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Alive in the Swamp

The first four words in this article on EdSurge by Tony Wan, Nine Questions for Evaluating Education Innovation, caught my interest immediately.

They must have done the same for Mr. Wan as he took them directly off the title of a new report from Nesta and newSchools Venture Fund, an otherwise ’sober-sides’ educational organization.


What are the four words you ask? Hang on, I'm getting to them!


Drum roll... and the four words are, “Alive In The Swamp”!

Mr. Wan aptly terms these three words as a possible title for a “cheesy survival horror flick,” and also a good analogy for the problems experienced by “entrepreneurs and educators slogging their way through edtech jungle, trying to figure out how to best build, deploy and assess technology for the classroom.”

Alive In The Swamp by authors Michael Fullan and Katelyn Donnelly is based on a book by Mr. Fullan titled, Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge. As you might guess from the title of the book (if not the report), integrating technology, pedagogy and system change are the three major components best suited for assessing the success of those educators trying to-- again--  “figure out how to best build, deploy and assess technology for the classroom.’’ Interestingly enough, pedagogy and change are the two weakest elements.

The authors claim this is because designing new technology is vastly more exciting (and probably more profitable) than working with slippery subjects like pedagogy and change. These three major elements are broken down further into nine separate items.


  1. Clarity of intended outcome
  2. What research is the plan based on...has it worked for others?
  3. Quality of the assessment platform...detailed with actionable insights?

System Change

  1. Support… implementation support for technology and teachers
  2. Value...cost savings and/or hidden costs
  3. Will it help change the entire system?


  1. Quality of user experience..is it easy to use?
  2. Ease of adaptation
  3. Comprehensiveness of integration...how does it dovetail with the classroom learning environment?
Stratosphere book Michael Fullan
Mr. Tan notes that the authors of the ‘Swamp’ article provide some possible organizational procedures leading to answers for these items, but Stratosphere doesn’t give anything away unless you buy the book. 
Curious about the book Stratosphere, I checked with the Kindle Store hoping to get an idea of what was in it by reading the sample. 
No sample! Who puts a book on the Kindle Store without providing a sample? Mr Fullan, apparently.
In any case the book comes highly recommended.
Not only does it have a perfect ‘five star’ rating on Kindle, but some well known educators had nice things to say about it also.
Here are a few examples:
  • Stratosphere is truly the best thing I have read on technology and education...Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair, Lynch School of Education, Boston College
  • This is an incredibly timely book. It marks the future for education, for transforming learning modes and methods for everyone. Michael Fullan is once again leading the way for educators, with his construct of the stratosphere as an integrating and liberating force with technology and pedagogy as global partners in revisioning schools. ..David Booth, Professor Emeritus, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
  • Beautifully and brilliantly written, deserving of the title Stratosphere. Full of deep insights, clarity, and humor. ..John Bransford, Shauna C. Larson Endowed Chair in Learning Sciences, University of Washington

So, if you’re Alive In The Swamp desperately trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t before the allegorical alligators (politicians?) get you, Stratosphere might well be the book with the appraisal system best suited for the answers you need.

  • Oct 1, 2013 8:00:00 AM

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