Lesson Plan: Development of Silicon Valley

Background on Silicon Valley

Author Leslie Berlin provides background on the history of Silicon Valley.


Silicon Valley is associated with innovative ideas and emerging technology that impacts us daily. From its early days as a hub for radio and telegraph industries as well as a base for military operations, it attracted researchers, scientists and innovators looking to affect change. Through collaboration across industries, companies and platforms, developers built upon the accomplishments of previous generations to generate new ideas that have a global impact today. In this lesson, students will hear about several people whose innovative ideas involving personal computers, video games, biotechnology and venture capital, contributed to the development of Silicon Valley in the 1970s and 1980s.


  • Step 1: Introduction

    Students may take notes on the accompanying handout as they view the video clips in this lesson.

    Handout: Silicon Valley (Google Doc)

    View the video below as a class, or on individual devices, and engage in class discussion to provide background information on the development of Silicon Valley.

    Video Clip 1: Background on Silicon Valley (1:24)

    Author Leslie Berlin provides background on the history of Silicon Valley.

  • Step 2: Jigsaw Activity

    Divide students into groups to view this collection of videos that discuss several people who contributed to the development of Silicon Valley. Students can take notes to record the impact they made on industry.

    Video Clip 2: Xerox PARC: Bob Taylor (1:00)

    Leslie Berlin describes Bob Taylor's contributions that impacted Silicon Valley including ARPANET and Xerox PARC.

    Video Clip 3: Apple: Mike Markkula (1:30)

    Leslie Berlin explains Mike Markkula's contributions to Apple and the significance of his efforts.

    Video Clip 4: ASK: Sandra Kurtzig (1:57)

    Leslie Berlin talks about how Sandra Kurtzig impacted industry as the first woman CEO to take a tech company public.

    Video Clip 5: Atari: Nolan Bushnell and Allan Alcorn (2:12)

    Leslie Berlin talks about the relationship between Nolan Bushnell and Allan Alcorn as their company in Silicon Valley developed.

    Video Clip 6: ROLM: Fawn Alvarez (2:13)

    Leslie Berlin explains how Fawn Alvarez rose through the ranks at ROLM after high school and compares that experience to today's culture in Silicon Valley.

    Video Clip 7: Niels Reimers and Robert Swanson (2:53)

    Leslie Berlin talks about how Niels Reimers and Robert Swanson impacted Silicon Valley with licensing and scientific technology.

  • Step 3: Class Discussion

    Once students have viewed the videos, as a class discuss the following:

    1. What contribution(s) did the person/people make to an industry?

    2. Describe the process they experienced in generating their idea and establishing it successfully.

    3. Explain the impact of their innovation. What are the positive/negative effects?
  • Step 4: Activity

    Have students research recent entrepreneurs whose innovations have impacted the way we live our lives. They should consider people and ideas that interest and/or impact them personally such as improvements in technology, medicine, science, robotics, social networking, transportation and travel industries, consumer product purchasing, music, media, etc.

    Students should create an ad - print/digital/video - showcasing their entrepreneur's product. It could be a positive or negative message, depending on the perspective of the student.

  • Extension Activity:

    Have students brainstorm ideas for their own products/businesses they would like to start. Students can work individually, in pairs or in groups to complete a Shark Tank plan.

    Shark Tank Business Plan Project (Google Doc)


  • Allocate
  • Atari
  • Emulate
  • Ethernet
  • Genentech
  • Herbert Boyer
  • Initial Public Offering
  • Recombinant Dna
  • Silicon Valley
  • Steve Jobs
  • Steve Wozniak
  • Subsidize
  • Venture Capital


Science & Technology


High SchoolUniversity