StackUp: track self-directed learning online

Assign and track reading online: StackUp


What it is: I’ve written about StackUp before here but, over the last three years, the company has grown up enough that it warrants another post! StackUp has a pretty great back story. Nick Garvin, the founder of StackUp, was fresh out of school and wanted to apply for a job at Tesla Motors. The problem? His traditional resume failed to document the thousands of hours that he spent online in self-taught learning about the automotive industry. This frustration led to the creation of StackUp, a way for Nick (and others like him) to better document self-directed learning. As an educator, StackUp immediately appealed to me for the way that it could capture my own learning. Though I don’t hold a degree in educational technology, my years of independent study should be captured! My blog does a decent job of helping me share my learning with others, but it is still just a small representation of all that I have learned over the years. Similarly, my graphic artist husband has realized that he has a love for industrial design and machining. He has spent hours and hours learning 3D digital design, playing with 3D printers, CAD programs, woodworking, welding, and recently machining with a metal lathe. Though his traditional resume wouldn’t easily reflect it, he has a pretty impressive industrial design background. StackUp is a Chrome browser plugin that tracks everything from personal productivity (I’ve learned I spend way too much of my life in email hell), to verifying independent reading/learning, to helping quantify self-directed learning.

How to integrate StackUp in the Classroom: The beauty of StackUp is that it isn’t one more program to add to your curriculum, it isn’t one more piece of technology that your students have to learn. Simply add the plugin, ask your students to sign in, and it runs automagically in the background while they carry on with their learning. As a teacher, you can login to StackUp and create reading challenges for your students. At Anastasis, we are using these challenges in inquiry to encourage students to spend time on a variety of website types. Right now our students are doing an inquiry on How the World Works. They are inquiring into different types of energy. This lends itself to a lot of research on science websites. The challenges help us encourage the kids to diversify the types of sites they are incorporating into the inquiry block. Yes, we want the kids to be researching the science behind different kinds of energy, but we also want them to explore the history of energy use, the social and economic implications of how we use energy, the current political climate and it’s impact on how we use energy. You know…connective inquiry! StackUp lets our teachers challenge students to diversify their learning in this way by creating a category challenge. Teachers choose categories for students. No matter which websites they visit, if they are included in a category, they will get ‘credit’ for visiting that site. I love the way StackUp works for your classroom, and doesn’t box students into specific requirements for the tracking to work. Teachers can also set up challenges based on a specific website or time spent learning in a category.

One of the unintended consequences of using StackUp with our students, is they way it has added to our Learner Profile. Using StackUp has helped us gain a better understanding of who our students are by uncovering hidden interests that they might have. If a student spends a lot of time in a specific category or on specific websites, StackUp  gives us insight into those passions and interests.

Students (and learners of all kind- teachers count!) can use StackUp to showcase the reading and learning they do online by subject area. At a glance, students can see how much reading they are doing and what topics have been of most interest to them. This can help them discover the things that they are most passionate about, and even help them discover where they waste time. It is pretty revealing when you see how much time you sink into things like email, Facebook, etc. While I appreciate the time to connect with others through social media, I realized that I spend more time there than I probably need to. StackUp can help you manage online time more efficiently by revealing where you spend it.

Students can engage in classroom reading challenges and see how their learning compares to their classmates. This can be used as a motivational element, though we don’t use it this way at Anastasis (inquiry lends itself more to competition with self than competition with others).

One of the things we’ve loved about StackUp is the ability to help parents see the learning that their children are doing online. So often our time spent on devices can appear to be frivolous to those who don’t know what is happening while we are online. With StackUp, parents can see the time students are spending learning and what they are learning about. Of course, if students are spending 90% of their time on gaming sites that tells a story, too.

I really appreciate the way that StackUp helps teachers and students alike metacognate about where and why we spend our time online. It is a great tool to spur on reflection about where we spend time, and what we care most about.

One of the StackUp stories I love was from @SenorG, he talked about students taking a credit recovery class online. One of the things StackUp revealed was for every hour spent on the credit recovery site, students spent 20min on Google Translate. This information was invaluable for those assisting students. It was also valuable information to consider for the credit recovery course platform. Could they better empower students by embedding a translate feature? By translating the whole site? Way cool!

Bottom line: StackUp can help give you insight into your students online reading habits. It gives you a way to see where their learning takes them and how much time they are spending on their online reading/learning. We realized after a few weeks that our students had the bad habit of site hopping. They would start research using Google, but if the answer they were hunting for wasn’t immediately apparent on the site they clicked on, they would go directly back to Google. This helped us realize that we needed to teach students how to search smarter, and that when they arrived at a site, we needed to better equip them with the tools to dive into the learning.

Tips: StackUp is super easy to install, you can do it in under a minute! If you have Google apps, you can do this in under a minute for your whole school! Students can sign in using their existing Google education accounts. Don’t have Google for Education? First, I’m sorry! Second, not to worry, students can sign in using any email address.

The StackUp plugin can be easily turned on or off at any time. All information is private and can be deleted at any time. It is both COPPA and FERPA compliant. Students can choose which information to share on their profile.

StackUp Chromebook

Shout out to StackUp who generously donated a class set of Chromebooks to Anastasis students! Thank you!


Are you coming to the 5Sigma Edu Conference in February? If not, you should be! It is the place we were originally introduced to StackUp!


StackUp: Get professional development credit for Twitter edchats

StackUp: Get credit for everything you read and learn online

What it is: StackUp is a really neat new web app that automatically scores online reading and learning. As you work online, StackUp captures data through the free web app and plugin which can be used on Mac and Windows (iOS and Android coming soon). When active, StackUp captures and attributes a score time that is spent anywhere online. It then categorizes it into 60 different subject areas including: news, finance, engineering, fashion, technology, sports, and online classes. StackUp is a metric that can offer insight into the commitment and study of a certain field.

How to integrate StackUp into the classroom: In the increasing digital landscape of the world (and classrooms) it is important to offer the opportunity for students to research and direct their own learning. StackUp offers students a way to share the commitment of learning with teachers and other stake holders. So often, we think about time spent online as “wasted” because, let’s face it, there can be lots of moments of wasted time online. But, the Internet is also a rich landscape for learning and continued learning in areas of passion. StackUp is a way for students to offer proof of this time spent learning so that teachers can appreciate and offer credit for that learning. Often classrooms have certain parameters and reading expectations for students. What if instead, we offered kids the ability to spend time researching, reading, and exploring things that they are passionate about…and then offer credit for it! StackUp could be the catalyst for more independent learning opportunities and studies within areas of passion. One of the things that I find holds teachers back from allowing this type of reading, is the inability to measure whether a student has really spent time on task.

I’ve often lamented about how I wish that the time spent in online education chats and reading educational blogs, articles, and whitepapers counted as professional development and credit hours. Seriously, I rack up the hours and it is always time well spent. As an administrator, I would happily accept a StackUp record of the time that my teachers engage in online material and offer credit and professional development hours for that time. I’ve gotten more out of the connections, chats, and learning that I’ve done with all of you online, than most of the required professional development. This could be transformational for helping tell the story of the learning that we do independently.

Imagine “Stacking” up the learning from a young age in areas of passion, and continue throughout their lifetime giving students another way to distinguish themselves. Tools like StackUp could start to change the landscape of learning and how we decide who the “experts” are. Hint: it isn’t always the person with the most letters behind their name.

Tips: Worried that one of your students might be able to cheat the system and simply open a webpage and walk away? No need to worry! StackUp is built on a patent-pending software system that can detect the difference between a student who just opens a webpage versus the student who is actually engaged.

StackUp doesn’t always have to run in the background and record every single move you or your students make online, it allows users to turn it on or off at any time and delete time spent on a website or in any category…you know, for those of us who spend an embarrassing amount of time on Pinterest. 🙂


Want to really amp up your professional development with the best education conference you’ve ever been to? Join us for the 5 Sigma Edu Conference!

5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!