Edtech NOW Stackup Edition
Listen on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/edtechnow/edtech-now-stackup-edition
Lee Schneider: This is a special edition of “Edtech NOW,” a podcast about education technology and how it’s used in the classroom. We’ve met so many great educators over the course of the series, and now we are going to be talking about Stackup, a free Chrome extension that accurately tracks when students are reading online. I’m Lee Schneider and I’m joined by my co-host Noah Geisel, education director at Stackup. Hey, Noah.
Noah Geisel: Hey, Lee, great to be with ya.
Lee: Yes, it’s great to see you, or well, great to hear you. In a moment we’re going to be bringing in a power user, Adam Howard, into the conversation. But first, Noah, tell us how Stackup is often used by teachers.
Noah: So Stackup is a powerful free Chrome extension that can track, monitor, and report on student’s online reading. A lot of teachers are telling us that they think about it as a FitBit for student’s online reading. And so, teachers can assign and [00:01:00] monitor reading by grade level, subject area, and website, and students get credit for completing the reading that interests them. And, over the long term, one of the things that gets us really excited is that the profile that a student creates of her reading becomes really a portfolio to showcase her passions.
Lee: We’re nearing the end of the 2016-’17 school year, are there any updates that teachers can look forward to that are coming in the fall?
Noah: Yeah, absolutely. And one thing we’re seeing in the teacher usage is the gamification is really huge and is really motivating for students of all ages, from elementary on up through high school. And so we have some exciting new rollouts with our badges and gamification elements that teachers can look forward to. And honestly, like, one thing I’ll say is that we get all of our best features from teachers reaching out to tell us, “Wouldn’t it be great if Stackup could do blank?” And so I highly encourage folks to reach out with ideas for improvements because we really value those, and we actually rely on them to help us know where to go next in order to meet our users’ needs.
A prime example of that is our measured grade level reading. It’s really become one of our most popular features. On any given page, a student can click the Chrome extension and it will do a Flesch-Kincaid analysis of the text on the page and let you know what grade level that text is being written at. And so, you know, that really came from a teacher saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if you did a readability analysis?” And we said, “We’ll get on it.” Looking ahead to one of the things that team Stackup’s working on right [00:02:30] now is to use grade level reading in order to help curate content so that teachers and students can easily find great reading content that’s already been vetted by other teachers, and be able to access that content at the appropriate grade level reading. We’re also really excited about the next level of reporting for schools and districts. We think we’re going to be able to provide educators with access to some really powerful reports on student reading growth over time and by grade level. It’s really exciting stuff.
Lee: Talk a little bit more about this [00:03:00] content curation idea. That teachers can essentially pool knowledge is what you’re saying, and share the reading levels of different texts and help each other.
Noah: Absolutely. You know, we’re really behind as a company the whole idea of OERs, Open Educational Resources, and you know, we, in 2017 and beyond, are looking at one of the greatest resource libraries ever compiled in the form of the internet, right? And so while it’s [00:03:30] this amazing, pretty much endless universe of information, it’s also not always the easiest lift for teachers to find the content that they need in order to best meet their student’s learning needs of the day.
And so, one of the things that our user told us is that, “Wouldn’t it be great if as users are discovering content for their students that basically that gets crowd-sourced?” And so whatever is really popular amongst all Stackup users, as measured by just visits to webpages, that that information then gets put into suggested content by categories. And so, if students are looking for content or teachers looking for content about automotive industry, for example, you know, they can go into the automotive category and we’re going to be able to suggest content that’s already been identified as high value by our users, and we’re going to be able to suggest it, thanks to that readability analysis, at the appropriate reading level.
Noah: And now let’s go ahead and invite a power user, Adam Howard, from Tulsa, Oklahoma into the conversation. Adam, how are you doing and how are you using Stackup?
Adam Howard: We’re using Stackup in a number of ways. At the classroom level, we’re using reading challenges to really get the students thinking about the time they spend reading online. This is starting discussions about time management, for instance, okay, so you spent 12 hours last week on social media, what if you shifted half that usage towards a constructive interest? What new skill could you learn over the summer? Or what goals could you achieve [00:05:00] just by understanding how you spend your time online? I like to remind my students that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and Stackup is a great example of this idea.
Noah: You’ve said that everyone should be using Stackup, which is quite an endorsement and we’re glad to have it, and it’s especially a powerful endorsement, considering just how many ed tech tools are out there for educators. What do you like so much about Stackup to offer such an enthusiastic endorsement?
Adam: Well, you’re right they’re a lot of good ed tech tools out there, but in my opinion,Stackup really is a must have. I say this because of how fundamental the insights are, that it provides about all learning, and how easy it is to set up and to use. I’ve set up and rolled out a lot of different technology at schools and I know the value of a tool that is easy to set up, and this is one of the easiest that I’ve had. Anyone as an educator that you show it to a teacher and they can see the value in it right away in tracking reading times and reading levels. [00:06:00] It’s a very easy to use interface for teachers. It doesn’t take them hardly any time at all to figure out how to use. And then once we push the extension out to all the Chromebooks, it only took…I mean it was a matter of seconds before we had the students logged in and using Stackup.
Noah: I love that so much. That’s such a powerful use. Adam, when you’re sharing Stackup with students and other teacher colleagues, how do you introduce it to them?
Adam: When I showed it to the students, I usually showed them my Stackup score and how it breaks down how I’m spending my time online reading. We all know we spend a lot of time online reading, but nobody could really tell you, you know, how much time exactly or what they read about the most. It’s kind of this nebulous time we spend online. When I show them my badges that I’ve earned and tell them how the extension has really changed how I look at the time I spend online, it really gets a lot of interest. I can see the time I spend online reading education blogs or doing research, as [00:07:00] opposed to the time I spend on social media and kind of wasting time online.
It allows me to manage my time and give myself credit for my learning and the things that I’m doing that are constructive online, which is that much more of a reason to be constructive with our online time. And this allows me to be a model of a lifelong learner, okay, because I think that teachers, it’s so important that teachers model lifelong learning for their students, and this allows me to do that in a real way by showing my students exactly how I’m able to spend my time online in pursuit of my own interests.
When I show this program to other teachers and administrators, I generally start by showing them the Stackup school report. There’s so much value in this report that I refer to it as, like, the literacy vitals monitor. All the literacy vital signs are there. We can see how much time students are spending online reading in aggregate and by student average. As a school, it’s all about our growth mindset. We love that you can see the grade level that students are reading at, and the growth that takes place over time. Add in the ability to see top subjects in classrooms really leads to some fun intra-departmental competition, and you can see how educators could be all for that. It’s really a lot of good information, and with the gamification aspect, it allows you to have a lot of fun with it also.
And so we are really looking to do right by students and teachers when it comes to privacy. You can turn Stackup on or off any time, and there’s an indicator on the extension to let you know if it’s on or off, so it’s really just crystal clear. And I think it’s important for me to say that philosophically Stackup is all about learners’ growth mindset. We want students to get credit for their reading online and have the ability to share that with teachers, colleges, and potential employers.
Lee: Such important stuff, privacy concerns, and it sounds like you’ve really given a lot of thought to it.
Lee: Hey, thanks, Noah, for being on the podcast today.
Noah: Hey, thank you so much for having me. This entire season has been a really great run, and I hope that we’ve really helped people.
Lee: Yeah, it has been so much fun. You know, for listeners just kind of catching this, this is that last episode of a multi-part season, it has lots of episodes. We invite you to check out season one of “Ed Tech NOW” on Soundcloud, iTunes, and TuneIn. You can find the podcast by searching for “Ed Tech NOW” on Soundcloud or iTunes or just go to soundcloud.com/edtechnow, and edtechnow is all one word.
You’ll hear some great interviews with Tom Murray, Kelly Tenkeley, Matt Miller, Katrina Abston, Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Jennifer Gonzales, Valerie Lewis, Dr. Monica Burns, Alex Corbitt, Eric Sheninger, and Bernard Bull. It’s just a superstar lineup. Thanks to all of you, all those folks that I named just now for being part of our first season of “Ed Tech Now,” and you’ll find all of those episodes on soundcloud.com/edtechnow.
I’m Lee Schneider, see you for season two.