By Augie Walters ’21
Everyone who has been a part of Mr. John Damaso’s ’97 AP English Language class in the past few years has used Membean to help improve vocabulary in their everyday lives.
Now, at the same time, Mr. Damaso is implementing a new website into class discussions called Parlay which cultivates participation in class discussion to help stimulate the learning of all.
He has been able to create strong relationships with the creators of both websites to further help the capacity and ability he can use with them.
“It is really simple to create these relationships and there are two ways to do it,” Mr. Damaso said in regards to how those relationships started.
“One of the ways is by direct contact via the reply area of each website and the second way is through Twitter and letting the [websites] know I am using their product and asking questions regarding the site,” he said.
Also, now that reaching out is so easy due to internet access, reaching out to these key people to ask for changes is an efficient and effective way to stimulate learning,
“Ten years ago, I used to send a message to a representative of a textbook and have to wait five years until I might see a change in the next edition of the book. Now the process is much more efficient and effective, and I want to take advantage of that to help with the students’ learning” Mr. Damaso said.
Furthermore, Mr. Damaso talks about his relationships with these websites being a two way street.
“These educational technology startups tend to be run by anything from two to ten people and they are hungry for customer feedback so they can continue to sell their product,” Mr. Damaso said. “The relationships, yes I love them, but the companies also love them just as much as I do.”
Nick Hahne ’22, a junior who is currently in Mr. Damaso’s class, thoroughly enjoyed his first use of Parlay for his class discussion.
“Parlay has allowed the more introverted student in our class to share their thoughts and ideas about a particular topic. It diversified class participation,” Hahne said.
Mr. Damaso feels that using Parlay helps with removing the teacher from discussions in class.
“The thing [Parlay] does best is removing the teacher from the discussion, as they pride themselves in being a student-led discussion,” Mr. Damaso said.
“Most English classes have discussions with a sage-on-the-stage approach, but Parlay allows the students to engage with each other and I can sit back and take notes about what is being discussed,” he said.
Brophy senior Charlie Fallon ’21 took Mr. Damaso’s AP English Language class last year and was very interested in the new version of Membean he had access to.
“I felt more invested in my Membean performance because the cleaner, more intuitive interface made it easier for me to view my progress,” Fallon said.
However, Fallon’s favorite part of the updated page was the accuracy percentage with comments.
“I enjoyed being able to see my accuracy along with comments about the quality of my training, as well as being able to compare my sessions side-by-side easily,” Fallon said.
Hahne added that being able to connect his in-class novels to the website has helped him greatly.
“I do like the new feature where you can add vocabulary from a particular book that you are reading in class into a learning session. So, when you come across that word in the book, you will already know the meaning,” he said.
Mr. Damaso added that this feature is something Membean was testing on his class and is extremely beneficial for tying the reading in class to the website.
“Students can go into the book we are reading and find the context that the words occurred in that novel. Reading texts and studying Membean are not separate things, the writers use the words because they are really useful words,” Mr. Damaso said.
Furthermore, Fallon enjoyed his Parlay discussions in class last year, especially the ones concerning “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.
“I specifically remember the Parlay discussion about the end of the novel and our different viewpoints on it,” Fallon said. “I felt like it was one of our most memorable and engaging debates we had as a class.”
Damaso is extremely grateful for both Membean and Parlay and their willingness to create relationships with him.
“Being able to connect with the CEO of a website to help student learning is something that I cannot thank them enough for helping with,” Mr. Damaso said.