Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2016


Chrome extension tracks consumption, can spur self-reflection

Subjects & skills

  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)
Common Sense Privacy Evaluation

The privacy evaluation process categorizes edtech tools into the following three tiers:

Use Responsibly

Indicates that the service meets the minimum criteria and more research should be completed prior to use.

Use Caution

Indicates that the service does not clearly define the safeguards to protect student information.

Not Recommended

Indicates that the service does not support encryption or lacks a detailed privacy policy.

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Pros: The concept is cool; there's tons of data for teachers and students alike, and the competitive element is appealing.

Cons: Data can be gamed. Might make students feel monitored and managed.

Bottom Line: StackUp can be useful if positioned less as a top-down management tool and more as a bottom-up, student-driven reflection tool.

Teachers should avoid employing StackUp as a way to keep students on task. Instead, use students' (or even teachers') StackUp results as a way to assess habits, interests, and time management. It's probably best used as a tool for students to explore interests and work for their own purposes, especially toward a portfolio or personal growth. StackUp can also be used for fun intra-class competition. Teachers can assign students code names to protect privacy and then post students' reading reports to compare scores and examine trends that would connect well with digital citizenship lessons. Students can see how their classmates are consuming the web and where they "stack up" on various topics.

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StackUp is a Chrome browser extension that tracks how long you spend -- and how engaged you are -- on websites of varying topics. Teachers can assign categories of sites or specific sites to students, who then visit these sites and accrue time and badges. Over time, this browsing data is aggregated within student profiles by subject area and is available to both students and teachers to assess browsing activity and interests.

In the classroom, this provides evidence that students have read assigned websites and/or have spent time online appropriately. It also offers users a way for students to keep track of their interests, organize their time online, and conduct self-assessment and reflection. Students receive (and can hand in) a one-page printout that tracks their time and compares it to other users' stats.

StackUp's main selling point to educators is it's a way to assign, track, and give credit for what students read online. The issue is that this form of management and oversight can end up being extrinsic rather than intrinsic -- that is, students may feel pressured to stay on task rather than feeling driven by passion and interest. Additionally, the tool also has some practical issues. The developer's commitment to user privacy means the tool is easy to turn on and off. Consequently, the data it provides to teachers monitoring student activity is not necessarily comprehensive or reliable. Students can turn StackUp on and off at will, spending time on websites the teacher hasn't assigned.

StackUp claims it can tell how engaged a user is and that users attempting to fool the system will be spotted and removed from using the program, but it's not clear how that works. If the tool relies on idleness, a student could easily move the mouse on a screen while chatting with a neighbor. Of course, teachers can use StackUp differently -- focusing on it more as a tool for self-reflection, making students more aware of their own habits and interests, and using it as a record of learning activity to go in a portfolio. As with any tool, your mileage may vary based on how you frame its use in the classroom. As a free tool that's well-designed and evolving productively, StackUp is certainly worth a look, but know that its potential success in classrooms will require particularly thoughtful implementation.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students might enjoy the challenges as well as the data, but motivated learning, driven by self-reflection, will need scaffolding.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

StackUp risks being a tool for extrinsic motivation and monitoring. There's potential, however, for encouraging student self-reflection and creating learning challenges to drive curiosity and research.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The site is pretty self-explanatory and offers clear instructions on use and installation.

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Steve I. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
William Annin Middle School
Basking Ridge, United States
I love the idea of tracking time spent on websites and the fact that it's choice driven, but would like more focus on what I'm reading and cataloging my resources.
I was especially excited by the prospect of tracking my time doing research and reading online. My initial impression was that it would record the websites I spent time on and how long I am actively using the site. That's pretty sharp from a data analytic standpoint. I come to find that I spend most of my time in email and social networking. No big surprise there, but it kind of clouds the aspect that I am interested in which is time spent learning / reading online. Granted, I learn so much on twitter, but just seeing an amount of time on twitter doesn't paint that picture so well. I would love to see a more detailed list of websites that I spend time on as it would serve as a great bookmarking tool due to the authentic nature of it maintaining sites I clearly found worthwhile. I think the product has incredible potential and look forward to seeing it grow and provide a great resource for students and educators in terms of tracking reading progress. I LOVE that it captures everything in the background as the student or educator does not need to do anything aside from setting up the extension and leaving it all. It's fascinating to see how much time I am spending online and how it is broken down. As I mentioned, for me it will become more useful when I can see it in terms of content that I actually read, rather than just my online behavior. I would also love to see a way to merge several gmail accounts as I use 3 separate accounts. Granted, I can set up different profiles in chrome and run the extension in each so it could easily capture all of my reading as long as I am logged into one of those accounts. I am excited to watch StackUp evolve as the potential is incredible.
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