At NEA, we pay special attention to consumer trends and the way new generations are interacting with digital platforms to create, learn and play. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the ingenuity and creativity of today’s school-age kids, who are more digitally native and hyper-connected than ever before.
Accelerated by virtual and at-home learning during the pandemic, kids today are becoming digital experts at a significantly earlier age. With 31% of kids owning a smartphone by age 8 (up from 19% in 2019) and 71% by age 12, 3rd-to-8th graders today are growing up with unprecedented access to online games, apps, information and communication. And they are not spending time just on made-for-kids apps or educational products, but on popular platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Snap and Instagram.
But is it just a pandemic blip? We don’t think so, the pandemic shift has been largely a one-way door. Even as schools have returned to in-person learning, school districts and teachers continue to embrace and integrate more digital tools into their curriculum and project-based learning. Between at home and in the classroom, kids are online more than ever and educators are championing digital fluency as an essential skill.
Knowing this, it should be no surprise that kids want to become creators, too. In fact, a recent survey by The Lego Group found that 29% of tweens today (age 8-12) aspire to be a YouTuber, three times more than an astronaut (sorry NASA). We’ve seen young creators inspire millions of YouTube followers, for example Like Nastya and Ryan’s World with 100M and 33M respectively. Similarly, the mass popularity of gaming platforms like Minecraft and Roblox has also shown us that kids are ready to build, collaborate and co-create in new ways. There’s a generation of young creators rising that want to learn, express and collaborate online. How do we empower them with safe, age appropriate spaces to unleash their creativity?
This is where Tract comes in.
Tract is a social learning platform for kids aged 8+ who want to create content they’re passionate about, learn from others and be rewarded for their creativity, inside and outside the classroom. New content and challenges are released daily, with the majority of the platform’s content library being produced by its young users and heavily curated, vetted and reviewed by community moderators to ensure representation of voices, faces, and stories.
Founded by education innovator, Esther Wojcicki, and consumer product leader, Ari Memar, we believe Tract is following a unique approach that seamlessly addresses the needs of kids, parents and educators. With Tract, kids can get started creating, sharing and teaching through short form videos and Tract Originals. Teachers can easily bring Tract into the classroom to supercharge their lessons and project-based learning. Meanwhile, parents can rest assured that kids are creating and connecting in a moderated, age-appropriate space. Today, Tract has members in 20 countries and nearly all 50 states.
Ari and Esther’s highly complimentary backgrounds are perfectly suited for the Tract mission. Esther is an award-winning teacher and author. She serves on the boards of Creative Commons, Journalistic Learning Initiative, and is a sought after advisor for the Google Teacher Academy, Hewlett Foundation and US Department of Education. Complementing Esther’s thought leadership in education is Ari’s background in scaling high-growth consumer startups, most recently as a product leader at Uber, and his passion for creator and gaming products.
From Tract’s early super fans to the enthusiastic teachers who are bringing Tract into their classrooms, it’s evident that Esther and Ari have a strong point of view and are shaping the future of education. We are thrilled to partner with Esther and Ari on their journey to empower kids to be creators and build a global community that kids, parents and teachers can all get excited about.
If you’re interested in joining the Tract team, check out their career opportunities here.