Arundel High teacher creates new learning platform

By Tamoor Hamid is a website designed to help students understand terms through creating examples and non-examples. Students then identify examples and non-examples by clicking “is” or   “isn’t.” Currently, Xamplr’s database has around 700 psychology terms, with new terms added weekly.


The history of Xamplr

The creator behind Xamplr is Brad Wray. Mr. Wray is an AP Psychology and Computer Science teacher at Arundel High School. Before Xamplr, Mr. Wray had a psychology wiki that would help students better understand concepts through definitions and examples. The site worked well, but he ran into a problem: it was possible for people to write bad examples for psychology terms that could be in the site for weeks without being corrected.

He then had the idea that would become Xamplr. Xamplr started in spring 2016 after the AP exams of that year. Mr. Wray learned ReactJS, a version of JavaScript, and started to work on the site through the summer. Xamplr became functional for psychology student use last year, with changes coming regularly.

Photo via

During the 2017 AP exam season, there were a few schools using Xamplr consistently: Arundel High, Plymouth South High, Brown High, and Albemarle High. Now, Xamplr has spread to almost every state in the U.S.  and has more than 3,000 registered users.

This past fall,  Arundel High seniors Connor Markwell and Ian Carder joined Mr. Wray as programmers in an internship with him. Both have helped fix numerous  bugs and are adding features to the site.

The site also has content curators, including Arundel seniors Ashleigh Dziarnowski, Arrieanna Curtis, Hanna Mathews, and Katelyn Shibilski, who add examples or definitions to Xamplr. Arundel seniors Brendan Gillespy and Sarah Valerien intern as web developers for Xamplr.

In the last few months, the site has increased the traffic spread across the U.S., with much of the traffic originating from Pennsylvania.


How it all works

Xamplr is based on the idea of learning from creating examples and non-examples. Teachers make “todo” lists that feature specific words for students to create examples and non-examples for. After students have made a set amount of examples and non-examples, they are sent to a feed filled with examples and non-examples from other students.

The site does not tell the students if what they are seeing is an example or is not an example. It’s then the job of the students to go through the feed and click the “is” or “isn’t” button. Each student’s vote is recorded, and then all of the “is”  votes and the “isn’t” votes are put in lists that stay with the example. After 9 out of 10 people agree that something is or is not an example, the text is labeled as an example or a non-example.

There is also a competitive aspect to the site. A leaderboard on the website shows each student’s points. The points are not just based on how many examples or non-examples students write; Xamplr takes into account elements like the distribution of practice and accuracy in identifying examples. The board shows rankings nationwide, encouraging competition.


The internship

This year, Mr. Wray started an internship where students with sufficient experience in  programming and web development could help in Xamplr’s development. Two people who are part of the internship are Connor Markwell and Ian Carder.

Connor Markwell sees the internship as “casual” work where he can come in and solve the task of the day. Most of these tasks or “tickets” are focused on the inner workings of the site, things like increasing efficiency or figuring out ways to use less data.  Another task Connor has a part in includes cosmetic changes to the site. At the moment, Connor is in the process of creating a mobile app for students to use on the go.

This fall, he will be attending UMBC, where he plans to major in computer science. When asked about plans after college, Connor replied, “I wanna be where things are made.” He further explained how he would like to move to Silicon Valley to be a part of “some crazy internet company,” or stay in Maryland to become a contractor. His ultimate goal, however, is to program things people use and be part of something that’s useful to the world.

Ian Carder helps implement new features into the site. He is part of the team that programs things the average user probably won’t see. Ian said that he became a part of the internship by accident. He recalls how he was talking to Mr. Wray about a project he was working on using Gitlab,  an online repository for sharing code, then Mr. Wray added him to the repository for Xamplr. Ian then started to learn ReactJs and started working.

Ian first tried his hand at programming by trying to create “mods,” or modifications, for the games he played. He then chose to go to CAT-North to learn some more serious programming. But where Ian truly learned and gained interest in coding was through Honors Java, a class taught by Mr. Wray. From there, Ian started pursuing programming side projects to practice how to program and to teach himself JavaScript. Like Connor, Ian is majoring in computer science. After college, he plans to work in either game design or software development.

The internship will soon be open up to the rest of Arundel High so that students can fill out and submit an application if they want to be a part of the team. The vast majority, however, will be content creators helping to expand the number of examples on the site.


The future of Xamplr

There are many changes planned for Xamplr in the future. One of these changes is stepping into other subjects that are filled with vocabulary terms, like English or SAT vocabulary preparation.  A notable change is the implementation of a machine learning algorithm. The algorithm would be able to learn from the verified examples and non-examples. This would allow the site to automate the verification process to be less reliant on users as the site grows.

Another addition would be competition between classes. At the moment, teachers assign work to be done and students do it. When class competition is added, students will fight with other classes by sending them “packets” of examples and non-examples. Then there would be a “tug of war” where students would be able to see who is doing better. Each student would influence the rope by correctly guessing if the text they are looking at is an example or a non-example.  

At the moment, Mr. Wray is paying for the costs of the site out of his own pocket. The major goal for the site is to monetize the site into a “freemium” model that would allow the site to be self-sufficient. Mr. Wray also plans to make Xamplr into a full company that can be pitched to investors and expand into a site looked at as a major tool of learning.

This article has been amended to include the names of the following Xamplr student interns: Arrieanna Curtis, Brendan Gillespy, Hanna Mathews, Sarah Valerien.