About Ted

innovation meets education

I have an unusual vantage point on the future of our children and our nation.  I spent my career in the world of innovation, and my track record there suggests I might know about it.  For more than a decade, now, I’ve immersed myself in the world of education.  I don’t claim to have the expertise our classroom teachers have, and I respect their insights — celebrate them, actually.  But I have insights into the world our children will live in as adults, and how education priorities can foster — or diminish — the skills and mindsets kids will need as adults. I fight every day to do what I can to help give children a creative, uplifting education that prepares them to lead lives of purpose.  Make no mistake, the challenges are serious.  As are the opportunities.

In 2018, I formed an education non-profit with Sir Ken Robinson.  Tragically, Sir Ken passed away in August, 2020.  But our efforts have carried forward, and have developed into the remarkable WhatSchoolCouldBe community, and its owerful Innovation Playlist change model.  If you are a change agent seeking to elevate life and learning outcomes for the children in your world, this community offers unparalleled support, with compelling resources, like-minded and supportive educators, and an authentic sense of what is possible.  All for free to you, your school, and your district.

During the 2015-2016 school year, I went to all fifty states, visiting some 200 schools. I was stunned by the innovative classrooms and schools I found across the country. My book What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America brings these stories to readers.  I highlight the common elements of the powerful learning experiences I observed, and the ways leaders can change schools at scale by putting in place the conditions that let teachers and students thrive.  You can order the book here.  And if you have a big event and a limited budget, I’m likely to donate copies to help you out.

My education work got its start when I organized and funded Most Likely to Succeed, a feature-length documentary on education that was directed by the remarkable multiple-Emmy-Award-winning Greg Whiteley. The film has been an official selection of thirty major film festivals, including Sundance.  To date, more than 10,000 communities in some 35 countries around the globe have screened the film, using it as a powerful resource to spark discussion and inspire change.  It’s online here, free, and every-bit as relevant today as when it premiered at Sundance.  The first fifteen minutes foretold in 2015 exactly what we’re seeing today with Artificial Intelligence.

Along with thought leader and friend Tony Wagner, I co-authored the book Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era.  Check out this Chicago Tribune review and order a copy.

I describe how my education journey got started in this TEDx Talk. PBS Hawai’i did a thirty-minute Long Story, Short piece on my work, and you’ll learn quite a bit about me by watching it.  Here are some articles that tell you more about me and my work:   A Basic Flaw in the Argument Against Affirmative Action (with Linda Darling-Hammond), Not Bill Gates (A Q&A with Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post), The Purpose of School (The Washington Post),  and Rethinking College Admissions (with Sir Ken Robinson).

I’m on Linked In here, and occasionally post on the getting-worse-by-the-day Twitter (@dintersmith).  While I have far fewer resources than our mega-foundations,  I am proud to support a number of great initiatives.  To see my total list of commitments (I believe in complete transparency), here’s my Portfolio.

In 2012, I was appointed by President Obama to represent the U.S. at the United Nations General Assembly, where I focused on education and youth entrepreneurship.  I think academic credentials are overweighted, but for those curious, I graduated from the College of William and Mary with High Honors in English and Physics and went on to get a PhD in Engineering from Stanford, where I also taught.

I’m on a mission to help catalyze and accelerate progress in our schools.  We need to equip our children with skillsets and mindsets that are essential in a world of innovation. I can’t overstate how fast machine intelligence is accelerating (and this short video makes the point).  No school can be complacent.  My travels have convinced me that our best path forward is to let our teachers do what they entered the profession to do — engage and inspire our kids — and draw on their insights into how best to transform our schools.