Next big thing...

1) LessonWriter: This free, time-saving free website helps educators create "lesson plans and instructional materials" from any text. Teachers simply cut and past the text of any reading passage into the LessonWriter, and in about a minute, the site creates "high-quality, standards-based lesson plans and teaching materials" that a teacher can use as-is or modify to best meet the needs of her students.

2) Late Nite Labs: Just because a student is learning in a distance or alternative education setting doesn't mean she shouldn't still have access to high quality science content. Late Nite Labs' virtual platform "contains 150+ experiment simulations" and comes "equipped with all of the compounds, chemicals, containers, and instruments found in a traditional wet lab setting, only in a digital format."

3) Mingoville: Given the increasing number of English language learners in classrooms, resources for teaching ESL are in high demand. What makes Mingoville noteworthy is that it uses storytelling and oral communication to teach ESL students between the ages of 6-12 with almost 40,000 audio files that explain and guide students through academic content.

4) Skillshare: We all want to become lifelong learners, but tracking down opportunities for learning new things isn't always easy, especially if what we want to learn isn't the kind of thing taught in a traditional school setting. To solve that problem, Skillshare created an online "learning marketplace for offline classes." If you know how to surf like a champ, you could potentially post on Skillshare and offer to teach your neighbors how to surf, too.

5) Socrative 101: Excellent teachers help students learn through the Socratic Method, asking smart questions that build critical thinking skills. Well, Socrative101 is an intuitive web application that asks students questions, tracks their performance and "provides analytics to aid teachers, students, parents, schools and districts in personalizing and improving learning."

Although many of these companies are already active (albeit to varying degrees), it'll be interesting to see which of these ideas actually attract investor interest and become mainstream in the education space.