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Differentiated Assessment and Instructional Tool: TrackStar 4 Teachers

Through an assignment in my TE 877 – Developing Web-Based Educational Environments class, I just came across a resource that I could see a lot of teachers getting on board with. It’s called TrackStar and, although nothing too flashy or fancy, it could be used in the classroom in a number of ways. Here are how the people of TrackStar describe their product:

TrackStar is your starting point for online lessons and activities. Simply collect Web sites, enter them into TrackStar, add annotations for your students, and you have an interactive, online lesson called a Track. Create your own Track or use one of the hundreds of thousands already made by other educators. Search the database by subject, grade, or theme and standard for a quick and easy activity.

For the purpose of instruction, it basically serves as glorified outline and/or itinerary for guiding your students through a series of pre-selected web-based resources. You can either search for pre-established Tracks, or create your own. TrackStar sequences these sites for you, allowing you to add annotations and directions for each included site. It’s an excellent way of keeping your students on the right path during a webquest or research project, and it allows students to progress at their own pace, exploring the resource as needed.

On the other side of things, TrackStar could serve as a really cool and unique differentiated assessment piece. Imagine having your students string together a series of sites they have discovered in the research portion of a narrative, lab report or history project. They could annotate each site, applying what they have learned in class to the material found on the site below. Have them extend their knowledge from the classroom to relevant and meaningful real-world applications. They submit the TrackStar to you (link included) in lieu of more traditional summative assessment techniques. This could even serve as a portfolio of sorts in the sources they used over a given unit of study…the possibilities go on and on.

Downsides to TrackStar…only a few, and they are largely aesthetic. 1) Like I stated earlier, there’s nothing flashy or fancy in the way that TrackStars are organized and annotated. Although they do provide high level or organization and structure, they’re not trying to win Homecoming Queen. 2) If you want to include such things as paragraph breaks, spacing between line, bold or italicized text, or any other RTF features, then you’re going to have to apply some HTML. Theses features are not built in through TrackStar, but it’s not going to take anything away from the presentation if you’re not comfortable with the code.

Play around with it. More than likely you could find some way of integrating this resource into your classroom regardless of what age or content you teach. Here’s the link to the site, and an embedded version of my finished TrackStar project.

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