Tag: summer

4 ways to use Tract in the classroom

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.

Click for a more detailed review of Tract or visit Tract’s website here.

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:

Afterschool program

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.

Summer program

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.

Develop SEL 

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.

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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.

#tractapp


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.

Here’s How to Motivate Summer School Students

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.

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end of school year

12 Tech Tasks To End the School Year

Wrapping up your school technology for the summer is as complicated as setting it up in September. There are endless backups, shares, cleanings, changed settings, and vacation messages that — if not done right — can mean big problems when you return from summer vacation. If you have a school device, a lot of the shutdown steps will be done by the IT folks as they backup, clean, reformat, and maybe re-image your device. If you have a personal device assigned by the school but yours to take home, the steps may be more numerous but really, not more complicated.

Here’s a list. Skip those that don’t apply to you and complete the rest. I won’t take time in this article (I’m at about 1000 words right now) for a how-to on each activity so if you don’t know how to complete one, check with your IT folks or Google it:

Make sure your firewall and antivirus programs are working.

Many computers come with a built-in one to keep viruses and malware out that slow your computer. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure yours is active. If you have a Chromebook or an iPad, don’t even worry about this.

Clean out your documents.

Sort through the documents you collected this year and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months –- or years — and is covered with spider webs. If you don’t do this regularly, the computer must finger through these unused files every time you search. If you hate throwing anything away, create an ‘Old’ folder, toss them all in it, and save that to a flash drive or in the cloud.

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summer learning

Looking for Summer Activities? Try These

This summer will be different than other summers. COVID has changed how we address summer PD so I’ve collected the most popular AATT articles on how to spend your education time this summer. Pick the ones that suit your purposes:

6 Must-reads for This Summer–2020 edition

Summer for me is nonstop reading — in an easy chair, under a tree, lying on the lawn, petting my dog. Nothing distracts me when I’m in the reading zone. What I do worry about is running out of books so this year, I spent the last few months stalking efriends to find out what they recommend to kickstart the 2020-21 school year. And it paid off. I got a list of books that promise to help teachers do their job better, faster, and more effectively but there are too many. Since I covered a mixture of books in a past article, many on pedagogy, this time, I decided to concentrate on content that could facilely move from my reading chair into the classroom.

I came up with six. See what you think:

10 Books You’ll Want to Read This Summer–2019 edition

Summer is a great time to reset your personal pedagogy to an education-friendly mindset and catch up on what’s been changing in the ed world while you were teaching eight ten hours a day. My Twitter friends, folks like @mrhowardedu and @Coachadamspe, gave me great suggestions on books to read that I want to share with you…

5 Favorite Apps for Summer Learning

Summer has a reputation for being nonstop relaxation, never-ending play, and a time when students stay as far from “learning” as they can get. For educators, those long empty weeks result in a phenomenon known as “Summer Slide” — where students start the next academic year behind where they ended the last.

“…on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning…” (Brookings)

This doesn’t have to happen. Think about what students don’t like about school. Often, it revolves around repetitive schedules, assigned grades, and/or being forced to take subjects they don’t enjoy. In summer, we can meet students where they want to learn with topics they like by offering a menu of ungraded activities that are self-paced, exciting, energizing, and nothing like school learning. We talk about life-long learners (see my article on life-long learners). This summer, model it by offering educational activities students will choose over watching TV, playing video games, or whatever else they fall into when there’s nothing to do.

Here are favorites that my students love…

(more…)

6 Must-reads for This Summer

Summer for me is nonstop reading — in an easy chair, under a tree, lying on the lawn, petting my dog. Nothing distracts me when I’m in the reading zone. What I do worry about is running out of books so this year, I spent the last few months stalking efriends to find out what they recommend to kickstart the 2020-21 school year. And it paid off. I got a list of books that promise to help teachers do their job better, faster, and more effectively but there are too many. Since I covered a mixture of books in a past article, many on pedagogy, this time, I decided to concentrate on content that could facilely move from my reading chair into the classroom.

I came up with six. See what you think:

Bold School: Old School Wisdom + New School Technologies = Blended Learning That Works

by Weston Kieschnick

In Bold School, Kieschnick lays out an effective, workable education framework that blends common sense with technology while reminding teachers that tech is a useful tool for achieving pedagogic goals, not the opposite.

Why did I pick this book: I’m a longtime teacher who’s sold on technology as a tool but I don’t want it to be the goal. I like how Kieschnick walks teachers through a blend of traditional education wisdom that is kicked up a notch with tech. To me, that’s the best way to use technology to enrich lessons while we meet students where they want to learn. It doesn’t hurt that John Hattie — one of my idols — endorses this approach, calling it “…an essential part of every educator’s toolbox.”

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Help Students Select the Right Summer School

Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Alex Briggs, has an interesting take on summer school, why you should start thinking about it now–in the Fall–and how to do that. I think you’ll find this interesting:

Helping students to select the right summer school

School has just gotten back into session so it seems like an odd time of year to talk about summer school, right? Everyone is just now reacclimating themselves with the school routine, and the last thing kids ever want to talk about is more school.

But here’s the thing: Summer schooling is one of the most beneficial investments a teen can make into their educational future. Studies have shown that the lazy summer months have a massive impact on learning loss. If a teen stays engaged in their academic pursuits during the summer months – even if they’re only a few hours a week on academics – they will have a huge advantage going into the next school year and any upcoming standardized tests.

Summer schooling is something that should excite students as well, so long as they choose the right summer program. Where grade school can feel a bit repetitive to students at times, summer school can be highly privatized to help a child find and follow the fields of study that interest them. Considering the fact that up to half of all college students enter college undecided on their major, this is another perk that will help students as they try to find the right college for them.

That makes the fall a great time to start looking at summer schools. By keeping summer school in mind now, students can start thinking about what subjects interest them without the pressure of hasty applications. If you’d like to help guide a student towards the right summer schools, here’s what you need to consider.

Research their interests

Let’s say a student has an interest in architecture.

A license in architecture is going to require some specific skills. A strong mathematical background is crucial; algebra, statistics, and probability are all going to play a huge role in an architect’s ability to do their job. A background in historical architectural designs will be extremely helpful as well.

But the demands of becoming an architect go further than that. Getting a college degree won’t make an architect; they have to go through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) to earn their license. The NCARB has its own registration exam that goes beyond what’s learned in college.

These are the things that a student has to consider. It requires time; and oftentimes, teenagers don’t have an interest that is as defined as “I want to study architecture.” That’s why it’s smart to start thinking about it early in the school year. Parents and teachers can help them to frame their thoughts as the school year goes along. If they encounter a lesson that appeals to them, tell them to write it down. Over the course of a month or two of school, it’s easier to identify interest and begin properly investigating those topics.

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5 Favorite Apps for Summer Learning

summer learningSummer has a reputation for being nonstop relaxation, never-ending play, and a time when students stay as far from “learning” as they can get. For educators, those long empty weeks result in a phenomenon known as “Summer Slide” — where students start the next academic year behind where they ended the last.

“…on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning…” (Brookings)

This doesn’t have to happen. Think about what students don’t like about school. Often, it revolves around repetitive schedules, assigned grades, and/or being forced to take subjects they don’t enjoy. In summer, we can meet students where they want to learn with topics they like by offering a menu of ungraded activities that are self-paced, exciting, energizing, and nothing like school learning. We talk about life-long learners (see my article on life-long learners). This summer, model it by offering educational activities students will choose over watching TV, playing video games, or whatever else they fall into when there’s nothing to do.

Here are favorites that my students love:

(more…)

12 Tech Tasks To End the School Year

end of school yearWrapping up your school technology for the summer is as complicated as setting it up in September. There are endless backups, shares, cleanings, changed settings, and vacation messages that — if not done right — can mean big problems when you return from summer vacation. If you have a school device, a lot of the shutdown steps will be done by the IT folks as they backup, clean, reformat, and maybe re-image your device. If you have a personal device assigned by the school but yours to take home, the steps may be more numerous but really, not more complicated.

Here’s a list. Skip those that don’t apply to you and complete the rest. I won’t take time in this article (I’m at about 1000 words right now) for a how-to on each activity so if you don’t know how to complete one, check with your IT folks or Google it:

Make sure your firewall and antivirus programs are working.

Many computers come with a built-in one to keep viruses and malware out that slow your computer. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure yours is active. If you have a Chromebook or an iPad, don’t even worry about this.

Clean out your documents.

Sort through the documents you collected this year and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months –- or years — and is covered with spider webs. If you don’t do this regularly, the computer must finger through these unused files every time you search. If you hate throwing anything away, create an ‘Old’ folder, toss them all in it, and save that to a flash drive or in the cloud.

(more…)

With JotForm, Summer Camp Registration Couldn’t Be Easier

Every school I know offers a summer camp. Sometimes, these are for just their students but often, the community is invited in an effort to provide a safe, fun summer learning environment for all kids.

The biggest problem with summer camp has nothing to do with picking interesting subjects or lining up teachers. It’s organizing enrollees. JotForm has the camp registration solution.

If you’re not familiar with JotForm, it is the gold standard for form creation whether on PCs, Macs, or mobile devices. For your summer camp, it can be used to sign up volunteers, get feedback on events, enroll people into classes, collect payments, and more. Its drag-and-drop interface makes building a form intuitive, and quick. With a wide variety of summer camp-themed templates, it’s easily adaptable to your school or camp colors and logo. Once the form is completed, it can be shared via a link or social media, or integrated into DropBox, Google Docs, and many other popular platforms.

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Seven Fun Math Activities for the Summer Break

Summer can be a challenging time not just for parents but kids. They are accustomed to cerebral challenges that keep them motivated and summer arrives with its sports, naps, and vacations. If your kids miss the thrill of problem-solving or if you worry about them sliding backward without the mental exercise that is integral to school, ORIGO has come up with seven fun math activities that use a blend of popular math apps and everyday activities (like cooking) to fill the summer break with the excitement of math:

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Seven Fun Math Activities for the Summer Break

The long weeks of summer break are wonderful for family time and vacations, but not so wonderful at keeping students on a positive learning curve. The Summer Slide is a very real issue, especially in mathematics instruction where students lose about one month of learning during the break and in some cases, 2.6 months of learning.

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