Smart Cities, Smart Parents and GenDIY


“When I was 32 I knew I’d spend the rest of my career in education.”

When Tom Vander Ark was asked by his boss to pick a children’s charity and take it to the next level, his life changed forever. He was shocked to see the dire situation in Denver schools, which made him decide to do something about it.

He got involved in the Denver chamber of commerce, a children’s campaign, joined a leadership group called leadership Denver and spent a year with a diverse group of leaders.

Many years later, he received an offer to become a public school superintendent in Washington State that was ready to be innovative and loosen rigid structures. He worked hard at connecting with parents and the community and his district went from the highest cost administrative district in the state to lowest cost in about 2 years.

He went on to serve as the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they started hundreds of schools and worked with school districts all over the country to help those struggling the most.

A prolific writer and speaker, Tom has published thousands of articles, has written and contributed to six published books and co-authored more than 35 white papers. He writes regularly on his Education Week blog, Vander Ark on Innovation, and makes daily contributions to

In our conversation, we talk about Tom’s books Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World and Smart Cities That Work for Everyone: 7 Keys to Education & Employment and Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning. 

We also discuss the future of education, the role of parents and what really matters when it comes to innovation, leadership and technology.

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