Five Ways Silicon Valley is Changing Education

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Eighth grade students at Presidio Middle School share an iPad while working on a lesson.

There's no argument that Silicon Valley startups have influenced how businesses operate. The fact that most companies now count social media strategy as a crucial part of their operation is a testament to the Internet culture infiltrating far beyond the Internet-only based businesses.

The same phenomenon is happening in education. Here are five ways tech-based startups in Silicon Valley have influenced education.

1. Social media

Not long ago, social media and education had absolutely nothing to do with one another. These days, it has become enmeshed in school policy and practice. Schools are figuring out guidelines for using Facebook. Teachers are using Twitter to engage and gauge student interaction. They're using blogs and wikis to communicate and to teach. Parents are friending teachers and schools. "If you’re not on Facebook, it's hard to communicate with us," said Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School in Bergen County, New Jersey. "Our new hub of real time information is Facebook. When I post things about kids' accomplishments, and when students and parents comment, as a principal I'm proud."

2. Grassroots growth

As with Mashable and Yelp, the use of Web 2.0 tools in education is proliferating from the ground up. Educators are finding each other online, teaming up, and sharing smart tactics on how best to inventively use tech to engage their students and keep up with the quickly changing world outside school walls. They meet and confer online with weekly Twitter meetups on #Edchat, and spread the word about best practices through Twitter and Facebook and their own blog, even if it means circumventing school rules.

3. User-generated content

Like Huffington Post, Flickr, Yelp, and the mother of all UGC sites, Wikipedia, forward-thinking educators are incorporating student-created media, feedback, essays, and blogs as part of the curriculum they teach in class. Rather than feeding their students information, they're giving value and recognition to their students' ideas and encouraging them to think for themselves.

4. Open-source education

As with Linux and Mozilla (creator of your Firefox browser), progressive educators are throwing open their classroom doors and sharing their knowledge with each other and with the world. They're using content sites like Open Education Resources and CK12 to create and customize their own curriculum, and allowing others to access all of it.

5. Venture capital

There may come a day when schools can "go public," so to speak, (as in have stockholders), but until then schools are finding ways to fund new initiatives through private investments. Organizations like NewSchool Venture Fund are fueling the growth of charter schools like Rocketship, Green Dot, and Aspire -- and their progress is worth following.

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