Product Review of Better World Ed
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 educators, 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 learners 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 learners might have ideas to solve. These essays can be translated into a long list of languages.
Lesson plans for educators 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.
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. Educators can bookmark stories and create playlists, but the educator 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 educators 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 learner 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 learners from various cultures.
Learners 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, learners come up with their own narrative as they watch, creating relevance and meaning on their own, before discussing with their class. Learners 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. Learners 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 learners 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 learners can see and feel welcomed by, these lessons feel more real, and learners 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. Educators 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.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Short wordless videos engage learners‘ minds as they work to create meaning out of what they see. New cultural sights and sounds will inspire questions and curiosity, spurring discussion.
Curriculum and Instruction
Integrating SEL into math, literacy, and other topics automatically provides context and meaning for the lessons being learned, and learners are challenged to reflect on their own lives.
The provided lesson plans walk you through how to cover the material, and the included teaching unit gets educators oriented. Some memberships include additional support.