Tech company’s tool tracks online learning; it’s also fun for kids

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A tech startup is helping students, teachers and parents track online learning thanks to a free extension to the Google Chrome Browser.

It’s called StackUp and some of the students who are using it say it’s already changed the way they approach summer reading.

"It's really fun," said Kailen Bryant, who is using StackUp as part of his Scholars Unlimited summer program in Denver. "You know how much progress you've gotten and how well you're doing. How much better you're doing at reading."

StackUp is a free plug-in that anyone can download to track their own productivity or prove the amount of research they’ve put in to a given topic.

The program works by categorizing websites into 60 categories and then tracking your engagement. Though it’s widely available, the company is working closely with schools because StackUp can be used to create learning challenges and track progress and reading among students.

"It quickly learns that I am learning about aerospace,” said Mia Balderas, another Scholars Unlimited student. “But if I'm on something else, like math, it counts as mathematics."

It's also easy for teachers and students to see how they stack up with each other. It tracks the amount of time they're engaged overall and with various categories.

"Ten hours and 24 minutes (total)," said Pharoah Johnson, who ranks at the top of his class.

If you think students can easily cheat the program, think again.

"What's really cool is our system is smart, so it knows whether a student is just opening a web page or if they are really engaged in that online content," StackUp CEO Nick Garvin said.

Teachers can also use that information to know how students are using their reading time.

"I can see exactly who is working and who isn't," said Jacqueline Gonring, a teacher for Scholars Unlimited.

Though it’s a helpful tool for teachers, Gonring said she has been most impressed by how students respond to it.

"When we first started using it (the students) weren't even asking to go to the restroom,” she said. “I was like, 'Wow. We're not taking a break here.' They seem to love it."

"You know how much progress you've gotten and how well you're doing. How much better you're doing at reading," student Kailen Bryant said.

"It's really rewarding because then you know you're learning more of this subject and you can do better in actual school," Balderas said.

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