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The Fence and the Post – Why Edtech Should Go Deep, Not Wide.

The problem with edtech.

Two thirds of edtech licenses go unused. Too often, edtech solutions promise wholesale reinvention of the entire teaching and learning experience. This sounds great in theory, but the reality is that most teachers have tried and true methods and lesson plans. Asking them to replace how they plan to cover their course material and curriculum day-in and day-out is a tall order.

How to deepen learning.

At Parlay, we opted to help teachers go deep rather than go wide. That’s why we built a discussion-based learning tool that focuses on deep learning, skill development, and is supported by world-class pedagogy. It is the best way to optimize the use of technology in the classroom without asking teachers to change how they teach their courses.

We like metaphors. One of our earliest and most dedicated teachers (now a Curriculum Director) gave us a good one. He said that Parlay is like the post in the fence – it cements the learning by enabling students to dive deep into the material in a structured and inclusive way. Whereas the rest of his day-to-day instruction is like the fence itself. Parlay enables him to maintain flexibility in his day-to-day, whilst still integrating technology to increase learning outcomes and teach the skills of the future.

edtech - The Fence and the Post Problem

The photo above demonstrates how a teacher might initially implement Parlay into their daily instruction. Ultimately, our hope would be for teachers to arrive at a place where they can slowly reverse this ratio between instruction and deep exploration – 20% content and 80% deep exploration. Of course, content curriculum requirements often do not allow for this, but the winds are changing!

So, why choose Parlay?

  1. Choosing Parlay allows for incremental but more substantive change to instructional practice. Parlay doesn’t require wholesale transformation of day-to-day teaching and learning, but still supports meaningful technology integration and rigorous pedagogy at specific points when teachers want to go deeper.
  2. Choosing Parlay helps teachers retain flexibility. First, there is a lot of flexibility in how teachers use Parlay (inside the classroom, outside the classroom, verbal, written, etc.). Second, teachers have full flexibility to choose the tools and techniques they want in majority of their classroom instruction.
  3. Choosing Parlay means putting pedagogy first. Parlay’s unique focus on student-driven discussion means it has been designed to put communication, critical thinking, and collaboration skills at the forefront of the learning experience – and not as an add-on to a class primarily focused on content and knowledge acquisition.
  4. Choosing Parlay means creating more inclusive discussions. In a typical class discussion about 40% of students will actively and willingly contribute ideas, and the teacher leads. In a Parlay discussion the students lead and participation rates average about 85% (see study). Our data since this study was complete suggest even better results as the app has improved.
  5. Choosing Parlay means supporting teachers beyond providing them with the technology. Parlay’s Launch Year includes on-site professional development, modelling the experience by running a class for teachers and students to experience the tool first hand, and custom, curriculum-aligned discussion prompts created for teachers in as little as 48 hours.
  6. Choosing Parlay means providing teachers with actionable data about individual and class-wide engagement in high-impact activities. It provides the opportunity for teachers/students to learn to analyze and reflect on data as they teach/learn skills that they will need in college, their careers, and life beyond.

If you’re exploring educational technology solutions for your school or district, we’d be more than happy to help get some teachers up and running so they can experience Parlay first hand.


The Parlay Team