“Prepd Generation 3 is a complete rebuild of our technology,” Prepd founder, Ian Panchèvre, explains. “We’ve completely reimagined what debate software should be.”
Since graduating from Yale last spring, Panchèvre has visited dozens of schools to see how students and teachers were using Prepd in a live classroom environment, embarking on what he describes as “a customer empathy journey.”
“Instead of thinking about Prepd as a former debater, building what I would have wanted to use, I wanted to understand and channel the needs of the community directly into our product.”
Ultimately, he and his team arrived at a number of key insights that informed their thinking. In true Extemp fashion, Panchèvre lists three points:
First, debate team’s need a single, unified application for managing all of their research files, beyond the news articles needed for Extemp.
Second, debate is an educational activity; its technology should facilitate the learning processes of debaters.
Third, core features – like PDF file management and mobile accessibility – were either lacking or needed improvement.
These insights led Prepd to develop an ambitious new vision for what powerful debate software should be. Part of that vision is to transform Prepd into a platform that seamlessly shares research across all of its apps.
The base of this platform is a new application called the Library, which stores all of a debate team’s research irrespective of the specific event that research may be intended for. In turn, Extemp and Congress have become “apps” that “run on top of” the Library – they pull from the Library’s evidence base and reorganize files in a way that’s useful for their specific debate event.
But the Library is more than a unified research hub. “It’s also an educational technology that helps students learn more while they read,” Panchèvre notes.
Panchèvre points to a number of educational tools embedded within the Library that help students learn. There’s a Memory Bank, a feature that allows students to tag and review important content from their reading material. There’s also a Vocabulary List feature, so students can learn unfamiliar words sourced from their reading. Finally, there’s the “Mark as Read” feature, which helps students and teachers track reading activity.
“Generation 3 will make debaters better at debate,” Panchèvre declares. “Prepd makes debaters more efficient while researching, practicing, and competing. But Prepd also empowers debaters to learn more from their research and take their knowledge into their rounds.”
Panchèvre highlights a specific example. Since Generation 3 is “mobile responsive” – if you access Prepd on a smartphone it will look and feel like a mobile app – students can access the Library’s features while on the go.
“Imagine Extemp draw is in ten minutes. You know the upcoming topic area is Asia. So you’re on your phone reviewing all your Memory Bank flashcards that have the Asia tag. By the time draw starts, you have so much top-of-mind knowledge about the topic area. Thirty minutes later, you’ll be giving an excellent speech.”
Beyond the Library, both Extemp and Congress have been rebuilt. The two apps adopt Generation 3’s new aesthetic pattern. The new versions have also incorporated student feedback to improve overall usability.
For Extemp, the big new features are an advanced search tool and a streamlined interface for creating, editing, merging, and deleting folders and sub-folders.
For Congress, the major upgrade is an evidence management system. Research files and evidence tags can be saved to specific bills so that congressional debaters have all their evidence organized and accessible in a round.
The Prepd team has been actively working on Generation 3 for the past eight months. A dozen schools have accessed an alpha version of the technology and have provided early feedback. Prepd teams competing at NSDA Nationals were recently invited to try a beta version.
Prepd Generation 3 will be available for all Prepd teams in early August.