Tract: Student -driven learning

Over the past school year, educators sought new ideas and digital tools to bring to the classroom to help with transitions between virtual, hybrid, and ​in-person learning. Rather than focus on specific digital tools, I thought of methods that would not be impacted by shifts in our learning environment. Bringing in authentic opportunities for students to design their own learning paths, to engage more in learning while developing essential SEL skills that will best prepare them for the future, is important.

One of my favorite methods to use has been project-based learning (PBL). PBL is a great option for giving students a chance to explore an area of interest, to solve a problem, or stretch themselves and learn about something impacting their community or the world. Authentic PBL focuses on student-centered learning and empowers students to develop their skills in many areas including critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, time management, and leadership skills to name a few. To help with PBL, I recently found Tract, a peer-to-peer program for students ages 8 and up in which the teachers, or creators are students.

Providing something for each student that meets their interest can be a challenge, but with Tract, all students can find something they can do independently for their unique interests and skill level.

What is Tract?

Tract is a web-based program, co-founded by educator and parent Esther Wojcicki and Ari Memar, a former student of Esther’s, who vet all of the Tract courses and content to make sure that it is safe for students and focused specifically on kids. I had a chance to speak with Ari and learn more about Tract and the many benefits for students. What I love about Tract is the variety of topics available for students to explore, how authentic and meaningful the learning is, and how students build essential SEL skills. With Tract, educators can support SEL and self-efficacy through student-directed, project-based learning through the enrichment clubs and on-demand classes available. Students can work through the classes at their own pace. Classes provide students with an opportunity to explore many different areas which include topics like art, gaming, learning to code, applying artificial intelligence and machine learning, becoming an entrepreneur, and many more.

The classes are led by middle school, high school or college students who create and share their passions for what they are learning and help inspire other students. Because of the way that it is set up, students build their confidence as they learn from peers and embrace new challenges that are inspired by students as creators from around the world.

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.

Getting started

Tract is for use both at home and in classrooms around the world and the content is best for students in third through the eighth grade. All videos are reviewed and hosted on their private Vimeo server. Tract is providing its service free for the first 1,000 teachers using my code, RACHELLE, to request access at Once your account is ready, you can set up your students using a simple educator code..

What makes Tract different

Tract is unlike any other platform that I have seen. It is a peer-to-peer learning platform that provides students with many different ways to learn about topics of interest, to explore their passions, and to build essential skills for not just in the future but for now. For students interested in creating content on YouTube or TikTok, Tract channels that motivation. It also promotes the development of social emotional learning (SEL) skills as students become self-aware as they design their own project and track growth, build social awareness as they learn from peers from around the world, develop self-management through setting goals and managing any stress that may arise during independent learning. Students build relationships as they interact with one another and focus on responsible decision-making as they decide their next steps in learning.

Using Tract takes what can become a more passive learning experience and provides enrichment. It helps students to become more active learners, shifting from consumers to creators in and out of the classroom. They become hooked into what they are learning while also being challenged to think about and connect with the topic and process this information to design their own learning. For example, creating a video game sparks interests in coding, hands-on creating helps students to more deeply experience learning in meaningful and purposeful ways.

Scaffolded lessons and experiences build engagement and help students to see learning more as a process rather than an end product.

Finding content

The library is full of on-demand learning paths available that range from topics like the arts, business, health, history and social sciences, math, physical education, politics, science, and world languages for a few examples.

Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Because I love music, the “I just want to rock and roll” created by Cody Williams
  • “How to Create a Learning Path on Tract” by Ryan Chester (Harvard class of 2020)
  • 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
  • “Virtual Reality Fly Across the Globe Without Leaving Your Couch”.

Rachelle Dene is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She was recently named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021.

She is the author of five books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World and her newest book “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us” is now available. All books available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or directly from Rachelle.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

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Building interest in computer science

Previously posted on Getting Smart, has been updated.

There have been discussions focused on the need for a computer science curriculum in schools. During recent Twitter chats and in webinars and panel discussions, educators have shared concerns about bridging the K through 12 computer science gaps. There is a growing need for students to develop skills in coding and in STEM-related fields however there are either real or perceived barriers to providing these opportunities for students. Possibilities include lack of resources, inadequate staffing, perhaps not enough room in student schedules, or a perceived lack of knowledge by educators when it comes to bringing computer science into their classes. For some, it can also be a lack of confidence in knowing where to begin or a hesitancy to not start if we don’t feel confident enough, which was the case for me.

Fortunately, there are many options available for educators to bring CS into their classrooms. The benefits include promoting student agency and self-paced learning, the development of essential SEL skills, and promoting student curiosity and innovation in learning. What I believe is important is that all teachers create opportunities for students to learn about computer science, how to code, and apply coding skills to all grade levels and content areas. 

Last year I referred to the World Economic Forum, for the job outlook for 2022. The report shared the importance for students to develop skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving. The need for STEM skills will continue to increase as we see new and emerging technologies develop. A prior projection was that 3.5 million STEM jobs will need to be filled by 2025. 

In addition to STEM skills, students specifically need exposure to computer science. I recently took one of the newer Microsoft Educator courses on computer science and it also shared some interesting statistics. It stated there will be 49 million more digital jobs created by 2025 in fields including AI, cybersecurity and data analytics, which will require students to have computer science skills.  Families are also in support of bringing more computer science into our schools, as a Gallup poll from September 2020, reported that 69% of parents and guardians in the United States expect schools to integrate computer science into the curriculum.  

As educators, we need to have resources available that enable us to build our own skills but also provide students with personalized learning opportunities to explore computer science and find something that meets their specific interests and needs. The goal is to better inform students and hopefully spark curiosity for learning and lead our students to become creators and innovators.  

Here are six resources to explore that will give students a chance to see how computer science impacts our world and build their skills in a variety of focus areas. 

  1. Amazon Future Engineers An interesting opportunity for students to learn how computer science, engineering, algorithms, and machine learning are used in Amazon’s fulfillment centers. There are options to take a tour focusing on computer science or to interact with an Amazon tour guide or sign up for a one-hour learning experience. There are many resources including slides and activities aligned to the computer science standard available in the Teacher Toolkit. This provides a real-world learning opportunity for students. Teachers can register for tours that will continue through July 1st. This is a good option for in-person or remote learning.
  2. AI World School Offers a variety of courses and resources for learning about STEM and coding. In addition to three flagship AI courses, there are several micro-courses available divided into the three age groups and with topics including creating with Scratch, building an Android or iOS app, and more advanced options such as JavaScript and Python coding for older students. 
  3. CoderZ. A cloud-based STEM learning opportunity, where students can code 3D robots. There are different courses available through CoderZ including CoderZ Adventure for ages 6 through 10, Robotics 101, a self-paced program for ages 11 through 14, Summer Robotics 1 or 2 for ages 11 to 14, and Python gym for students ages 15 and older. It has 3D simulations of robots, students can write and test their own code, and teachers have access to self-paced curriculum and teacher guides. Students receive immediate results of their work which is great for in-person or remote learning. CoderZ integrates with Clever, ClassLink, and Google Classroom.
  4.  Grasshopper. For teachers or adult learners looking to build their own skills, Grasshopper is a coding app for beginners. The name is in recognition of Grace Hopper, a pioneer in computer science. The Grasshopper curriculum is divided into topics including fundamentals, array methods, animations, web page design, and more. There are many types of coding activities and lessons available through Grasshopper that are available for free on Android and iOS as well as for desktop use. 
  5. Kubo coding is a good program for starting with elementary students specifically in grades K through 5. Students can build their coding skills through a tag tile programming language which is a puzzle-like coding concept. Kubo Play is a new simulation tool that works well for blended learning experience by giving students hands-on coding activities and 300 tasks that cover ISTE standards for coding.
  6. Mblock. Easy to get started with coding by choosing to code with blocks or code with Python. They have featured coding products and additional resources such as online coding training for Scratch, robotics programming, and Python. There are also sample projects where students can view the code and then start creating their own projects. 

These are just a few of the resources to explore that will be helpful for learning regardless of whether in-person or virtual.  The end of the school year is always a good opportunity to try some new ideas and that will help to keep students engaged, and hopefully develop an interest in computer science. These can even be fun options to explore with family and build skills together. Check out the Family code night!


Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant and Speaker. Rachelle is the author of seven books about education and edtech and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Mondays and Fridays at 6pm or 6:30 pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here