Deborah Tannen, a sociolinguist, said “the goal of debate is not to persuade a listener, but to demonstrate to a trained judge that one has beaten the arguments of one’s opponents.”
Every spring my middle school Speech and Debate students begin the debate portion of the course. Students participate in two debates over the six week time frame. In the second debate students select their own debate groups – both debate partners and debate opponents. Then, determine as a group the debate topic from a list of topics created by their teacher. Students then have one week to prepare for the debate not knowing which side they will be debating until the day of the debate. At which point, the teacher determines what side of the debate the teams will present.
Students have a week to prepare an Evidence File containing facts and support material on the topic. Debate teams collaborate creating the Evidence File using Google Docs. Debate teams are required to have at least forty items of evidence supporting the debate topic and distributed as follows: 20 pieces of evidence for the affirmative side of the argument and 20 pieces of evidence on negative side. Evidence includes examples, testimony, and statistics from experts on the topic.
The debate topics for this spring include controversial topics in technology education. Students select a topic from the list below:
- Are desktop computer outdated?
- Should students be allowed to use mobile devices in class?
- Should there be a filter on the internet in school?
- Are textbooks obsolete?
- Should teachers friend students on Facebook?
- Should schools provide technology devices (i.e. tablets or laptops) for all students?
- Should Facebook have a strict 18 years and older age restriction?
- Are computer labs outdated and still necessary in schools?
These topics are discussed among professionals in the Educational Technology field in professional journals and online. At the same time, our students can weigh in on the topics as it relates to their own academic and personal lives. As schools carve out Internet Accessibility Policies and filter the internet, students continue to use technology outside of school for communication and creating. Schools must integrate technology more effectively to help students learn best and promote digital citizenship.