Monday, February 7, 2022

Try Tract to Find Inspiration for Fun Lessons

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Last fall I introduced many of you to Tract as a platform for Genius Hour activities, for PBL, and for remote learning. Many of you have reported that it has been great for all of those things. Now I’d like to suggest another way to think about using Tract. That is to use it as a source of inspiration for updating some of your favorite old lesson plans or replacing them entirely with a new approach inspired by Tract users.

What is Tract?

If you didn’t see my previous blog posts about Tract, in short it’s a platform for peer-to-peer project-based learning. What that means in practice is that Tract provides a place for students to learn about a wide variety of things like budgeting and saving money, photography, mythology, video game design, and all kinds of other interesting things. All of the lessons are taught via a series of short videos created by students for students. A complete overview of how Tract works can be seen in this video.

Tract is free for teachers who sign-up at teach.tract.app using access code BYRNE. Students, of course, get free access through your classroom account.

Observe Student Use of Tract to Find Inspiration

Tract definitely lets students be in charge of their own learning, but that doesn’t mean teachers aren’t involved in the process of using Tract. Within your Tract account you can see the learning paths your students have chosen and the missions (activities) 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.

Observing the learning paths that your students choose and the missions they complete in Tract can be a good way to learn about the topics that your students are truly interested in. You could then use those observations to plan your next Genius Hour or enrichment activity.

Another way to think about using Tract as a teacher is to observe the learning paths and missions that your students complete then challenge them to continue their learning by creating their own learning paths for classmates to follow. Back in November I published a detailed overview of the process for students to create learning paths. The short version of that is students need to develop an outline of their lessons, a challenge activity, and then record a short series of instructional videos.

Tractlympics!

The Winter Olympic Games are going on right now. To coincide with that Tract has launched the Tractlympics contest. The contest asks classrooms to collectively publish five learning paths covering five categories. Those categories are technology, sports, food, art, and world culture. Every class that collectively publishes a learning path from all five categories and “passes the torch” to another classroom automatically enters the drawing to win a $100 gift card for classroom supplies, an ice cream party, and + 200 Coins for every student in the class! “Passing the Torch” means referring another teacher to Tract.

Participating in the Tractlympics contest could be a great way for students to work together in small groups to develop a series of lessons about a topic they’re passionate about. Students will need to make videos for their learning paths. Group video projects can be a little tricky which is why I put together this little guide to planning group video projects. And for more guidance on creating a Tract learning path, there’s a learning path about that.

Tractify Your Lessons!

Esther Wojcicki is one of the co-founders of Tract and she has published some tips on how to use Tract in your classroom. Those tips are great and here is also a vibrant teacher’s lounge on Tract where you can get even more ideas about how other teachers are utilizing Tract.

As a Tract member, you can share your lesson plans with the Tract team and get ideas on how to “Tractify” them into an engaging video lesson and project-based challenge on Tract. Again, this is an area where you could also enlist the help of your students. Ask them for their ideas on how they’d like to see a topic presented in video form and challenge them to make a learning path about it.

Finally, it’s important to note that Tract works with all major learning management systems including Google Classroom, Canvas, and Seesaw. Through your LMS you can assign a specific path, a specific challenge, or a collection of learning paths. A complete guide to that process is available right here in Tract’s educator help center.


How I’d Tractify a Lesson

Let’s say I have a topic that I have to teach despite a lot of kids saying “it’s boring.” How federal laws are made is a good example of that. Rather than just talking students through a flowchart and throwing in a couple examples of my choosing, I’ll have students use that same flowchart as the basis for creating a learning path in Tract. Then they can create short videos to explain with their own examples each stop along the flowchart.

Try Tract Today!

As I mentioned above, Tract is free for life for teachers who sign-up at teach.tract.app using the code BYRNE. Go through a path or two on your own and see for yourself the kinds of lessons that kids are making and getting excited about sharing with their peers.