Showing posts with label Tract. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tract. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Try Tract for PBL and Win Prizes

Disclosure: Tract is currently an advertiser on

“Real world projects have to be projects that matter to kids” is something that I say whenever I give my presentation, Connecting Kids With Projects That Matter to Them. When the problem they’re tackling matters to them, students feel ownership of the project process. Even a cursory glance at Tract reveals dozens of interesting projects undertaken by students that could be interesting and meaningful to your students as well.

Right now and through the end of the year Tract is hosting a Rock Star Award Contest that you and your students can participate in while engaged in project-based learning. The Rock Star Award Contest recognizes students and classes for uploading their best work to Tract. Every Friday stars are awarded and a leaderboard is updated. At the end of the year the class that has the most stars awarded will win a classroom creator kit that includes a green screen, lighting kit, microphones, and a subscription to WeVideo.

What Is Tract?
If you’re not familiar with Tract, I wrote a detailed overview of it back in September. The short version is that Tract is a project-based, peer-to-peer learning platform that provides students with a safe place to learn about things that are interesting to them. Some examples of what’s found on Tract include self-guided projects about digital photography, video game design, and making ice cream!

Step 1: Try Tract
The first step in using Tract for PBL is to have your students join your Tract classroom. That only requires them to use a class code that you provide to them from your Tract teacher account (a demonstration of that process is included in this video). Tract is free when you sign-up and use the code BYRNE.

Once your students have joined Tract, give them time to explore the various learning paths and projects that are available in Tract. The goal here is for them to become familiar with the format of Tract learning paths (AKA lessons) while learning something of interest to them. The basic format of Tract learning paths is a video followed by a small “do now” type of activity followed by another video and another activity (the sequence can repeat as many times as needed for a given topic).

When they’ve found a Tract learning path that they like, let students work all the way through it so that they get a full understanding of the process of completing a learning path. Bonus! They’ll also earn some digital coins that they can later redeem for prizes in Tract.

Step 2: Brainstorm Learning Path Topics
After completing a learning path in Tract students are ready to try their hands at making their own learning paths for classmates to complete. To do this they need to pick a topic for their learning paths. I’d encourage them to pick a topic of interest and then brainstorm a list of sub-topics that are related to it. Doing that will accomplish two things. First, it will help students break down a topic into little sections that will become parts of the learning paths they create. Second, it will help students identify if they should just create a learning path about a smaller section of the big topic.

Step 3: Research
With the topic of their learning paths identified it’s now time for students to research and plan their own Tract learning path projects. Presumably, students will have chosen topics of interest to them and will therefore have a little bit of knowledge about the topic. Case in point, I’ve never had a student who was interested in video game design not be able to tell me dozens of things about their favorite game. But the goal here is to get students to dive deeper into a topic of interest to them. To that end, I use a research checklist form that asks students to list what they know about a topic, what they’re trying to find out, and how other people talk about the topic. A copy of the form that I give to students is available here as a Google Doc.

Step 4: Create a challenge
With their research complete it’s time for students to think about a challenge activity that they would have classmates complete to prove their understanding of the topic or skill taught in the learning path. I’ve learned from experience that some students will try to make the challenge impossible for their friends and classmates. You might find the same and have to intervene to scale back the challenge to be something that is manageable for all class members.

A good example of a challenge activity is found in the Tract learning path about digital photography of nature. The challenge there is to take a series of photographs that implement the zoom methods taught in the videos of the learning path.

When I did PBL activities with students in my PC Repair class, I had them create challenges for their classmates. Some of the challenges they created included implementing troubleshooting strategies that were taught via video lessons created by their peers.

Step 5: Create a series of instructional videos.
In this step we want students to create short instructional videos to teach a skill used in the topic of their learning paths. Aim for the videos to be under three minutes. A few three minute videos is better than one nine minute video. The video production process that I use with students is outlined here. In short, have students create a brief outline then take a crack at recording a video. The first one won’t be perfect and that’s okay. Think of the first attempt at recording a video like the rough draft of an essay.

Step 6: Put the learning path together.
Students are familiar with using slides so I’d have them assemble their learning path in slides. Start with an opening slide that has the topic and objective then add slides that have the instructional videos and challenge activities. Students can also add in slides to add clarifications or additional information between video slides and challenge activities. Again, take a look at how some of the most popular Tract paths are constructed and use that as a model.

Step 7: Share the learning path!
If you’re having students create learning path projects with an end goal of publishing for a global audience, then you’ll want to submit students’ learning paths for inclusion on Tract. Before you do that, I’d have students share their learning paths with each other to learn from each other.

Win Prizes!
This last step isn’t a step. It’s just a reminder that Tract is hosting a contest through the end of the year. The Rock Star Award Contest recognizes students and classes for uploading their best work to Tract. Every Friday stars are awarded and a leaderboard is updated. At the end of the year the class that has the most stars awarded will win a classroom creator kit that includes a green screen, lighting kit, microphones, and a subscription to WeVideo.

Reminder! Classroom accounts for Tract are free for teachers who sign-up using the code BYRNE.

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.