TrackStar is a web-based tool that provides non-technical teachers and students with a simple way of anotating and sharing websites under a particular theme or content area.
This tool provides a mechanism in which teachers can develop thematic web-based units in which students can view resources related to a particular content area.
Target Student Population:
Educators can use this tool to organize and share internet-based thematic units. They can also have students create tracks to demonstrate information literacy skills.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Users only need to have simple web navigation skills to be successful with TrackStar.
Type of Material:
TrackStar is a true learning object that can be replicated over and over with user-selected content.
Teachers can use this site in the development of thematic, web-based units in which students can view a variety of websites that address similar content issues. Track Star also includes a tool in which teachers can develop quizzes to help students test themselves on knowledge gained from the sites and an area in which students can create posters to help them synthesize the knowledge gained from participating in a track.
Users of TrackStar only needs access to the World Wide Web.
Evaluation and Observation
This is a well-designed site that provides teachers with a mechanism for compiling and annotating web-based resources. Having additional tracks available to view and use in instruction is a strength. An expert user can bypass the details and go straight to work.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
TrackStar can be used to develop online resources for students. Instructors only need to know how to copy and paste a web link to be productive with this tool. There is no need to worry about issues such as server space, FTP, HTML, etc. TrackStar is also an great tool for students to make their own lists of related web links. The program includes a link checking component which provides users with an easy way to eliminate link rot.
It has been our experience that faculty and students are initially confused by the term "track" and what can be done. Some initially think that the purpose of the tool is to somehow track how people use web pages. The authors have updated the homepage to make the purpose clearer. As the tool becomes known this will be less of a problem.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
This tool is intuitive. Teachers and students can read the directions but most will be able to create a list without any directions.
The site used to promote that it met Bobby accessibility guidelines. It is unclear whether this is still a priority. TrackStar provides the ability to search for a track but does not include a search feature for the site.
Other Issues and Comments:
The site provides a search function so that a person can search other users? lists. It is possible to create a quiz for a track. The authors also provide access to a number of other online tools for educators through links at the bottom of each page.