There are already overwhelming numbers of EdTech tools for teachers and learners to catch up, or even care to know. This new one could possibly still make a value proposition worth your attention. Stackup is to track all your time spent on browsing Web pages, and furthermore you can compete against with your friends about reading time spent. Just launched in this fall, CEO Nick Garvin claims they already have 10,000 students, this product is still pretty new and its future development will be interesting to see.
It’s a Chrome browser extension, according to CEO Nick, because there are 30,000 Chromebooks being added into classrooms every day. So this integration with Chrome browser makes sense. It has been under development for over 2 years, with some feedback from early adopters.
How does it work?
Basically it tracks your time spent on each Web page you visit. A core technology of its own is Stackup can detect idle time and know the user isn’t active. They are filing a patent for this. Users can turn it on or off, it gives you freedom if you don’t want it to record some of your browsing activities.
And, teachers can manage class activities such as assigning reading challenges with time range and due date. Its analytics gives the reading grade levels of Web pages visited and their categories of knowledge domains. It identifies reading grade level of a Web page leveraging Flesch-Kincaid readability test algorithm which already has a long history and its credibility. With a single click of the “Measure reading level” button in the extension, anyone can identify the reading level of any Web page. They can find out the grade level of their writing too on Google Docs. or anywhere else they write online. This is one of the most useful features.
To categorize Web pages into knowledge domains, they do this by humans(their own team). No kidding, there are 300 billions Web pages. So far, they have done 50,000 websites of 60 categories. New sites will be added into categories if users visit and stay for a meaningful length of time there. Another issue is that a site could contain contents in many categories, so they will build sub-categories for one site if so.
For this issue, they could use common Learning Analytics techniques such as Web page scraping and text analytics to aid the categorization effort. It will be more efficient, granular and accurate because it’s automatic and can leverage metadata associated with Web pages. If combined with DBpedia Linked Data, useful recommendations can be created from user’s reading history. This could be a potential profit model. Some partnership could be helpful.
Generally speaking, there are 2 approaches of building evidence of learning, one is tracking learning time on task, the other is verifying the learning output (say, analyzing the topic you have studied, or passing a test to prove your learning outcome). Obviously Stackup falls on the first kind. It’s not integrated with any reading comprehension assessments yet. So one critic could be time spent doesn’t equal to learning achievement.
At least there are 2 use cases that support its value. One is K12 teachers want to know student’s time spent on reading assignment. The other is current enforced requirement to track time spent on some compliance training courses. The former case is what they are focusing right now.
There are levels in Stackup to represent your advance of reading experiences, but not aligning to any competency standards yet. It could be a future effort.
With so many tools are used in classrooms, each has its core value but can’t serve many purposes, integration makes all sense and provides educators better service. They are integrating with Google Classroom now, but also hesitating about more integration effort because there are also a lot of LMS out there.
Actually the best way to handle this problem is to use a standard language such as Experience API, xAPI, to record the learning process. The data can be sent to LMS or any BI/analytics system to centralize data from different sources. Learners can export their data into their ePortfolio. Make data portable has the important benefit of accumulating learner’s profile, which can truly fulfill what CEO Nick intended to achieve with Stackup — making independent learning experience recognized when learners seeking jobs. Also Learning Analytics could have a better picture of a learner.
System integration could take a lot of effort and sometimes impossible since learning experiences could be very diversified and distributed. Standardized learning data format makes data integration a piece of cake, imagine Stackup’s data can be put together with data from another assessment system, VR(Virtual Reality), AR(Augmented Reality) or mobile Apps. Not to say xAPI is a data API that can record rich context and metadata information.