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A Question of Laptops In Kansas

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Heading into my third year of Kansas debate I have come to terms with certain aspects of our community. But something that, especially recently, has utterly befuddled me is the debate over laptop usage. At camp I have been introduced to Synergy, an amazing piece of debate software that handles everything from cutting to speeches, no middle-man printers. I have read all over, Cross-X in particular, and have seen plenty of arguments for laptops in round, but very few against.

 

Essentially, could anyone give me their points on why we, as debaters focused on efficiency and organization, shouldn't use a machine that was made with those two ideas in mind?

 

I realize that paper is one of the "last bastions of hope" for the conservative debate community, and that those few people within that mindset control the style of debate in Kansas, but in my opinion they should have to defend paper, not just brush laptops off as another ridiculous fad from the coasts.

 

Thanks

Edited by WKenney
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I think the major problem with implementation is that KS practices lay-style debate more than states where laptops are the norm.

 

Imagine walking into a round with your laptops and a viewing laptop and having to explain, in front of a very judgmental, annoyed parent that you will be talking exclusively off of a laptop and that the only way the other team can read your evidence is using a laptop that they aren't familiar with. Add that to the fact that reading off a laptop makes eye contact very difficult (if only slightly more so than paper), and that smaller schools would be at an even larger disadvantage than usual because they would be unable to compete on ANOTHER level with schools such as SME and WEast.

 

While I very much support laptops in VARSITY rounds, allowing them in ALL rounds poses a problem because even larger schools can't ensure a varsity-style tournament every weekend, meaning they will have to do lay debate occasionally. That means printing evidence anyways, which moots the point of having a laptop in the first place. We all know that teams WOULD use them in JV/open rounds if they could, so it poses a problem.

 

Add to that the cost and possibility of one breaking (and thus losing work and if it's in the middle of a tournament, rounds) and KS has more problems than many other states when it comes to implementing laptops.

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I think the major problem with implementation is that KS practices lay-style debate more than states where laptops are the norm.

Seems to me that this would affect the type of argument read, not the way in which the argument is presented. You can still speak slowly and persuasively off a laptop - perhaps even more so than paper because you can tilt the screen back and increase font size to make your text easier to read without staring at the screen the whole time.

 

Imagine walking into a round with your laptops and a viewing laptop and having to explain, in front of a very judgmental, annoyed parent that you will be talking exclusively off of a laptop

I doubt that person would have called for evidence in the first place, so is this an issue?

 

and that the only way the other team can read your evidence is using a laptop that they aren't familiar with.

"Move the mouse over to the little scroll-bar on the side, scroll down to scroll down, scroll up to scroll up. My speech is on the document titles "2NC", which is the 2NC, in case you couldn't tell."

 

Add that to the fact that reading off a laptop makes eye contact very difficult (if only slightly more so than paper),

Only the opposite of this can be true: you can increase the size of your font which makes it much easier to give a speech while looking down occasionally to reference notes. This obviously cannot be true for cards (which would be exactly as hard to read with eye contact as paper), but can make a substantial difference in a slow, persuasive speech. Either way, this argument is nonsense to me - eye contact? Really? Laptops, a revolutionary tool in debate which makes file organization and retention magnitudes easier, should be blocked for eye contact? "Not buyin' it"

 

 

and that smaller schools would be at an even larger disadvantage than usual because they would be unable to compete on ANOTHER level with schools such as SME and WEast.

Only the opposite can be true - paperless is substantially cheaper than paper. Assuming both kids on a team already have a laptop - a fairly safe assumption - the 1 time fee of a 3rd (viewing) laptop is much less than the annual costs of printing paper, ink, highlighters, airline baggage fees, etc.

 

While I very much support laptops in VARSITY rounds, allowing them in ALL rounds poses a problem because even larger schools can't ensure a varsity-style tournament every weekend, meaning they will have to do lay debate occasionally. That means printing evidence anyways, which moots the point of having a laptop in the first place. We all know that teams WOULD use them in JV/open rounds if they could, so it poses a problem.

Even if sometimes though even if can't because of JV, then what if can because if open. Kansas because if what does not even going to. Printing comes close not even if because when inevitable even if not.

 

Add to that the cost and possibility of one breaking (and thus losing work and if it's in the middle of a tournament, rounds) and KS has more problems than many other states when it comes to implementing laptops.

This is, of course, due to the unnaturally high levels of gravity in Kansas, making laptop dropping 12.4% more common than the rest of the United States.

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I can understand the judgmental alienation that parents get when they see really cocky high schoolers walking in flashing their laptops, but when the rest of the country is saving money, time, and becoming better overall, I think its time to change.

 

I do think that Varsity first would be an amazing way to phase them in, even if its only at four or five tournaments that offer such a division. Eventually, I think that coaches would come to terms with them.

 

In terms of smaller v. larger schools being able to compete, laptops are a single purchase of a couple hundred dollars. Say you have a max of five to six teams that actually want to use them its nothing compared to three things: 10k dollar copier, toner costs, paper costs. And those don't go away. Also keep in mind that a lot of High-schoolers have personal laptops they can use. For example I borrow my parents laptops for camp, I might eventually get ahold of one but for now a car is my priority.

 

Finally, laptop hazards are on par with dropping an expando mid-round and all of your evidence mixing in a slap chop. Repair costs can be covered by team sponsored insurance, I think there are discounts for schools/students in that regard.

 

Overall you are right, its the fact that traditional coaches just don't want to progress so they continue to recruit great-grandparents as judges in varsity to preempt it.

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This discussion is already getting very off track. The issue has not been one of style, it has been of equity.

 

As prices have come down from a couple thousand to a couple hundred, that issue may have been resolved (netbooks and iPads). Howver, understand the financial situation is that of the students, not the squad. Paper is purchased by the squad resources where laptops are paid for my individual students. I can tell you several of my varsity debaters have laptops, but not all, so even if they go to a tournament that allows them, they don't have one to use in the 1st place.

 

In Kansas, if the host tournament wants to allow laptop use, then they are allowed. It doesn't need a rule change, simply a request to coaches to allow laptop use. Coachs put their ruling in their invites.

 

Any discussion of "old school" versus "progressive" coachs makes a non-partisan issue a polarized issue, and I guarentee will be self defeating. I think you'll find coachs who do allow laptops can still be very "old school" and vice versa. It is about what they think is best for their students competitively based on their students resources.

 

Last year UMKC reported that they went paperless. I'm interested to hear if they did indeed find it to be a cost savings.

 

Also, it has been our experience that lay judges don't care if you read from paper or from a computer. There was some concern that reading from a laptop may give some unfair preception that those students are better or more invested in debate which in theory could sway lay judges, but at least my squad has not found that to be the case. It really only comes down to an issue if the all the individual students can afford a personal laptop to make it equitable.

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Thank you for keeping us on target.

 

One idea is to simply shift or just allow a shift of school funds to help cover computer costs in lieu of paper. This, at first at least, would be on a team to team basis.

 

Also, State is paper only. KSHSAA mandates it. Therefore any teams who would be potentially interested in paperless would have to print everything they needed for a single tournament at the very end of the year.

 

Any discussion of "old school" versus "progressive" coachs makes a non-partisan issue a polarized issue, and I guarentee will be self defeating. I think you'll find coachs who do allow laptops can still be very "old school" and vice versa. It is about what they think is best for their students competitively based on their students resources.

 

^ fully agree. I like to think that if we found some middle ground between an inclusion of paperless and what we call a "traditionalist" take on how Kansas debate should be, eventually those coaches who dislike paperless (whether for "old school" reasons or otherwise) will see it in practice for themselves. I think that they would see that it would be an asset to the Kansas circuit.

 

Look at Washington. They successfully included paperless state-wide by limiting what teams could use their laptops for at first to flowing and speech writing. From what I've heard it has been extremely successful and now laptops are a major part of their circuit.

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My old School KSU (so is the rumor), and my new school Wisconsin Oshkosh, are going paperless, and it is because it saves money. It saves money because both of those squads are going to travel on a plane much more often than in Kansas. The way paperless saves money is when you don't have to pay airline fees. Sure, Kansas HS are going to maybe have to take a plane to nationals, but in all reality I'm not sure the circuit in KS really necessitates going paperless.

 

With that said, I'm not sure that paperless is inherently bad in of for KS, but I'm not sure it should be anything more than preference.

 

Thats my opinion anyway.

 

Daniel R Stout

Asst Director of Debate, UW-Oshkosh

(Formerly KSU and Manhattan High)

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The debate seems different for Kansas than it would be for other states. A lot of Kansas teams have over 100 students competing many at a novice level. For those students learning how to use debate synergy is difficult. Add the cost of laptops for potentially 50 students because a lot of novices are competing on a weekend and there is a problem. If you want to do a hybrid have the varsity go paperless have younger teams keep paper, you still have to print off a ton of evidence for a novice team to have an aff with some 2AC blocks and something to say on the negative.

 

It seems like going paperless would be more expensive for a lot of schools that spend relatively little on printing (there is already a copier at a lot of schools for general teacher use) than the cost of several laptops.

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caveat: i didn't read this thread at all past the first post, might be missing the point or repeating things, and i don't particularly care a whole lot about doing those things.

 

--

 

everything that can be said about debate synergy's ability to make your life as a debater easier comes with inherent tension on the competitive equity front. discussion of a micro scale [ie, can i use my laptop in rounds] is fundamentally distinct from discussion on a macro scale [ie, how should debate programs in kansas work]. without attaching myself to either side, although you all know where i stand on this i'm sure, the macro change will have to come first if equity is to be upheld.

 

let's assume there are debaters in kansas complaining that the way kansas debate artificially holds back their ability to work with certain forms of debate technology, impacting the way they can participate in the game the way it's played on a national level. this artificially imposed institutional barrier prevents them from being fully integrated with the greater "progress" or "change" that these technologies bring that make the game easier to play. the implicit argument here is that to succeed at this new game, it helps to have this technology; not having this technology hurts competitive equity.

 

well, for every debater that fits the above description, there are multiple debaters in kansas that have non-artificial boundaries to their ability to integrate such technology into the way they play the game. something other than KSHSAA rules prevents them from using laptops. funds, organizational inertia at the school level--things that are out of the control of the debaters in a given program.

 

kansas debate rules do not, and should not, prioritize the interests of those without non-artificial boundaries at the expense of those with non-artificial boundaries. that's what the artificial boundaries are there for. kansas debate is a community oriented toward its own benefit as one individual community. for kansas debate, the poorest program is as important as (and some could argue it's *more* important than) the richest [i'm generalizing advantaged programs from disadvantaged ones to reveal the underlying theory at hand here].

 

therefore, if we are to agree with the assertion that this technological advantage impacts the ability of teams to succeed--an implicit argument in the majority of laptop advocates' pleas (at least until they leave high school)--that is precisely the reason that it should not be adopted, at least until there is some way for the community to insulate those who cannot use the technology against those who can.

 

there are several ways for the advantaged group of debaters to work around the inability to practice the integration of technology into a debate round that operate external from the community of kansas debate: camps, practice rounds, national warm-up tournaments if you qualify to nationals...

 

however, in a world where laptop use was permitted for the sake of improving competition while some programs did not have the ability to adopt the technology, there is nowhere else for those programs to turn. the organization with which they are affiliated, KSHSAA, therefore imposes artificial boundaries on competition. your status quo is thus justifiable IF we assume that your argument that computers are game-changing, integral parts of debate is correct...then they should be prevented in the interest of the debaters that can't enjoy similar advantages.

 

an easy counter-argument here, i suppose, would be to argue that advantages and disadvantages are integral parts of the game (no pun intended obviously); some teams get a ton of coaches and resources in terms of evidence; blah blah blah. the reason this is a terrible response is that there's a fundamental difference between having cards or having coaching teaching you how to act in rounds and having a resource that impacts the efficiency of an individual debater while he is in the practice of debating. sure, you can argue that filing systems perform the same function; but this is fundamentally different from a filing system with expandos precisely because of the expansive integration options for the rest of what you do in a round that comes with this "filing system"

 

this, of course, means that the best argument for computers in kansas debate is actually the opposite, in my opinion: computers DON'T affect the ability to perform well in a debate, but DO save organizations money. whether this is true or not, the logic is in keeping with a framework of competitive equity.

 

and this is where i'll let my personal opinion enter the equation officially, because everything i've posted to this point could ostensibly have been considered devil's advocacy combined with exploring the ramifications of the underlying theme of the first post in this thread: do i think allowing computers in debate avoids affecting the ability of a debater to perform well in a debate and thus maintains the framework of competitive equity?

 

nope.

 

and while i'm willing to go on record as believing that, i'm equally willing to concede that the part where computer use in rounds bestows advantages is a debatable point. i might be wrong there. but i know at the point you concede they bestow advantages, you're shattering competitive equity within the macro system. game over, they don't belong.

Edited by SEVVDOG

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also i probably won't respond when a bunch of angry high schoolers with entitlement issues respond to my post as if i'm a kshsaa agent or, worse, a really old guy. i'll read responses, but if i think your response is stupid, i'll probably just ignore it instead of doing my typical "you're an effing idiot" thing. i may not be old but i would like to think i'm getting a little too old for *that* shit

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It is totally unfair for someone to debate with a laptop against a team without a laptop. Word on the street is that synergy writes your speeches for you making it IMPOSSIBLE for the other team to win. It's like those seniors that debate in the second season, totally reprehensible. It kills competitive equity and clash and small children. I just can't imagine a world where we could ever let this happen.

 

FYI: I actually really dislike debating with synergy.

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okay, you're special: you're an effing idiot.

 

if you're going to satirize, at least do it intelligently. you're misrepresenting my point, which was that an argument based on the grounds of reaching competitive equity with the national debate circuit necessarily cuts against reaching competitive equity with the kansas community. i will grant that your post does a pretty good job of dismissing the latent fear i have of empowering all of those who do not have non-artificial boundaries at the expense of those with non-artificial boundaries; i will now amend my fear to encompass only those [a] without non-artificial boundaries to laptop use, and with a passable grasp of basic logic

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okay, you're special: you're an effing idiot.

 

if you're going to satirize, at least do it intelligently. you're misrepresenting my point, which was that an argument based on the grounds of reaching competitive equity with the national debate circuit necessarily cuts against reaching competitive equity with the kansas community. i will grant that your post does a pretty good job of dismissing the latent fear i have of empowering all of those who do not have non-artificial boundaries at the expense of those with non-artificial boundaries; i will now amend my fear to encompass only those [a] without non-artificial boundaries to laptop use, and with a passable grasp of basic logic

 

Lol dude, i wasn't responding to your post. I'm just making fun of certain prevalent arguments. Chill man, I'm not advocating paperless debate. I use mine to type overviews which i think is useful, but I don't like paperless debate. I still advocate killing as many trees as possible don't worry.

 

To be fair, runner up at CEDA, Whitman, is a paperless team.

 

I really think we need to stop having these ridiculous debates.

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What disadvantages would there be to allowing varsity teams use laptops for speech writing and flowing to begin with? Obviously, larger schools wouldn't be able to give laptops to every novice/JV team, so that's out of the question, but no school in KS really fields more than a dozen or so varsity team, and I can guarantee that 90% of those students have laptops of their own.

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Perhaps we need to devise a speech event that teaches high school students how to mount an effective challenge to institutional authority.

 

It's a very important skill in a democratic polity. And policy debate doesn't seem to be providing the requisite training.

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Are laptops allowed at the CFL and NFL qualifiers? Aren't they allowed at CFL and NFL nationals?

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mdawgig, I believe you are seriously overestimating the number of students who have laptops. When we have gone to tournaments, both within and outside of Kansas, that allow laptop usage, only about 1/4th of our students have had personnal laptops to use. And of that group, only about 50% prefer laptop use to paper. And none of them were a complete team, so that means they had the tubs of evidence anyway. It really just isn't that prevelent... yet.

 

As far as the argument of schools allowing to borrow laptops for competition, that seems unlikely. Schools are very conscience of laptop resources and any damaged, lost, or stolen laptops would then be a major issue.

 

As long as the invite says they are allowed, the CFL and NFL qualifiers allow laptops, as well as both national tournaments. I know Chief at KCKCC allows them, and I believe some invitationals have started the tradition of allowing them.

 

STADB9, they used to have an event that taught persuasive speaking on matters of policy, which definately would help students mount effective challenges to institutional authority. I did it back in the early/mid ninties. I do wish they still had that event.

 

Interestingly enough, if the students were effective in challenging the institutional authority, what do you think policy debate would start looking like? If kids in effect set the rules, what would be the natural progression of the event? Hmm....

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Perhaps we need to devise a speech event that teaches high school students how to mount an effective challenge to institutional authority.

 

It's a very important skill in a democratic polity. And policy debate doesn't seem to be providing the requisite training.

It seems that you coaches get a little too worked up sometimes. At the end of the day arguing with high school kids about how they should be educated will get you nowhere. Coaches have been taught to teach through a higher form of education and have been given a better vantage point through the trials and tribulations of age. It's like your mom actually explaining out to you why something is better for you.

 

No, don't just accept it, but everyone argues these supposed rule changes as though their very precious liberties have been stripped from them. Volen and Mr. DuBois are right...DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Put your skills to the test. Research WHY these rules exist. Learn about equal education. Learn about the realities of the income levels of the tens of thousands of children in the activity and learn about the even slimmer budgets that schools and more specifically debate programs are working with. When a kid from the boonies gets on here and advocates that their debate program should start using laptops then I'll turn my head. Not when some privileged city-kids continue to cry about how they can't bring their thousand dollar equipment to tournaments like the big kids do.

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No, don't just accept it, but everyone argues these supposed rule changes as though their very precious liberties have been stripped from them. Volen and Mr. DuBois are right...DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Put your skills to the test. Research WHY these rules exist. Learn about equal education. Learn about the realities of the income levels of the tens of thousands of children in the activity and learn about the even slimmer budgets that schools and more specifically debate programs are working with. When a kid from the boonies gets on here and advocates that their debate program should start using laptops then I'll turn my head. Not when some privileged city-kids continue to cry about how they can't bring their thousand dollar equipment to tournaments like the big kids do.

 

Where should I look?

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I'd start by going to your school district office or your high school office. Either place they are going to be able to direct you to where you need to go. And at least give you information about YOUR specific schools situation. I doubt alot of that stuff is going to be online, although some of it might be.

 

You might want to contact KSHAA and see if they have any information.

 

You should also snoop around here

http://www.ksde.org/

 

they will have people to talk to and find information for you (maybe)

 

The key is that if you are going to research this, you need to act like someone writing an article and not someone who is cutting a debate file (where you just read articles). You are going to have to really do all the leg work to put the information together. That means you are going to be talking to a lot of people and having lots of interviews and not rely upon articles already written.

 

One last tip, is make sure that you take great notes and cite your information well when you present your findings.

 

It can be done, me and a whole lot of people did alot of this type of research in order to debunk all the reasons for our High School to have an indian mascot. Even though the vote didn't come out correctly by any objective standard. Alot of good information was presented and arguments debunked.

 

That should give you a starting point. And this is exactly what all the framework authors are hoping that we become, not card cutting machines.

 

Daniel R Stout

Asst Director of Debate, UW-Oshkosh

(Formerly KSU and Manhattan High)

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I'd start by going to your school district office or your high school office. Either place they are going to be able to direct you to where you need to go. And at least give you information about YOUR specific schools situation. I doubt alot of that stuff is going to be online, although some of it might be.

 

You might want to contact KSHAA and see if they have any information.

 

You should also snoop around here

http://www.ksde.org/

 

they will have people to talk to and find information for you (maybe)

 

The key is that if you are going to research this, you need to act like someone writing an article and not someone who is cutting a debate file (where you just read articles). You are going to have to really do all the leg work to put the information together. That means you are going to be talking to a lot of people and having lots of interviews and not rely upon articles already written.

 

One last tip, is make sure that you take great notes and cite your information well when you present your findings.

 

It can be done, me and a whole lot of people did alot of this type of research in order to debunk all the reasons for our High School to have an indian mascot. Even though the vote didn't come out correctly by any objective standard. Alot of good information was presented and arguments debunked.

 

That should give you a starting point. And this is exactly what all the framework authors are hoping that we become, not card cutting machines.

 

Daniel R Stout

Asst Director of Debate, UW-Oshkosh

(Formerly KSU and Manhattan High)

 

Aww man, but that's like, work or something, can't we just complain about it on here and hope something happens???

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