Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2014

The Wonderment

Ambitious global community aims for public good through student engagement

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1-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: The idea behind the site is powerful, and the developers' work to create a robust social network is encouraging and even inspiring.

Cons: Quality can vary widely: outside videos and user-submitted content are occasionally superficial or downright inappropriate.

Bottom Line: A powerful, improving social network for exploring the world and effecting positive change.

Teachers can join up and serve as Wonderguides, curating content for the site and helping to create rich, meaningful learning "Paths" and lesson plans to help kids encounter awe-inspring things in their world and bring depth and nuance to their exploration. Teachers might also search the pre-created Paths to find questions and prompts that relate to their classrooms. Keep in mind that the site is developing and changing rapidly. Some sourced videos come from sites that aren't always kid-friendly, though the developers are phasing out such external content. Regardless, check the videos and the existing user-generated content before sharing it with your class, just to be on the safe side.

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The Wonderment is a website that seeks to build global awareness, empathy, and engagement through kids' shared exploration of the world around them. Kids encounter individual "wonders" (such as "Hear Your World," where kids capture a real-world sound and submit it to their classmates). Kids start by registering with an email address and create an avatar -- a bot -- that they can then use to visit different learning "Paths" on the site to explore different themes. There's a monthly theme and some weekly Paths to explore, and kids must address their chosen Path's challenge (usually something artistic) and submit their creation before exploring other kids' work. Kids can add their own creative content, a comment, or a sticker, and their submission will cause the Wondermeter to rise. Users can also use their actions to earn the right to update and outfit their bot beyond its simplest, default settings.

About that Wondermeter: It's a giant display whose level rises with each user submission on the site. Once it reaches its highest point, the latest user-picked project -- such as a water-sanitation project in a developing country -- will be funded by an outside donor. Kids never pay to use the site, but their participation effectively crowdsources community-improvement projects around the world as chosen by the kids who use the site.

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The idea behind this social-networking site is extraordinary; it's inspiring to find a site whose mission is to inspire wonder in kids around the world. It also manages to leverage those kids' passion to do outreach and service work for those who need it most. The most encouraging thing about the site is its developer's commitment to improvement.

Some Paths include outside content (a BuzzFeed video was one unfortunate example), but the site is moving toward making all its video content come from its users (and from teachers in particular). The developer has also enlisted teachers to create new paths -- including lesson plans -- that other teachers might use to drop the Wonderment's activities directly into the classroom, which parents could conceivably use as well. The site doesn't quite deliver on its promise yet -- there's still work to do and a huge volume of wonders to address -- but it's an awfully good start. Overall, this is a neat site for getting kids to create novel solutions to address or depict the things that amaze them in their world, and it's likely to get better and better in the years ahead.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Kids will love the creative challenges that force them to look, listen, think, and create. Sharing and seeing submissions from around the world builds understanding and empathy.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Some paths have slim learning potential on their own, but the added support of Wonderguides (teachers) and Wonderagents (fellow students) creates a richer environment that demands deeper insight.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

It's easy to navigate, and kids always know where they stand in terms of their Path and their ongoing contributions to the Wondermeter.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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