As teachers move from a “teacher-lecturer” model of education to a “teacher-guide”, peer-to-peer learning–acquiring knowledge from a select peer group–has become a popular education strategy. Often, it is a less stressful way to support the long-held goal of developing lifelong learners. As a pedagogical strategy, it can be more effective in reinforcing critical thinking, cooperation, creativity, and problem solving–traits that are difficult to teach but essential for students who want to become productive, happy adults.
What most educators and parents innately know has become a truism of education:
“If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” –Albert Einstein
If you’re not familiar with Tract, you’re in for a treat. Tract is a new way to inspire students to become lifelong learners. It’s easy to use, intuitive to setup, enticing to students, and requires no professional development on the part of teachers to roll out. The platform focuses on student growth and learning, accomplished via videos, hands-on projects, and more, all with the goal of sparking student creativity and empowering them to explore their passions at their own pace. Lessons are given by young adults, your students’ peer group. They engage learners through multimedia, tasks, projects, and peer interaction. Content is vetted, curated, and reviewed by qualified teachers to ensure its educational rigor.
I was thrilled when the folks at Tract partnered with me on their new platform. I’m a fan of peer-to-peer learning and I could tell right away that Tract did it well. If you’ve already heard about Tract and are ready to try it out, visit their website at https://teach.tract.app/ and use the access code ASKATECHTEACHER to get your free Tract teacher account.
Peer-to-peer learning is a second cousin to teaching and in many cases, more effective in solidifying understanding of a topic. Students often collaborate and share with peers in their education journey and careers. Becoming adept at giving and receiving feedback will help them negotiate the workplace and life diplomatically and effectively.
With educators struggling through the challenges of remote and hybrid teaching, there is renewed interest in how to deliver peer-to-peer learning beyond traditional approaches of discussion boards, forums, blogs, and collaborative projects. While the value of peer-to-peer learning is unquestioned, executing it is not always easy, and when executed poorly, students become confused and discouraged.
If you are looking for a fool-proof platform for deploying peer-to-peer learning in your class (and you should be), try Tract.
On the Tract platform, students learn through videos created by their peers but also by creating their own video or written projects (learning paths), developed either individually or in small groups. When completed, these are uploaded to a video gallery and shared with fellow students, giving everyone a chance to share knowledge and learn from each other. The combination of these essential pieces–learning from peers, teaching to peers, and sharing research–makes education dynamic and motivating, turning reluctant students into lifelong learners. Tract not only teaches topics of interest to kids, but encourages students to work together on projects and passions, and share their knowledge with classmates.
The importance of peer teaching and peer learning is well established:
The Roman philosopher Seneca declared: “docendo discimus” (“by teaching, we learn”).
If you want to put project-based, peer-to-peer learning into practice, you’ve found the right platform with Tract. Be one of the first 1,000 to request access at teach.tract.app. Use the access code ASKATECHTEACHER to get your free Tract teacher account.
Tract considers it incredibly important to create a safe, supportive learning environment for students to share their classes, projects, and comments. While they trust all students, they also recognize the importance of taking the proper precautions to protect against inappropriate content that violates Community Guidelines. These guidelines include common sense policies like 1) be kind and respectful, 2) no bullying, 3) only upload age-appropriate content, and 4) be a good digital citizen.
–This post is sponsored by Tract. All opinions are my own.
@tractlearning #tractapp #p2plearning
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.
The pandemic has changed teaching in many ways–remove vs. in-person vs. hybrid for one, the need for internet access in homes for another. Schools struggle to find the right technology to address these many changing needs. One that caught my eye was reported in The Dispatch–technology to address the sometimes garbled communication that results from speaking through masks. Here’s their interesting story:
Starkville High School student Peyton Willoughby sat in his 10th grade English class Thursday not worried about struggling to hear his teacher because of new technology installed in the classroom.
As his teacher discussed poems and literary elements, information flowed throughout speakers across the entire room, giving Willoughby the assurance that he was obtaining all of the necessary material.
“For me, I really love (this new technology),” Willoughby said. “I think it’s absolutely amazing because the teacher can be up and vocal and moving around while still maintaining that audibility … it makes the teaching much more engaging and more enjoyable.”
For more about teaching through COVID, here are a few more articles:
- Teaching During COVID-19
- Teaching Online During COVID-19
- 8 Ways Parents and Teachers Support Remote Teaching
Tract is a peer-to-peer, on-demand, project-based learning platform designed for grades 3-12. It includes classes and lesson plans, even themed clubs. It focuses on building student creativity, critical thinking, and independence–skills students need to become prosperous, happy adults.
If you haven’t heard of Tract, that’s alright. It’s the new way to inspire students to become lifelong learners. It doesn’t focus on state or international standards (though it does meet them–just don’t look for that in the learning path detail). Its purpose is to spark student creativity and empower them to explore their passions at their own pace. Lessons are given by high school and college students who clearly show their love of the subject. Content is vetted, curated, and reviewed by qualified teachers to ensure its educational rigor.
The best part for you as a teacher: There’s no professional development required. Teachers setup and start using Tract in the classroom in under 24 hours!
Do you get the idea that the Tract learning platform breaks the mold of what students and teachers typically think of as school? Listen to this: Learning is presented via videos and hands-on projects with ample opportunity for peer interaction. They can cover traditional topics in science and math or more eclectic ones like popular culture, current events, music, entrepreneurship, Minecraft, and TikTok. Curious about the topics? Here are some examples:
How to Be A 12-Year-Old CEO–of a coding company!
Unusual Creatures of the Congo
Can Trees Really Talk to One Another
Build a Bongo
Want to Become a music producer
Investing in Different Sectors of the Stock Market
Why select a platform that doesn’t do education the way it’s always been done? That’s why. Every teacher I know has students who are bored by conventional education, who equate learning with yuck. Tract’s approach is completely different from anything they’ve seen. It motivates reluctant students, awakens their love of learning by including topics they care about. Say goodbye to forced participation. That doesn’t happen with Tract. Here’s feedback on one of the classes:
New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. Digital texts confront students with the potential for continually updated content and dynamically changing combinations of words, graphics, images, hyperlinks, and embedded video and audio.
The underlying theme can’t be ignored by teachers any longer: A 21st Century learner requires technologic proficiency. Proof enough is that Common Core summative assessments will be completed online—only possible if students use technology as comfortably as paper and pencil to demonstrate knowledge.
But how do you do that if you aren’t a ‘techie’ or a ‘geek’, if you barely use a Smartphone much less the myriad of online tools. I have ten strategies that will make your teaching life easier, bump up your effectiveness with students, and save time complying with Common Core standards. Try these ten tech uses. Watch what a difference they make:
Are you looking for grading apps, tools, and resources that you can use to collect, calculate, and analyze your student’s grades? Or maybe you are looking for apps that allow students to calculate their own grades, which will save you time and effort. If so, check out our list below. If there are any apps that we missed, let us know.
Gradebook and Grading Apps (for teachers)
1st Class GradeBook – 1st Class GradeBook app provides educators with contemporary grading features, including class and student activity, grade reports, and more. Educators can also send reports to parents to keep them informed of their children’s progress. This app comes with a money-back guarantee.
BigSIS – BigSIS is a cloud-based, customizable student information system, providing solutions to private schools across the United States and Canada. BigSIS is made of modules that manage admissions, gradebooks, and more. You select the modules you want to buy; many modules are included in the software package at no cost.
Class Action Gradebook – This grade book app lets you import student data, import assignments, and maintain a journal. It has dynamic features such as seating charts, attendance, data export, and import. This app supports K-12 schools through colleges.
ClassMate Gradebook – This grading and class management program is designed for all education levels. It is flexible and easy to learn, so the educator can monitor learner activities. This app was created to support educators in the classroom.
Edusight– Edusight is an app that allows elementary educators to collect and monitor accurate data about their learners. Edusight Gradebook has an easy-to-use interface that helps educators better understand their learners’ performance and determine how best to help them. Edusight Notes allows educators to record video, text, and audio observations of a learner’s performance in class.
GradeBookWizard – GradeBook Wizard is a gradebook and attendance program that enables educators, students, and parents to communicate in a secure online community. Educators can log into their grade book from any computer with Internet access. Students can use their class website to post learning activities, grades, and handouts for students and parents to access through individual, secure logins.
Jupiter iO Gradebook – A grade book for educators from K-12 to college. Use with your SIS or Jupiter SIS is possible. It provides automatic English-to-Spanish translation and text-to-speech conversion for special needs students.
TeacherPlus Gradebook – TeacherPlus is an online teacher grade book designed to integrate with the Administrator’s Plus student information system. It allows educators to use their grade book on any browser or device, anywhere and anytime. Real-time tools are available on the website to help educators and parents monitor a child’s progress.
Grade Calculators (for students)
College GPA Calculator– Enables college students to calculate and save their college GPA, record their semester performance, and track their entire academic career.
High School GPA Calculator– Enables high school students to calculate their high school GPA, record their scores and track their cumulative academic performance.
Cumulative GPA Calculator– Enables high school and college students to calculate and save their cumulative GPA and determine how their future and current grades will affect their academic performance.
Grade Calculator– Enables students to determine their class grades by adding their assignments to calculate their total score.
Weighted Grade Calculator– Enables students to swiftly calculate their weighted class grade by adding each assignment and its total value.
Final Grade Calculator– Enables students to calculate what score they must receive on their final exam to achieve their desired final class grade.
Are there any apps that you would add?
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.
I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take time this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found, are well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
Today: K-12 Technology Curriculum
The K-12 Technology Curriculum is Common Core and ISTE aligned, and outlines what should be taught when so students have the necessary scaffolding to use tech for grade level state standards and school curriculum.
Each book is between 175 and 252 pages and includes lesson plans, assessments, domain-specific vocabulary, problem-solving tips, Big Idea, Essential Question, options if primary tech tools not available, posters, reproducibles, samples, tips, enrichments, entry and exit tickets, and teacher preparation. Lessons build on each other kindergarten through 5th grade. Middle School and High School are designed for semester or quarter grading periods typical of those grade levels with topics like programming, robotics, writing an ebook, and community service with tech.
Most (all?) grade levels include keyboarding, digital citizenship, problem solving, digital tools for the classroom, and coding.
The curriculum is used worldwide by public and private schools and homeschoolers.
Who needs this
Tech teachers, tech coordinators, library media specialists, curriculum specialists
Classroom grade level teachers if your tech teacher doesn’t cover basic tech skills.
In these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.
Today’s tip: Reset Default Font
Category: MS Office, Google Apps, Classroom Management, Writing
A: Type a couple of paragraphs in any document. Highlight what you typed and right click; select font. Change the font to what you prefer. In my case, it’s TNR 12
Then, in Word: Click the Default button on the lower left to approve that this is how you’d like future documents formatted. See how-to video here.
In Google Apps: Go to Styles drop-down menu>Options>Save current.
That’s it. The next time you open an MS Word or Google Docs document, it will have this revised formatting.
Sign up for a new tip each week or buy the entire 169 Real-world Ways to Put Tech into Your Classroom.
What’s your favorite tech tip in your classroom? Share it in the comments below.
When you have to compete with a warm sun, sandy beaches, and playful friends, motivating students in summer school can be a daunting challenge. The best first step, right after introducing yourself, is to understand why students are with you rather than with friends or playing online games. Their reasons could be to try something new, make up for a class they failed, get ahead of classes they must take, or something else. Their answers to this question will guide you in how you teach the class. Once you know their reasons, be honest with them on how you will help them meet their goals. In general terms, you want them to know you’ll do your best to make their summer experience worthwhile, get them through the material, and help them pass the required exams with the grades they need. I’ve talked about best practices for teaching. Let’s today cover how to get students through the summer learning experience:
Make the class interesting
There are a lot of ways to teach a topic that satisfies curriculum demands. For example, you can fill in worksheets, watch videos, complete group projects, or work independently. Pick an approach that is 1) different from how you teach during the school year, and 2) fits your student group.
While you’re changing the approach, also change the setting. Teach class in a park, in a museum’s group learning room, at a restaurant over a meal, in someone’s home, or in the school auditorium. Here’s the logic behind that: Students react well to change. Do you remember the Hawthorne Effect Study? Done in the 1930’s (and redone in different ways many times afterwards), researchers examined how different aspects of the work environment (i.e., lighting, the timing of breaks, and the length of the workday) affected employee productivity. What they found wasn’t what they expected. The biggest impact on productivity came from simply paying attention to the workers and their environment. Let your summer school students experience this motivator. Change their learning ecosystem and watch how much harder they work simply because you care enough to pay attention.
In fifteen years of teaching K-8, I have learned that one factor provides a reliable barometer for student success: Parent involvement. In fact, it’s crucial. According to the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education Research Review and Resources, no matter income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school. According to the School Community Journal, “There is a sizable body of research literature supporting the involvement of parents in educational settings and activities”.
The data is so overwhelming, one of our important jobs as teachers must be to facilitate the involvement of parents in their child’s education. There are as many ways to do that as there are parents who need alternatives to the traditional parent-teacher conference and back-to-school night. Here are some of my favorites:
As is my habit, I spend a lot of time exploring new ways to teach old subjects. Lately, I’ve concentrated on social studies. I chatted with my PLN, browsed forums where I knew efriends hung out, and taught a slew of online grad school classes to teachers who always are willing the discuss their newest favorite social studies tech tool. I picked everyone’s brains and came up with a list of five webtools you definitely must look at:
Some call Classcraft a classroom management tool but really, it’s more about injecting excitement in your teaching and touching on the important social-emotional learning that sometimes gets forgotten. Here’s a great quote I heard in a sponsored video:
“It might sound crazy to you and me but the kids love it.” — Sarah Murphy
The more I dug into Classcraft, the more I understood why Sarah Murphy said what she did. It’s pretty simple. Kids have a passion for learning and playing games. You incorporate that into your passion for teaching by gamifying your middle- or high school classroom. When students and teachers work together, toward the same goals, everyone wins.
The free (fee for Premium) Classcraft doesn’t teach standards or curricula for academic subjects. Instead, it focuses on core SEL (social-emotional learning) skills fundamental to the fullness of the education journey. That means it’s easy to apply to your social studies class. It uses tools already popular in your school — Google Classroom or MS Office 365, a browser, and an app (iOS or Android). You set up different tasks and customize rules to fit class needs. Students work individually or in teams, becoming accountable for their behavior to themselves and their teams. When they achieve goals and/or abide by rules, they earn stuff they want (that you’ve organized beforehand). You can blend Classcraft activities into your existing lesson plans or use those available on the website. Robust analytics (included in the Premium package) allow you to track student behavior over time and compare it with the class average.
Also available: a timer, a class volume meter, and parent features — great basic tools for every class.
ClassroomScreen is probably one of the most robust, versatile, and useful classroom tools to cross education’s “free” landscape in a long time. It will make your social studies lessons run smoother, make them more responsive to needs, and keep students focused on the lesson. When you click on ClassroomScreen.com, it opens a blank screen that is a digital board ready to be displayed on your class smart screen. You personalize it with the most popular tools desired in classroom, all lined up at the bottom of the screen. These include preferred language (you pick from about a hundred languages), customized background, sound level, QR code (for the classroom screen; students scan it in and it displays on any mobile device — isn’t that cool?), a whiteboard, a text tool, a start-stop traffic light, a timer, a clock, a random name picker (for teams), an exit poll, Work Symbols (four options for collaborative student work — work together, ask a neighbor, whisper, and silence), and more. There’s no download, no login, no registration. Simply click the link and get started.
Commonsense Media calls it:
“…the Swiss Army Knife of the classroom…”
I agree. Here’s a video that decodes this already-simple class tool.