If you haven’t heard of Tract, it’s a new way to inspire students to become lifelong learners. The platform focuses on student growth and learning rather than state or international standards (it does meet them–just don’t look for that in the detail). The purpose of its videos, hands-on projects, and more is to spark student creativity, empower them to explore their own passions at their own pace. Lessons are given by high school and college-age peers who clearly show their love of the subject. Students engage through tasks, projects, and peer interaction. Content is vetted, curated, and reviewed by teachers to ensure its educational rigor.
When I dug into Tract, one (of many) pieces that appealed to me was how well it fit into so many parts of a student’s education journey. Here are a few of my favorites:
It’s challenging to persuade students to think deeply, especially after a long day of learning. Using Tract as an afterschool program changes that. This can be a one-day activity or longer.
Here’s how it works:
- Students pick a subject from the many offered by Tract, watch a peer-presented video on the subject (like how to make mac and cheese or what are some careers with animals), and complete a project which is shared with classmates.
- If students are inspired to dig deeper than what is shown in the Tract learning path, you can have them research in the ways used in your school–online, classroom books, or something else.
- When the project is finished, students present it to classmates, maybe parents, as an evening event, a virtual event, or during the program time.
I often use student-choice activities in summer programs. They are student-directed, student-driven, and provide a plethora of differentiation for varied student interests. The problem is, too often, they become complicated to administer and confusing to follow. That won’t be the case with Tract. It offers plenty of choices to students, presented as an easy-to-understand step-by-step process that is intuitive and clear, and fulfills the platform’s promise to be inspiring and engaging.
Here’s what you do:
- After students sign up for your summer class, ask them to pick either among Tract’s many learning paths or from a group suggest by you that fits the summer school theme.
- Students can work individually or in groups as they dig into the topic and complete the project(s).
- If students require it, offer training in video production for youngers or those not comfortable creating their own learning path.
- Students present their completed missions to the group or parents.
Depending upon the length of the summer program, you can offer one or more learning path opportunities. This option is easily adapted to remote or hybrid learning because everything can be done online, including the presentations (using a platform like Google Meet or Zoom).
Enrichment program for high achievers
Enriched learning for high-achieving students, like GATE (Gifted and Talented), Honors, AP (Advanced Placement), and IB (International Baccalaureate), often requires teachers augment daily class activities with additional lesson plans and resources. Tract simplifies that process to where it barely takes any additional teacher time. Students who finish regular work select and pursue topics offered through the Tract platform that build student creativity, critical thinking, and independence. Because these learning paths are intuitive and peer-to-peer, they require minimal adult guidance and give students considerable independence in their work.
Here’s how it works:
- Students finish the regular curriculum requirements and then access the Tract Learning Paths to select one that appeals to them or one from a group suggested by the teacher.
- Because these projects are designed to be student-driven, teachers can expect students to work independently at their own pace.
Tract is available online which means inside and outside the classroom, anywhere the student is. High-achieving students appreciate that learning isn’t confined to the four walls of the school building.
A nice side benefit: These projects are enticing enough that other students will want to try them. Of course they can, once they, too, finish the assigned work.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success. The importance of SEL has made it a sought-after add-on to a school’s curriculum. Unfortunately, too often when I talk to colleagues, SEL has become another layer on top of an already bursting education day. There are SEL curricula, rubrics, toolkits, videos, parent guidelines, and more. You’ll be happy to know if you’re enrolled in Tract, you don’t need any of those:
“Using Tract can help to promote the development of social-emotional learning skills as students become self-aware as they design their own project and track growth, build social awareness as they learn from their peers, and build relationships during the learning process.” – Rachelle Denè Poth, Getting Smart
The most effective way to develop social-emotional learning in students is to make it integral to their education. That’s what Tract does.
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.
–This post is sponsored by Tract. All opinions are my own.
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.
Data collection and analysis are cornerstones for many STEM and STEAM programs but they’re not just about math. They teach students how to think critically and solve evidence-based problems. Unfortunately, data collection hardware is expensive and setup is complicated–intimidating for many non-tech-minded teachers.
Enter award-winning PASCO Scientific with a commitment to providing innovative, affordable tools for K-12 science and math programs.
What is PASCO Scientific
PASCO Scientific is the global leader in developing technology-based solutions for hands-on science. They provide a wealth of rugged, inquiry-based products to educators in more than 100 countries around the world. Their products are wireless, Bluetooth- and/or USB-connectable, and their SPARKvue software runs on Mac and Windows platforms, Chromebooks, iPads, iPhones, and Android. No matter the technology mix in the classroom, everyone shares the same user experience, with learning focused on the subject matter not the hardware, thus simplifying classroom management for the teacher. They are NGSS-aligned as well as correlated with International Baccalaureate (IB) standards.
Among PASCO Scientific’s many devices, you’ll find:
- a wireless weather station
- a wide variety of sensors and probes
- the Ergobot to teach both Forces & Motion and Programming & Robotics.
- a wireless blood pressure and heart rate sensor
- curricula for Chemistry and Physics that are NGSS-aligned
- bridge building kits
- STEM modules
- lab equipment
- hundreds of free labs for download from their website
Most of these are simple enough for young learners with robust features for advanced applications and many come with K-12 curricular resources and support materials.
If you’ve used probes and sensors in your classes before, maybe have older ones that you struggle to set up and run, do yourself a favor and look at PASCO’s collection. I can’t review all of them in this post (it’s already long!) so let me spotlight one I particularly like: the PASCO Wireless Motion Sensor.
Pedagogic experts have spent an enormous amount of time attempting to unravel the definition of ‘educated’. It used to be the 3 R’s–reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. The problem with that metric is that, in the fullness of time, those who excelled in the three areas weren’t necessarily the ones who succeeded. As long ago as the early 1900’s, Teddy Roosevelt warned:
“C students rule the world.”
It’s the kids without their nose in a book that notice the world around them, make connections, and learn natively. They excel at activities that aren’t the result of a GPA and an Ivy League college. Their motivation is often failure, and taking the wrong path again and again. As Thomas Edison said:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, and Albert Einstein are poster children for that approach. Both became change agents in their fields despite following a non-traditional path.
My school is an IB school. We follow the philosophy that to educate students requires an international understanding of the world, people and ideas. Part of the curriculum requires fifth graders to participate in an Exhibition where they use knowledge accumulated over six years of education to communicate their ideas on a global issue such as displacement, global warming, lack of education, pollution, world hunger, and limited access to fresh, clean water.
Last year, the fifth grade team asked me to brush students up on Publisher/PowerPoint/Word skills so they could construct their presentation. This year, I’m taking a different approach by encouraging students to think of other ways than these traditional ways to communicate their ideas. We’re spending six weeks studying and teaching each other some of the amazing online communication tools that offer motivating and inspirational ways to share thoughts.
Here’s how we’re doing that: