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Monday, September 20, 2021

Tract - Project-based, Peer-to-Peer Learning

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Tract is a new service that offers fun lessons for elementary school and middle school students taught by high school and college students. The lessons and corresponding activities cover a wide array of fun and interesting topics. On Tract you will find lessons about photography, gaming, cooking, music, sports, and much more. Students can earn digital and physical prizes for completing the lessons and their corresponding activities.

Tract is designed so that students (age 8+ is recommended) can complete the lessons and corresponding activities, called missions, on their own. Of course, there might be some activities that some students need a little assistance to complete. Fortunately, as a teacher you can create your own Tract account and watch your students’ progress to know when they might need a little help from you.

20% Time, Genius Hour, or Just Plain Fun!
The core idea behind Tract is for students to learn from other students. The subjects and concepts taught in Tract are chosen by students for students. That’s why you’ll find fun lessons about Minecraft, TikTok algorithms, and music production throughout Tract. These are lessons and activities that are perfect to use during 20% Time, Genius Hour, or any other name that you use for project-based enrichment activities.

Head to http://teach.tract.app/ and use the code BYRNE to get your free Tract teacher account and view all the growing catalog of fun lessons for students by students.

How to use Tract - Student Perspective
Students can sign up for Tract by using codes provided by their teachers (use code BYRNE at http://teach.tract.app/ to get your free teacher account). Once they’ve signed up students can explore the paths and missions within Tract. Think of the paths as the video lessons and the missions as the activities that students complete after watching the video lessons.

When students find paths in Tract that they like they can watch the video(s) for that path and then complete the associated mission(s). Some paths have multiple videos and missions for students to complete. Students complete missions by uploading a file as an example of their work or by writing a response. For example, in the path about nature photography students watch a video lesson that outlines how to take better photographs. Then to complete the missions they upload two pictures that they have taken that demonstrate their use of the techniques taught in the video.

Students earn digital coins for completing each path. Paths that have more missions earn more coins than those that have fewer missions. Students can redeem their coins for digital and physical prizes. With the exception of Tract swag (tee shirts and hats) all of the prizes are digital prizes that benefit others. For example, students can redeem 250 coins to make a donation of one meal via Second Harvest of Silicon Valley toward the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger. 

How to use Tract - Teacher Perspective
As a teacher you can sign up for a free Tract account at http://teach.tract.app/ (use the code BYRNE to get access). Once you’ve created an account take some time to explore the paths and missions within Tract.

Within your teacher account on Tract you can create classrooms for your students to join. Each of your classrooms has its own unique code for students to enter to join your classroom (students do not need email addresses). Then within each classroom you can see the paths your students have chosen and the missions they have completed. You can also review the submissions students made to complete missions and moderate those submissions if necessary. For example, if a student is working on the nature photography path but uploads pictures that aren’t aligned to the mission, you can remove those pictures and they will have to try the mission again.

In this video I demonstrate how Tract works from a teacher’s perspective and from a student’s perspective.

Share Voice Notes via Mote QR Codes

Earlier this year Mote emerged as one of my favorite new tools of the year. Mote is a Chrome extension that works with all of the core products in Google Workspace. With it you can add voice comments to Google Classroom, Google Docs, and Slides. You can also use it to add voice notes to Google Forms. And last week Mote added another new feature. 

The latest feature added to Mote lets you record a voice note and share it via QR code. With Mote installed in Chrome you can simply click the Mote icon then record your voice note. When you're done speaking simply click the share button and you'll have an option to view and download a QR code. Anyone who scans your QR code will be able to listen to your voice recording. Watch this short video to learn how you can share voice notes via Mote QR codes. 



Applications for Education
My first thought after trying Mote's voice QR codes was to have students record short teasers or previews of books then print the corresponding QR codes to place on the inside flap of library books. Then when their classmates are looking for a new book to read they can scan the QR code to hear a student's perspective on the book. 

Free Presidential Timeline Poster for Your Classroom Courtesy of C-SPAN

C-SPAN Classroom offers some fantastic resources for teachers of U.S. History, civics, and government. One of those resources that has been offered in the past and is available again this year is a free poster depicting a timeline of American presidents. The poster shows each President's time in office, a short biography, the era of American history in which each President served, and a couple of major events that happened during each President's time in office. The poster is free for anyone who has a free C-SPAN Classroom account. 

Applications for Education
C-SPAN Classroom offers a number of suggestions for using the poster in your classroom. One of those suggestions is to have students complete a Tournament of Presidents. The Tournament of Presidents asks to evaluate each president and compare them in a bracket-style tournament with the best in each bracket advancing to the next round. Here's a little video about it. 

When I was teaching U.S. History I had an earlier version of this poster in my classroom. One fall I let my students choose a President from the poster and create a short video biography of their chosen President.