How do we get students excited about learning?

At first, this question may seem akin to impossible questions like “What is the meaning of life?” or “Which came first…?” Perhaps though, we are looking at “learning” the wrong way around.

What if we asked, “How do we inspire students’ curiosity?”

All of us have fallen down a rabbit hole of curiosity, whether on Wikipedia, YouTube or in the Library. One line of questioning leads to the next and suddenly, you’ve been at it for a half hour and learned more than you ever thought you would about the history of Egypt’s Pharaohs, Julie Andrews’ musical career, or how to survive in the rainforest.

These little quests, sparked by a moment of curiosity, are not always fruitful, but they do often leave us more knowledgeable than before. Most importantly, this impulse to follow a trail of knowledge tells us something important about learning: curiosity can be our greatest tool for motivation.

Now, more than ever, the wonders of this amazing world are at the fingertips of almost every student on the planet. And this is what a classroom might look like if we’re able to utilize the internet right:

Image: Teenage students raising their hands enthusiastically.

Source: AFCENT

And we can get it right!

With Ever Widening Circles Education (EWCed), we think that the answer to “How do we get students excited about learning?” first starts with inspiring students’ curiosity. The more students are able to connect the wider world with the classroom and learn about all of the possibilities and ingenious people out there, the more curiosity will become a catalyst for learning!

The Journey to EWCed…

So, how did we go from having a fundamental question to developing a new and exciting tool for educators? Well, like so many great things, it started with a simple conversation (but more about that later).

Three years ago, the Ever Widening Circles team embarked on a journey. We wanted to bring the spirit of Ever Widening Circles into classrooms around the globe.

And today, it all begins!

We’re so excited to introduce you to EWCed; the educational initiative of Ever Widening Circles. This resource was created to meet students on their turf by curating the best of the web when it comes to insight and innovation. So, I’m going to take you on a little journey about what’s possible for students in this new era and why we think every student should have the opportunity to explore the world with EWCed.

Every great idea has an origin story…

In 2015, after graduating from Harvard, I was stuck in a rut. I was hunting for jobs that I could be passionate about, but none were speaking to me. Luckily, I somehow wound up at a meeting between Dr. Lynda (our EWC founder) and a long time fan of EWC, Neal Smith. Neal is a teacher at our local high school and he had been using our early articles in his classroom. Dr. Lynda wanted to learn more about how Ever Widening Circles could reach students who aren’t yet being given the opportunity to discover all there is to celebrate in the wider world.

Whether my presence at this meeting was just serendipity, or a strategically planned encounter carefully orchestrated by Dr. Lynda (who, for those who don’t know, is also my mother), I’m not sure, but that meeting was life-changing. Over the previous six years, I had always been involved in improving students’ experiences by working on the school board, mentoring, teaching, and helping to develop the curriculum. In that first meeting, suddenly a new path appeared.

How could we take the ideology of Ever Widening Circles and translate that into an easy to use, well-designed tool for teachers to use in the classroom?

Well, I just began talking with more teachers. Asking them what they like in platforms, and what would make their lives easier.

My time at Harvard had been heavy on the field of design, so I came to think of myself as a translator of sorts; taking the desires, frustrations, and experiences of others and translating them into reality. For teachers, that became a design for a platform that would give them the ability to bring the wider world into their classroom. From these discussions, we realized that what a lot of educators were looking for were “teachable moments” in the classroom: ways to get students curious and excited about learning. They found that, all too often, students were going home and hearing one end of the news spectrum or the other, or were only aware of what was happening on social media. This made it really difficult for teachers to take the lessons they were trying to teach and make them applicable to the experiences of the students.

It became clear that we needed to create something simple for teachers to use, that left students feeling elevated and inspired to know more.

We also knew that video is a great way to let students with diverse learning needs interact with new concepts.

While teaching classes in Boston with a video-based curriculum I developed, I learned first hand that video had the ability to meet students where they were at. It allows them to slow down, rewatch in places where they needed, and absorb information at their own level of curiosity.

So, what did we come up with?

We realized that we first have to show students what’s possible and get them curious about the world!

We are on a mission to inspire students’ curiosity, connect them to the wider world, and give them a sense of what’s possible!

EWCed became a web platform for teachers and students (grades 6-12) that curates the best innovative and creatively insightful videos on a spectrum of subjects from reputable sources.

We pair these videos with activities like thought questions for class discussion, and opportunities for further inquiry and creativity in supplements we call “Touchstones“.

EWCed is designed to fit into pre-existing lesson plans to enhance the relevance of ordinary schoolwork. We want to take the guesswork and hours searching out of using video content in the classroom.

What makes us different?

Back to that question we asked at the beginning: we realized that while there were a lot of great educational websites out there, they were focused on providing explanation and not inspiration to students. Which is great for those students who already know what they were interested in! But we wanted to create a place that educators and students could turn to inspire curiosity.

We also want to take a grassroots approach to EWCed. From our design to our Touchstones, we want our students and educators to feel ownership of EWCed. We want their experience with this platform to feel like a personal journey. We’re listening! We will be improving our content and the user experience as we hear from everyone so chime in!

We welcome educators and students to share their favorite videos with us or write their own touchstones!

Image: astronaut selfie

Next steps…

Over the course of 2018 and 2019, we will be gathering feedback from our users to keep evolving. In the future, we will be creating ways for teachers to develop their own dashboards and controls. As well as developing student profiles that allow kids to dive even deeper into our content, and we will be rolling out new ways to explore our content with even more questions and projects for everyone to enjoy!

If you’d like to learn more about us, check out Our Story or join the EWCed mailing list!

Stay Beautiful & Keep Laughing!

-Liesl

Want a taste of what content you could find on EWCed?

Take a peek in this category!

Education Enrichment on EWC

And if you haven’t already subscribed to Ever Widening Circles, please do! Become a part of our community and get updates on new articles!

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

COO Ever Widening Circles

Liesl is a camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—yoga lover. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV