Books and Articles Contributed To:

High Schools Visited:

Nonprofits Worked With:

4.0 Schools, Education Board Partners, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium, and Getting Smart Collective

I’m passionate about our work because:
Learning is what will enable individuals, families, communities, countries and neighborhoods to thrive. While we face a growing number of threats and inequities, it has never been easier to use smart tools to make a difference; it has never been more important for all of us to get smart.

My favorite learning experience is:
Visiting schools and learning environments — seeing is believing but, more than seeing, experiencing is believing. Most places have something to teach, but those lessons can be very difficult to capture with only words. I learn so much from visiting schools (and have visited more than 2,500). These immersive visits make for powerful, memorable and transferable learning experiences.

My role in three words:
Pattern recognizer & pathfinder

I’m currently learning about:
Contribution, the psychology of purpose, the ethic of service, and the mindset of entrepreneurship.

I’m currently working on:
Answering the question: How might we help more people connect to meaningful work? I’m currently working on a book about contribution to address this question. I’m also working with the Kauffman Foundation on a regional Real World Learning change initiative and am excited to be working alongside XQ with some of the most innovative schools in the country.


Tom Vander Ark is an advocate for innovations in learning. As CEO of Getting Smart, he advises schools, districts, networks, foundations and learning organizations on the path forward. A prolific writer and speaker, Tom is author of Getting SmartSmart Cities That Work for EveryoneSmart ParentsBetter TogetherThe Power of Place and Difference Making at the Heart of Learning. He has published thousands of articles and papers through GettingSmart.com and LinkedIn.

Previously he served as the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Tom served as a public school superintendent in Washington State and has extensive private sector experience. He serves on the board of 4.0, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and Getting Smart Collective. He is an advisor for Accreditation AI in Learning as well as numerous schools and startups.

Tom has Authored Over 4000 Blogs

Books (authored or contributed)

For blogs written by Tom, check out his authored blogs.

Speaking Engagements

Tom is available for all types of speaking and moderating engagements such as keynotes, panel discussions, round tables and workshop sessions. From learning to leadership, we can customize a speech to fit the needs of your event and audience. Tom regularly speaks on the following:

Future of Work: The organizational and civic implications of life with smart machines and what graduates need to know and be able to do to thrive in the innovation economy.
Future of Learning: New learning models, personalized and project-based learning, the power of purpose and the magic of place, and new trends and tools.
Leadership: Building community, mobilizing for scale, balancing innovation and improvement, and working in networks.
Contribution: Finding and doing purpose-driven work and why schools should put #DifferenceMaking at the heart of learning.

To request Tom for a speaking engagement please fill out this form.




“Thank you Tom for all the confidence, resources and support at the beginning of this journey 20 years ago that resulted in this amazing network of deeper learning schools 200 strong and growing.” –Attendee to keynote, #ntac16

“You absolutely knocked it out of the park! We couldn’t have asked for a more personal and relevant experience for our participants.” – Apex Learning, Personalized Learning event 2015

“Tom’s caring demeanor and encouragement generated ideas from the audience about how they are or how they envisioned moving learning forward at an accelerated pace. Tom build community in one short hour!” – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Digital Learning Academy event 2015

“Thank you so much for so beautifully guiding us through our tangled tale. You are such a pro and make it look easy to ask deep questions, manage the energy, and guide the group.” – Philanthropy Roundtable event 2014

“Tom gave the most cogent and wonderful webinar about interconnection between blended learning and 21st Century outcomes that we’ve had. He just really did such a great job.” – EdLeader21 Webinar

“We were so happy with how the event turned out. Mr. Vander Ark brought so much to our event.” – WV Education Summit 2014

“I cannot thank each of you enough for an incredibly rewarding Academy course unit. We were so pleased with your engagement and with the thoughtful planning and execution of the course activities, lessons, and discussion. The personal and professional connections you brought to the group were second to none.” – Executive Leadership Academy 2013

Back to Our Team