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Better World Ed
Pros: Videos pique students' curiosity while real-world applications of math, literacy, and other subjects show how education is relevant to their lives.
Cons: More grade-level filtering would help teachers find materials more easily.
Bottom Line: If your school or home can afford it, Better World Ed is a well-done interdisciplinary curriculum that will expand students' global view.
The Better World Ed site includes support to help you be ready for your lessons. If you don't want to just dive in on your own, there's a professional development unit full of teaching resources on how to use Better World Ed, along with a reading list meant to inspire. There's also a free trial to try out before committing. Each lesson plan has step-by-step instructions on how to go about teaching the unit; a list of learning objectives; connections with math, science, other topics; and ideas for how to keep the learning going at home. Teachers can bookmark stories and create playlists, but the teacher dashboard area is a bit sparse. Once you've found the lesson you want to use -- by browsing or searching -- read through the included lesson plan and finalize your approach. You may decide to use the material in a different way than what's recommended, depending on your class situation. You can also compare how your class's ideas, reflections, and understanding differ with different strategies. Click the heart to bookmark lessons.
This curriculum can be useful for teachers who struggle to fit social-emotional learning (SEL) and other harder-to-measure topics into their lesson plans, since the academic material is fully integrated. The questions embedded in the essays are perfect for class discussion, but they can also be used for student essays or presentations. The lessons are language inclusive, with the material available in a long list of languages. Because the videos are wordless and the text content can be translated into many languages, this curriculum can be used by learners all over the world, and it's great for ELLs and students from various cultures.
Better World Ed is an interdisciplinary global and cultural awareness curriculum that interweaves SEL concepts with math, literacy, science, and social studies topics. Aimed at teachers, schools, homeschooling families, and self-led learners, the site combines a few types of material to create educational value. Wordless videos feature a day in the life of a person located somewhere in the world. The videos are visual stories, but also included are voices, various life noises, and music. Examples include Norma, who grows bananas in Ecuador; Alex, who tends cows in Kenya; and Lam, who makes lamps in the United States. Personal narratives from the perspective of the featured people give context for what viewers see. These essays also include many questions to get students thinking, both about "what is," and about why things are the way they are. Often the narratives include some of the essay writer's problems that the students might have ideas to solve. These essays can be translated into a long list of languages.
Lesson plans for teachers or facilitators spell out how to teach the material. These start out with a big question and then dive deeper, later adding some math integration, self-reflection, and "Keep Learning at Home" ideas. Lesson pages also list which narrower aspects of several top-level categories -- such as Math, Country, Global, Literacy, SEL, etc. -- each lesson covers. Related stories are also listed. The site can be searched by specific math, literacy, science, or global topic; country featured; or specific social-emotional learning (SEL) skill. Users can also search by keyword or just browse the offerings. Some videos are used in more than one lesson.
Students who go through Better World Ed lessons will learn about and appreciate how real people from all around the world live, struggle, and thrive. Because the videos are wordless, students come up with their own narrative as they watch, creating relevance and meaning on their own, before discussing with their class. Students will ask themselves, "What are they doing?" and "What am I seeing?" The curriculum focuses on discovery and real-world applications of both traditional school subjects and SEL concepts. Students will practice reflecting on their own feelings, relating to others, and working on real-life problems. The videos alone are enough to drive discussion, but the narratives and lesson plans direct this discussion in a focused way, combining SEL and cultural understanding with specific math, literacy, science, social studies, and other topics.
It mixes deep questions such as "Where does your food come from?" with math, science, and literacy concepts. Then students can synthesize it all into a coherent take-away that leaves them with more of a global understanding. Lessons like "Making Math Human" helps kids connect to math concepts in new, socially relevant ways. By adding a human element that students can see and feel welcomed by, these lessons feel more real, and students will take more away from them. This breadth is Better World Ed's strength; the price is that it's difficult to go deep on specifics. Teachers looking for deep dives into specific math content won't find it here. And different ways to filter and more scannable lesson plans would help usability. That said, it's an unusual, valuable, and rare opportunity to get a glimpse into the life of kids and adults all over the world.