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tpeters

Computers in CX Debate

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Last weekend, the National Council met and discussed a variety of issues, among them being the use of laptops in policy debate. Scott Wunn just sent out a notice to all District Directors regarding their decisions:

 

2. The Council has extended the Pilot Program to permit the use of Laptop computers in Policy Debate at the National Tournament for an additional year. Once again, each individual District Committee will determine whether or not laptops will be allowed in Policy Debate at the District Tournaments.

 

This decision may not impact folks in other areas, but here we were waiting for this decision -- we had decided to follow with whatever NFL decided so kids could have time to experiment with computer use. At this point, several invitationals in our area will be allowing computers in CX only.

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Here in Oklahoma, our league rules still ban the use of computers in rounds (and will probably continue to do so after most of the country has gone the other way), which means all state-sanctioned divisions must ban their use.

 

But by 2nd semester most of the best teams are no longer debating in the state-qualifying division and will debate in the "Championship" division, which can allow computer use (at the discretion of the tournament administrator). So with the exception of our Regionals & State tournaments, most of our better teams will have the opportunity to use computers in rounds all 2nd semester.

 

And I think both of our District meets will again allow their use.

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The Washington state tournament still bans computer use, but invitationals can make their own decisions about what they want to do. In general, the touranments hosted by colleges have been allowing laptops for quite a while.

 

There was an effort made to change the state rules to explicitly allow them last Spring, but it was shot down. Interestingly enough, almost all of the coaches of schools with strong CX programs supported the change.

 

I opposed computers when I still saw it as a cost issue, but it just isn't anymore. Used and low end laptops that can do everything you need them to do in round are really cheap now.

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Virginia allows the use of computers in all debate rounds - CX, LD, Student Congress (we don't have Public Forum at the state level). However, connectivity to the internet during the round is forbidden. H.

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In Texas, both state organizations, the Texas Forensic Association and the University Interscholastic League, allow computer use in debate rounds. Like Virginia, internet access is forbidden via rules that disallow wireless devices to be turned on.

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In Texas, both state organizations, the Texas Forensic Association and the University Interscholastic League, allow computer use in debate rounds. Like Virginia, internet access is forbidden via rules that disallow wireless devices to be turned on.
But, as the previous poster indicated, there is an obvious enforcement problem, isn't there? If the judge doesn't care about internet access/is okay with it, what then?

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But, as the previous poster indicated, there is an obvious enforcement problem, isn't there? If the judge doesn't care about internet access/is okay with it, what then?

 

I have heard of no instances where internet access has been allowed by a rogue judge, and most understand that it is wrong. I think that the community is good about policing itself, and there have been several instances of students that have been caught surfing online during rounds.

 

I think what the U_spread might have possibly been referring to is that there has been resistance in more traditional Texas circuits to using computers at all. Unfortunately, some debate teams that use computers flow and read evidence off of the same computer. Though regulations state that a paper copy has to be available, I have judged rounds and my debaters have debated teams that read a card off of a computer and then refused to make that evidence available because they had to flow their next speech. This quite clearly puts a bad taste in the mouths of those that are predisposed towards disliking computers in rounds.

 

Ultimately, the worst thing about internet access probably doesn't happen, which would not be card cutting during a round, but would be coaching via AIM or some other chat service. No one has been caught engaging in that sort of behavior, and if or when they do, I expect they would quickly be booted from TFA and given the death penalty by UIL. This may be naive, but in those instances where I've actually been to tournaments at sites with wireless access, no clear pattern of one school or team doing better has ever emerged.

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I know this isn't really that relevant to high school debate, but I figured I'd relate a story from Kentucky (last weekend).

 

In the octos, Emory HW was debating Texas TW. Texas read an argument concerning grammar (basically HW's plan says "blah blah incentives if Iran agrees not to do X or Y", and Texas' argument was that it should say "blah blah incentives if Iran agrees not to do X nor Y"). Texas' evidence was essentially comparing Neither/Nor and not Not/Nor, but Emory had no evidence on this question. Texas went for this grammar argument for 12 minutes in the block (somehow) and T for 3 minutes.

 

During prep for the 1AR, Emory cut a piece of evidence making the distinction they had made in the 2AC. And they won the debate. The judges basically fell into two camps:

 

One judge said that debaters should be allowed to cut evidence during their prep time, because it was their prep time. There isn't much meaningful research that can be done in 10 minutes, and any time spent comes at significant opportunity cost. He equated this to a debater having left a book in a car and taking prep to run out to his/her car to get the book and read a card from it.

 

The other two judges were not as happy with the way the evidence was received. The crux of their argument seemed to be that if the other team didn't have access to laptops in the debate it would make it comparatively unfair.

 

All three judges agreed that debaters should NOT be allowed to communicate with anyone directly outside of the debate concerning the debate (i.e. no online chatting/messaging software, no email, no voice chat).

 

My feelings are probably closely associated with the first judge. I'm not particularly persuaded by the "other team doesn't have laptops" claim because there is always institutional disparity in the production of evidence (consider a team like Emory with 20+ active debaters, 5+ coaches, tons of backfiles, access to an excellent library and the GSU/UGA library system etc versus a team of 6 debaters and two coaches at a small liberal arts college with a limited library). Also, in the case of this debate, both teams had laptops. Also, the idea that someone could cut a round-winning card in a 10 minutes, with that 10 minutes directly trading off with speech prep is not something I think is really that likely.

 

**********************************************************

 

That said, I would think that producing evidence in the middle of a debate is probably the least important reason to use a laptop. I can think of two other justifications which probably outweigh the DA of producing evidence during a debate:

 

Reason One: Flowing

 

I know that I personally have benefitted greatly from being able to flow on my laptop. It helps me keep track of arguments better, and helps me write down arguments in a much more efficient manner. Not to mention it reduces the number of poor defenseless trees I need to kill every year! But really, there are a myriad of learning and physical disabilities which make laptop flowing much better. Of course, there is always the provision of allowing learning or physically disabled folks to use those devices with special permission, but that's just a link to the good-'ol otherization DA.

 

Flowing on a laptop doesn't inherently advantage non-disabled folks so much that it should be outlawed, in fact, it is probably more annoying for some people than not. But some people prefer to do it that way, and should be allowed to.

 

Reason Two: Get rid of tubs!

 

I remember when I was debating in High School that I had envisioned a world where teams took around tablet PC's and simply 'jumped' evidence to one another during a debate. This would be a time without tubs, massive copying costs, huge shipping costs etc. That dream is still a ways away from realization, though I look forward to our 'paperless' future.

 

That said, teams that have to travel and can't afford the cost of shipping tons of tubs are helped out a lot when they can just carry their evidence in a laptop and print it out as needed, or simply jump it to the other team. That helps them enormously in terms of budgetary needs. Though I can attest to the fact that it is absurdly annoying when you debate a team without paper-copied evidence.

 

In the end, I would suggest folks at least make limited provisions to allow for laptop flowing in debates. Even without evidence retrieval, it seems the benefits to laptop flowing far outweigh the consequences. I do like the idea of having wi-fi disabled in a school, or not giving out the wi-fi password, or forcing all wireless devices to be turned off.

 

Of course, in some places I expect those changes are far in the future. I remember in Colorado I tried to get my high school tournament to use tab software, and everyone balked at the suggestion because they couldn't trust the non-biased mathematically based tab system! Of course, when it was discovered that a particular coach was rigging judges in favor of her team while assigning them, I just had to chuckle.

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Arizona allows laptops, but bans Internet access in-round and requires that any evidence read off a laptop be available in hard copy form to the other team.

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Arizona allows laptops, but bans Internet access in-round and requires that any evidence read off a laptop be available in hard copy form to the other team.

 

that kinda sucks.

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I THINK you were kidding, but in case you weren't, no PA doesn't allow internet. At least not Valley Forge district.

 

The rules in PA (pretty much across all of PA's various leagues) state that they can be used provided there is no "connectivity".......meaning no internet or IMing......

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that kinda sucks.

 

I think that it defeats the purpose.....They should just say that laptops are just for flowing then.....

 

My approach with evidence on laptops is that if you read it on your laptop, then your opponent gets to see your laptop to look at the evidence.....if you are not comfortable with that then have a hard copy.

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I'm all for laptop use in rounds - cutting down on the amount of paper involved is always a good thing. They also save the trouble of keeping an enormous backfile around "just in case".

 

I don't recall a tournament in MA that has disallowed their use, but we got hit with "laptops in rounds bad" theory at Harvard by an Arizona team.

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As far as I know Florida allows laptops in policy debate only, as long as you (1) make the evidence you read off of your computer available to the other team and (2) dont access the internet.

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Actually Shawn, according to The Communicator, internet access is permitted in round:

 

There was a significant change legislated at the 2007 meeting of the PHSSL Executive Board that will allow our students to practice information fluency skills in a way that other forensics leagues are just beginning to explore.

 

• The Executive Board has removed the prohibition on electronic retrieval devices (e.g., laptop computers) in rounds of competition. The use of electronic retrieval devices will be permitted in all PHSSL events. This rule takes effect immediately. This ruling is not meant to imply that any student must use electronic devices, merely that it is now permitted.

 

This includes the retrieval -- in preparation rooms and during rounds -- of stored data and, if possible, the online retrieval of current information. This includes using digital resources to flow debates and to prepare speeches.

 

• There is NO GUARANTEE of power or of Internet connectivity – and there should be no expectation placed on host schools to provide either of these resources. Students wishing to use laptops or other digital devices will have to be responsible for providing these resources and for having an alternative plan if the digital devices fail.

 

• Most high schools do not provide unlimited access to guests on their networks. This imposes a special burden of fairness on students who are attending a tournament at their home school. If guests cannot use the network, fairness dictates that students who are attending tournaments at their home school refrain from accessing it as well.

 

• Digital communication between speakers and persons outside of the round of competition is still not permitted. Our intention here is similar to the rules under Cross-Exam Debate and under the Preparation Room Procedures for Extemporaneous Speaking and Commentary. Being able to collect and organize current data is an important skill in today’s digital environment. We believe that having the opportunity to use digital resources to make the best speeches and arguments possible will provide practice in a valuable skill that cannot be matched in any other academic situation.

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We have run into a couple of issues on the TFA circuit recently regarding computer usage, and I would appreciate anyone's input. When TFA did okay computers, one of the restrictions did mandate that "a paper copy had to be available upon request": now, it does not state upon request of whom, and some teams in outrounds of local tournaments have, upon noticing that a team using a laptop did not have a printer in the room, demanded a paper copy of something, refused to be happy with looking at the screen, and stoppped the round and demanded a DQ as a result. The rules, as written, do allow for this. As you might imagine, this is an issue that will come up even more often if it proves to be successful. Cant wait for this at UIL State. I do know that the DQ was not upheld in one case, but was in another, since a paper copy was not made available to a judge asking to look at evidence. However, as a tournament host, this could get sticky if a team demands paper copies of something and the opposing team simply says look at my laptop. It is a violation of the rules as currently written to not have paper copies available; as a host, do I allow time to go find a printer? Do I try and figure out if the evidence in question is really key in the judges' mind? What is the advantage of computer usage if a team must carry all arguments on paper as well?

 

Another factor is this: What if a team using laptops keeps their flows and theory blocks and all their analyticals on the laptop,but not evidence? Normally, my opponent has no right and would never ask to see my flow, which is what is, in essence on my laptop, but if he demands to look at it or receive a paper copy of it, must I comply? I think to a judge, it looks a little more suspicious if I refuse t let them look at my laptop, whereas normally they would not ask to see my flow or my non-evidenced arguments.

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We have run into a couple of issues on the TFA circuit recently regarding computer usage, and I would appreciate anyone's input. When TFA did okay computers, one of the restrictions did mandate that "a paper copy had to be available upon request": now, it does not state upon request of whom, and some teams in outrounds of local tournaments have, upon noticing that a team using a laptop did not have a printer in the room, demanded a paper copy of something, refused to be happy with looking at the screen, and stoppped the round and demanded a DQ as a result. The rules, as written, do allow for this. As you might imagine, this is an issue that will come up even more often if it proves to be successful. Cant wait for this at UIL State. I do know that the DQ was not upheld in one case, but was in another, since a paper copy was not made available to a judge asking to look at evidence. However, as a tournament host, this could get sticky if a team demands paper copies of something and the opposing team simply says look at my laptop. It is a violation of the rules as currently written to not have paper copies available; as a host, do I allow time to go find a printer? Do I try and figure out if the evidence in question is really key in the judges' mind? What is the advantage of computer usage if a team must carry all arguments on paper as well?

 

Another factor is this: What if a team using laptops keeps their flows and theory blocks and all their analyticals on the laptop,but not evidence? Normally, my opponent has no right and would never ask to see my flow, which is what is, in essence on my laptop, but if he demands to look at it or receive a paper copy of it, must I comply? I think to a judge, it looks a little more suspicious if I refuse t let them look at my laptop, whereas normally they would not ask to see my flow or my non-evidenced arguments.

 

The difference between the laptop rules for UIL and TFA is that UIL does NOT require a hard copy on demand. UIL rules simply state that a copy of the evidence read from a laptop must be provided, but it can be provided by either printing it out or allowing the demanding party to read it on the laptop. TFA, on the other hand, does indeed require the debater to produce a hard copy.

 

Funny --- UIL is more progressive than TFA.

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I think that it defeats the purpose.....They should just say that laptops are just for flowing then.....

 

My approach with evidence on laptops is that if you read it on your laptop, then your opponent gets to see your laptop to look at the evidence.....if you are not comfortable with that then have a hard copy.

 

Or assuming that both teams have laptops, being willing to jump the evidence over to the other team, which is one of the things I see a lot in college rounds.

 

 

I also see no problem with card cutting during the round assuming that both teams have equal access to laptops and (perhaps more importantly) equal access to the internet.

 

To answer Rob's resource inequality will exist no matter what I say (1) no reason to increase that problem and (2) those all exist outside of the round. Sure, prep allows for more evidence and everything, but everyone has equal abilities in the round.

 

Still, that is probably more of a HS concern than a college concern. Almost every college round has at least one partner with a laptop. The bigger problem is internet.

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Internet is a problem in debate, but not in the way that most people probably think. (This is from a high school perspective.)

 

The problem is that teams cut cards from the internet, from totally crackpot sources with names that sound legitimate. In the rapid fire of the round, opposing teams have no real way to invalidate these cards. IF they had access to the internet, they could find out that the cited author is self-published and has conversations with aliens. I'm not kidding -- this is a reaction to an actual card used by the best team in the state during an actual round last weekend. (I just posted on it elsewhere -- global warming will cause the earth's core to blow up -- because I'm in the throes of existential angst about the value of this activity.)

 

WITHOUT intenet access during rounds, teams have no way to check up on the validity of these internet-based sources. Laptops AND internet access should be allowed; otherwise, the whole activity threatens to descend into a battle of really bad soundbites.

 

Alternatively, we could, of course, call it "media debate" rather than "policy debate," and use it to train future marketing majors. . .

 

(End of season, grumpy, tired. It all might seem funny next week.)

(Mightn't it?)

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Internet is a problem in debate, but not in the way that most people probably think. (This is from a high school perspective.)

 

The problem is that teams cut cards from the internet, from totally crackpot sources with names that sound legitimate. In the rapid fire of the round, opposing teams have no real way to invalidate these cards. IF they had access to the internet, they could find out that the cited author is self-published and has conversations with aliens. I'm not kidding -- this is a reaction to an actual card used by the best team in the state during an actual round last weekend. (I just posted on it elsewhere -- global warming will cause the earth's core to blow up -- because I'm in the throes of existential angst about the value of this activity.)

 

WITHOUT intenet access during rounds, teams have no way to check up on the validity of these internet-based sources. Laptops AND internet access should be allowed; otherwise, the whole activity threatens to descend into a battle of really bad soundbites.

 

Alternatively, we could, of course, call it "media debate" rather than "policy debate," and use it to train future marketing majors. . .

 

(End of season, grumpy, tired. It all might seem funny next week.)

(Mightn't it?)

Most evidence produced today is cut from the Internet. What makes evidence cut during the round any less valid?

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He's suggesting cutting from the internet during rounds should be allowed, if I read it correctly. I agree. So long as reasonable checks are done to ensure no coaching is going on, internet access during rounds would be good. It would at least ensure that people running the weird, unreliable stuff get called on it. As is, they know they won't unless they've run it before this week. They know no one has anything specific on their "aliens from Venus save the world" CP, because no one has seen it yet.

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