Tracking app let students see how their reading ‘stacks up’


Increasing student’s reading time by just 15 minutes a day can improve comprehension and student achievement, especially when the majority of K-12 students across the nation spend less than 15 minutes a day reading, according to a recent report from Renaissance Learning.

Teachers in the Aurora Public Schools in Colorado hope to boost students’ reading times with the help of a web-based tool called Stackup that tracks, measures and documents online reading time. The app lets teachers better monitor students’ reading progress and makes reading fun for students, Stackup’s creators say.

“This is a way for us to measure reading passion,” said Noah Geisel, director of education for Stackup, a consultant to Aurora schools and a former Spanish teacher and educational technology coach in Aurora and other public school systems.

Stackup, a free Chrome browser extension designed for the Google education suite of applications, went live for Aurora students about a month ago. So far, “a few thousand” students are currently using it, Geisel said, even though there is no district mandate to deploy the tool. The growth in use has been “very organic,” he said. “They’re opting into it.”

Stackup automatically captures time spent reading online for both independent and assigned reading. A student’s Stackup profile provides a visual summary of total hours of online reading and time spent on each Web site visited, categorizing the student’s reading by subject matter. Teachers can assign reading by grade level, assess progress and grade online reading in real time. Students can get credit for completing reading assignments, compete with other students in reading challenges and earn badges as their reading hours add up.

One of Stackup’s most important features is its simplicity of use, Geisel said. It was designed to install on all Google devices in under a minute via Google Admin. Students sign in using their existing Google accounts or another email address, without having to input a user name. The tool, which has been available for about two years, currently has about 15,000 active users around the county, Geisel said.

“The bar of entry is really low for a teacher to go from ‘I’ve never heard of this’ to ‘I’m a Stackup hero with my students.’ There is a lack of invasiveness on a teacher’s time,” he said. “Normally, something that’s quick-hitting like [Stackup] is not going to powerfully impact teaching and learning.”

In a time when data and analytics are becoming ever more important to the assessment of learning, Stackup is another source of data that helps teacher effectiveness and efficiency and at the same time boosts student enthusiasm for reading, he said.

“There’s no complicated formula,” Geisel said. “If students are engaged as readers, all of the sudden they have this ability to get credit for that. I’m really passionate about the idea that for our students [using Stackup] there’s more to the narrative of who they are as learners and achievers than just their test scores, their GPA and attendance rate.”

Geisel said that from a design perspective, the company tries to be as nimble as possible. “Every new feature we roll out is a direct response from teachers who allow us to ask them what they think,” he said. “We’re at the place where we feel based on user feedback that we’ve validated that this is tool that teachers and students find valuable. As we continue to learn more about what teachers and students need from Stackup, we build to meet those needs.”