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.Continue reading Show less
Editor's Note: Stackup is no longer available.
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.