It is important that we create authentic learning opportunities where students can design their own learning paths. With the power of choice, students will engage more in learning while also developing essential social-emotional learning (SEL) skills that will best prepare them for the future. Project based learning (PBL) is a great way to do this.
Project Based Learning
For years I thought that I was doing project-based learning (PBL) in my Spanish classes, however it was not authentic PBL. We were completing projects that were limited in timespan and choices for students. However, authentic PBL has been a great way to promote student choice as they explore areas of interest, brainstorm ways to solve a problem, or look for challenges that are impacting their community or the world. PBL promotes student-centered learning which empowers students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, fosters creativity, time management, and leadership skills to name a few.
During this school year, I recommend a newer tool that I learned about called Tract! (Use my access code RACHELLE to get started). Tract is a web-based program that helps students to develop essential SEL skills through student-directed, project-based learning experiences. Using Tract takes what can become a more passive learning experience and provides enrichment and helps students to become more active learners. The scaffolded lessons and experiences build student engagement and help them to see learning as a process rather than simply focusing on a finite, end product.
Tract offers on-demand classes for students to work through at their own pace and even has enrichment clubs available. Tract has many interesting areas for students to explore including art, coding, gaming, machine learning, building entrepreneurial skills, and more.
Tract provides classes that are led by middle school, high school or college students. The creators share their passions for what they are learning which then helps to inspire other students in their learning. Through these experiences, students build their confidence as they learn from global peers and embrace new challenges inspired by student creators from around the world.
Making an Impact
Students can choose from the different challenges and as they complete them they are awarded coins, an experience based currency that can be traded in to use for gifts of recognition of other learners on Tract or real-world donations directly impacting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for example planting a tree, protecting the coastline, and donating a meal for a family.
The Tract library is full of on-demand learning paths with topics including arts, business, health, math, and social sciences, physical education, science, world languages and more m
Here are a few of my favorite Tract choices
- The TikTok algorithm explained, created by a high school student
- “Give a speech like President Obama”
- “Health and Leverage AI to Support Mental Health” created by a student who has a non-profit “The Hope Sisters
Tract is providing its service free for the first 1,000 teachers using my code, RACHELLE, to request access at teach.tract.app.
About the Author
Rachelle Dené Poth is an edtech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past-president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and has received several Presidential Gold Awards for volunteer service to education. Rachelle was named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers for 2021.
Rachelle is the author of six books, In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking, Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU (EduMatch), The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead, Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World, True Story Lessons That One Kid Taught Us, and her newest book Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-person and Digital Instruction.”
She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.
Rachelle is a blogger for Getting Smart, Defined Learning, and NEO LMS.
Follow Rachelle on Twitter and Instagram @Rdene915. Check out Rachelle’s podcast, ThriveinEDU https://anchor.fm/rdene915.