index released today puts teaching and learning ahead of ‘technology and excitement’ when it comes to digital innovations for the classroom. The Innovation Index, developed by Michael Fullan and Pearson’s Katelyn Donnelly, is outlined in their new report, “Alive in the Swamp”, which looks at how to evaluate the impact of technology on learning.Alive in the Swamp is published by UK-based Nesta and U.S.-based NewSchools Venture Fund.

Building on the work that Fullan introduced in his book Stratosphere the Innovation Index has been designed as a practical evaluation tool for those charged with making decisions in schools – K-12 in the U.S. and primary to secondary in the UK  – about what technologies to invest in and when. It helps users evaluate the innovation in three dimensions – pedagogy, system change potential and use of technology.  

 “The future will belong not to those who focus on the technology alone, but to those who see it as one element of a wider system transformation,” explains Sir Michael Barber, chief education advisor of Pearson.  “’Alive in the Swamp’ has made a real and practicable breakthrough for which all of us around the world interested in improving education systems can be grateful.”

In 2012, Nesta’s Decoding Learning report argued that education technology should be designed around how students learn, cautioning that in many cases technology is currently being used to support existing teaching practices, rather than transform teaching and learning.

“Alive in the Swamp” takes “Decoding Learning” forward by looking at the need to deliver a change in how technology is approached across the whole school system, in each and every classroom. 

Through the Innovation Index, Fullan and Donnelly aim to make this a reality by helping entrepreneurs and education technology developers consider particular features to build into their products that are known to drive increased learning and achieve systemic change.

“’The Alive in the Swamp’ report, along with the Index, is an important guide for anyone aiming to transform education and learning through the use of technology,” says Ted Mitchell, president and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund. “These practical steps will help identify the most promising innovations, as well as help guide the continuous improvement of solutions already in use.”

The Innovation Index asks users to rate digital products or services against three criteria – pedagogy, system change, and technology – using a four-point scale:

  • GREEN: Good – likely to succeed and produce transformative outcomes
  • AMBER GREEN: Mixed – some aspects are solid; a few aspects are lacking full potential
  • AMBER RED: Problematic – requires substantial attention; some portions are gaps and need improvement
  • RED: Off track – unlikely to succeed

The scores assigned to each criterion in the Innovation Index are then used to build up to an overall assessment of the innovation. An example of the Index is available to download from

Tom Kenyon, director of digital education, Nesta, comments, “In too many instances, innovations and their investments have failed to demonstrate an attainment return. Software and kit, bought without consideration of how technology will change practice, will never meet schools’ great expectations of enhanced learning. We hope that the Innovation Index in “Alive in the Swamp” will help reverse this trend.”

“Alive in the Swamp” is available to download free of charge from NewSchools at

About “Alive in the Swamp”:

“Alive in the Swamp” report is published by Nesta ( in the UK and NewSchools Venture Fund ( in the U.S. Katelyn Donnelly is an executive director at Pearson (, the world’s leading learning company. Michael Fullan is professor emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto and author of “Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge”.


Media Contacts:

Ellisa Feinstein, NewSchools (U.S.)

1-415-205-5229 / [email protected]


Sarah Reardon, Nesta (UK)

020 7438 2606 / [email protected]