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.

Read more about trends in education.

  • The public education system is slow in changing, maybe making change starting from affordable and innovative learning opportunity beyond classrooms could be very meaningful.

  • C3

    VC? whittle 2.0? no thank you. what will the investment be in… STUDENTS or PROFITS?
    cultural content and the press has already been eviscerated by VCs looking for profits via computer machine networks….

    are we programming computers? or training humans? decide.

  • wake me up when I’m interested

  • Anonymous

    what alarmed me is the comment by the principal “if you’re not on Facebook, it’s hard to communicate with us”….what about the families that can’t afford to have a computer at home? I worry about the “haves and have nots” in these situations.

    • Doug

      Go to the public library or to a friend’s house. There are many desktops and older laptops that can be had for $150-200. This is 2011, everyone should have a computer.

  • Let’s all communicate with computers, ipads and texting, and social media. Then we can slowly forget how to get along in person. And lets continue the trend of obese children all sitting around facebooking and tweeting. By all means, forget real interaction and experiences in life.

    • I believe what you’re missing is that those of us, including the kids, who use all the items you cited still do interact in person and have experiences good and bad from which we learn. It’s too easy to get caught up in the stereotypes thrown around by the media. Yes, there are always people who take behavior to the extreme but that’s nothing new. Most of us naturally crave f2f and that won’t go away. Technology enhances . . . I love being able to see my 76 and 78 years old parents while I’m talking to them via Skype, having my son in college text me about a good grade he got on an exam he had been dreading, or watching a presentation in real time online at a conference I could not attend because of budget cuts and reading others’ reactions via Twitter.

    • Doug

      We’re not saying that at all. I am a 25-year old HS history/social studies teacher that has seen my fair share of teachers absolutely refusing to integrate anything to do with technology. That is flat-out irresponsible, especially given the fact that these students are so accustomed to it. When you modify your lessons to meet this need, you’re not “selling out.”

      You are merely responding to the very world in which we live. If you don’t like it, tough. The opportunities that are extended to teachers willing to experiment with the aforementioned sites/resources are too many to mention…and they are a tremendous advantage to any teacher who takes the time to utilize them.

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