Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2019

Stackup

Chrome extension tracks consumption, can spur self-reflection

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
6–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)
Privacy (See details)

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Pros: Appealing challenges; tons of opportunities to differentiate by content and level of difficulty.

Cons: The grade level filters are inconsistent, and some linked sites are ad-heavy or may be blocked by school filters.

Bottom Line: Used as a bottom-up, student-driven reflection tool, Stackup can be useful for getting kids to spend more time engaged in reading.

Start using Stackup with a classroom jigsaw activity around a topic you're studying. Challenge students in groups to read information from different sites and then move around to share with peers what they learned. Consider pairing Stackup with a tool like Weava to engage students in the research process as they complete reading challenges -- perhaps letting them earn stars as they research topics from basketball to biotechnology. Just remember that if you want students to choose reading material independently, grade-level search results may produce unreliable results.

Teachers should avoid employing Stackup as a way to keep students on task. Instead, use results as a way to assess habits, interests, and time management, perhaps having kids take screenshots of their progress and write brief reflections to include in their learning portfolio. Stackup can also be used for fun class competitions. Teachers can assign students code names to protect privacy and then post students' reading reports to compare scores and examine trends. 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 extension that tracks how long you spend -- and how engaged you are -- reading on various websites. 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 activity and interests. Teachers can choose from a library of articles from sites such as CommonLit, NASA, Forbes, and Biography. Teachers can assign challenges, and students can earn stars and compete against others in their class for most time spent reading. 

Stackup boasts that it uses AI technology to track the amount of time students are engaged with text, but it's not clear what that technology is or how it works. The extension has a screen-reading feature and uses the Fleish-Kincaid readability test to determine text difficulty and then assigns it the corresponding grade level; however, teachers should be aware that searches for content by grade level may turn up unexpected results. For instance, a K-2 filtered search produced an article about Treater Collins Syndrome, which the Stackup extension rated at a ninth-grade reading level. 

There's potential for teachers to use Stackup to give students choices and encourage reading organically, which can be very effective in piquing their curiosity and getting them to expand their knowledge base. Classroom challenges may provide positive peer pressure and get reluctant readers to participate, especially if assignments are differentiated by content and reading level. However, there's also the danger of using the site's tracking technology to promote extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation -- that is, students may feel pressured to stay on task rather than driven by passion and interest. 

There are some practical issues as well. Stackup can't determine readability levels of PDFs, and without a consistent WiFi connection, it may not be tracking the entire time students are reading. Plus, since the tool doesn't track time spent reading offline or on a tablet, students who prefer paper copies or e-readers won't get credit and may choose to read material they otherwise wouldn't just to get the rewards. Consequently, the data it provides to teachers monitoring student activity isn't necessarily comprehensive or reliable.

Still, as a free tool that's well-designed and can provide teachers with useful data, Stackup is certainly worth a look. Just 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 tracking their data over time, but developing the skills and the desire to read for the sake of learning 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?

Challenges might motivate students to spend more time reading about topics of interest, but teachers who use the tool for extrinsic motivation and monitoring risk quashing kids' desire to read.

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 has a clean interface. Features like screen readers offer assistance to students with different needs, and the ability to choose content at multiple reading levels will provide a challenge.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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, ...
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