Last updated on: 5/16/2013 | Author:

Tom Vander Ark, MBA Biography

CEO/Partner of Getting Smart and Former Executive Director of Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Pro to the question "Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K-12 Schools?"

“It’s time to put technology in the hands of students–real 24/7/365 learning opportunity. Last year we crossed a threshold where it’s cheaper to give kids devices and stop building computer labs and buying textbooks… States and districts will adopt digital textbooks and review online courses… because it is a comfortable step into the digital world… Education is gradually shifting from approving inputs to focusing on student outcomes. And the number and quality of learning opportunities online is exploding… Dominant learning platforms will combine personalized content libraries, social learning features, smart recommendation engines, and aligned services for students, teachers, and schools–sort of Facebook, iTunes Genius, Google apps, and 1-800 support services for students and teachers. It’s exciting to look ahead a school year or two, but devices are cheap enough and content is good enough that there’s no reason to wait–ditch the textbooks and go online. For teachers, it will unlock new opportunities to meet individual student needs. For students it will extend, engage, and expand learning. And it will beat lugging a backpack of textbooks home.”

“Post Textbook World,”, Sep. 11, 2010

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Director, Charter Board Partners, Sep. 2012-present
  • Director, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, 2009-present
  • Director, Strive for College, 2009-present
  • Director, AdvancePath Academics, Nov. 2008-present
  • CEO, Open Education Solutions, 2008-present
  • Executive Editor,, July 2008-present
  • Managing Director, Learn Capital, June 2008-present
  • Director, Edmodo, 2008-2010
  • President, X Prize Foundation, 2007
  • Executive Director of Education, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 1999-2006
  • Superintendent, Federal Way Public Schools, 1994-1999
  • Director, Capgemini, 1993-1994
  • Vice President, PACE Membership Warehouse, 1986-1993
  • Senior Financial Analyst, Cyprus Coal, 1981-1985
  • Managing Partner, Revolution Learning (venture fund for education)
  • Former Partner, VanderArk/Ratcliff (public affairs firm advocating for innovation and entrepreneurship in education)
  • MBA, Energy Finance, University of Denver, 1984
  • BS, Mineral Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, 1981
  • Recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Metal at the Colorado School of Mines
Quoted in:
Pro & Con Quotes: Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K-12 Schools?