When teachers list their favorite, most inspiring educators who have helped students learn to be creative and self-directed, Esther Wojcicki typically tops the list. The famed educator has launched Tract, a new education technology platform of passion-based, peer-to-peer learning activities for students that Wojcicki says is “project-based learning meets new media creation.”
Tract learning paths are crafted by student “Creators” under the direction of Wojcicki’s pedagogy team. Each path is a lesson on an interesting topic, a series of narrated videos explaining a new concept like animal adaptations, or gene editing, or the life of Nat King Cole. Or, Tract teaches a new skill like how to play chess or give a speech. There are hundreds of paths, each curated by Wojcicki and her team of education experts, but all taught by student Creators who also give feedback and engage with the student learners. Tract encourages students to explore, create, and learn.
Tract co-founder, Ari Memar, says that Tract embodies the ideals of Wojcicki’s learning philosophy. “For over 40 years, Esther has been teaching students how to be creative, guiding them towards their own interests, which ultimately leads to a much more satisfying learning experience,” said Memar. “Now teachers can bring the same energetic learning experiences to their students using Tract, and it’s free.”
Teachers typically integrate Tract into their Genius Hour, 20-Percent Time, or blocks of time dedicated to self-directed learning. Students, they say, are 100 percent engaged when they are using Tract. “Teachers think it is difficult to find the time within the curriculum to start using project-based learning, but with Tract, you can stand back and just watch your kids go!” said fifth grade teacher Lynn Cashell from Bethel Springs Elementary School in the Garnet Valley School District in Pennsylvania.
“My kids light up when it is time to use Tract. Many of them couldn’t wait to work on their projects as soon as they arrived at school. Some of them continued their learning after school and on weekends at home because they just can’t get enough of Tract. It’s that engaging to them.”
Wojcicki added that “Tract is a place teachers can relax and know their students are developing creativity, critical-thinking skills, and problem solving. These are the life skills and intangibles that we often feel cannot be crammed into their instructional day. Tract is a place to explore, to follow passions, and learn new things completely independently and without worry.”