Showing posts with label Genius Hour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genius Hour. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Five Genius Hour Activities With Tract - Students Teaching Students

Disclosure: Tract is currently an advertiser on

Genius Hour or 20% time in a classroom provides students with an opportunity to pursue topics and projects of their choice. Rather than the teacher telling students what project they should complete and how they should complete it, students choose the topic and the project that appeals to them.

Genius Hour can feel empowering to students. But some students can feel overwhelmed by not being told what to do and when to do it. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a middle ground. I’ve always found that middle ground in providing students with a list of suggestions and examples to explore to inspire them to come up with their own projects. Tract is a great place to find ideas for Genius Hour activities. I reviewed one of those last month and this week I’ve gone through the whole library and selected a handful of Tract activities for Genius Hour inspiration.

Create Your Own Paths
As you may recall from my article about it in September, Tract is a platform designed for students to learn from students. Lessons found on Tract cover an array of fun and interesting topics including photography, gaming, cooking, music, sports, and much more.

Lessons are called “paths” in Tract and students can complete the ones they find as well as create their own paths. In fact, there’s a path called How to Create a Learning Path. How to Create a Learning Path is a seven-part path which begins with helping students identify topics they’re passionate about. From there students learn to research, outline, produce, and revise their own learning paths for other students to learn from. The learning paths can all be completed on each student’s own schedule as all of the paths are on-demand and self-paced. One thing that I particularly like about the How to Create a Learning Path path is that it includes helping students develop challenge or practice activities to include in their paths.

Esther Wojcicki wrote a comprehensive guide for teachers to follow when their students are doing the “How to Create a Learning Path” path. You can get a copy of that free guide right here.

Plan and Create Your Own Game
It seems like “professional gamer” is now a career aspiration for almost as many students as “professional baseball player” was for my generation. And while becoming a professional gamer is cool, becoming the person who owns the game is where the real money is. Some of my students over the last few years have realized that and started to list “game designer” as their career aspiration.

Tract has a learning path that teaches students how to design their own games. How to Plan Out and Create Your Own Game has all of the attributes to make it a great Genius Hour activity. It appeals to students’ interests in video games and it is one of the longest and most difficult paths in the entire Tract catalog. Students who are passionate about video games could really dive deep into the nuances of game development through this learning path.

Bigfoot and Legendary Monster Stories!
Is Bigfoot real? And if not, how did the legend of Bigfoot and other monsters begin? Those are questions that students can dive into through the learning path titled Legendary Monsters: Bigfoot, the Missing Link? This learning path concludes with students looking at the “evidence” to decide if Bigfoot is real. A great extension to this path is to have students create their own “legendary monster” tales. Heck, they could create costumes then go out and film a “monster in the wild.”

Legendary Monsters made me think about Halloween. And if you’re looking for some Genius Hour activities to do around Halloween, take a look at this set of Tract learning paths.

Create a TikTok Hit!
This learning path caters to students who want to become the next TikTok “star.” In this path students complete three challenge activities in which they learn the characteristics of music that goes viral on TikTok and beyond. It’s important to note that students don’t have to use the TikTok app to complete this learning path.

How Much Good Can You Do?
Students earn digital coins for completing learning paths in Tract. Those coins can be redeemed for prizes. But what makes Tract unique is that most of the prizes are donations to causes for the greater good. 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.

So a Genius Hour challenge for some students could be to successfully complete as many learning paths as possible to make as many donations as possible.

How to Start Using Tract
As a teacher you can sign up for a free Tract account at (use the code BYRNE to get access). Once you’ve created an account take some time to explore the paths that I’ve highlighted above. Then in your teacher account you can create a classroom and invite your students to join (they don’t need email addresses) and start completing some learning paths. Watch this video to learn more about how Tract works from a teacher and student perspective.

Monday, September 20, 2021

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

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on

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 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 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 (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.