[eDebate] Problems with Paperless

Aaron Hardy spoon_22
Sun Jun 28 00:14:25 CDT 2009

Just a couple comments re: Joe's well-placed concerns:

1)  Not giving what was actually read -- What you're describing is 
obviously totally unacceptable.  If you're describing a Whitman team 
from this past year, please backchannel me so I know who's head to 
crack.  If not, it's certainly the type of thing anyone should feel 
comfortable both chastising my debaters for openly and asking me to deal 
with (harshly) post-facto should it happen in the future.  Your 
suggestion for how this process should be done (jumping just the 
expected cards) is exactly how my teams have been instructed to do it -- 
apologies if they deviated from that at any point.

2)  Novices -- To be honest, Whitman does not have a large (read, 
existent) novice contingent, although some of our inexperienced high 
school debaters come pretty close -- so I admit that I can't speak very 
directly to these concerns.  But, from working with the least 
experienced parts of my team and with some high school novices learning 
paperless, I'd say my experience so far has run in the opposite 
direction.  Even just from teaching at high school debate camps, I think 
the jump in technological sophistication for the average 18 year old has 
skyrocketed in the past five years.  Certainly, the younger students on 
my team are on average much better at using a laptop and quickly 
digesting electronic info than most of my older students.

Obviously, that's not a fair comparison -- because you're saying that 
those novices still do net better with paper than a laptop.  That very 
well may be true -- but I still remain optimistic that it's an arena 
where they can pretty quickly adapt or be taught to use a system when 
just starting debate that they can be just as comfortable with as 
scissors and tape. Maybe printing some files for novices to use in 
drills and make notes on to help them internalize arguments helps bridge 
this gap?  I certainly agree that reading off a monitor for a long time 
can be tiring -- I frequently wish I could go back to doing exclusively 
book work.

3)  Access -- Even if debaters don't have a personal laptop, I still 
think the economics work out in favor of paperless.  If the university 
has to provide 3 laptops per team, it could feasibly cost in the 
ballpark of $750 to outfit a team.  Those laptops can pretty reasonably 
last 2-3 years, perhaps longer.  I think it's difficult to assume that 
you can travel a team with paper for less than $400 per year.  If 
keyboards differ or people aren't good at typing, it's just a skill they 
have to learn -- probably not that much different than learning how to 
keep 4 tubs filed and organized, and more likely to be a skill 18 year 
olds have a jump on...



joe leeson-schatz wrote:
> While I like the idea of paperless debating and cutting down on
> wasteful printing, there are at least two problems with it that have
> yet to be addressed by the conversation going on.
> The first is the debaters who chose to go paperless and their
> willingness to clearly show to the opposing team what they actually
> read. I have judged, and have had teams debate against others, who
> decided it was okay to jump someone a 300 page file of which they read
> 6 cards from, didn't mark which cards they read, and wouldn't take
> their own prep time to point out which of the cards they read either.
> This happened even after requesting that the cards read be clearly
> identified. This means that the team debating against the paperless
> team had to either give up cross-x to figure it out, use their own
> prep time, screw it and never look at the evidence, or has to be
> amazing at quickly searching through a full file. When people read off
> paper this is not the case. While there is a few cards that may be on
> the same page that isn't read, generally people "x" em while reading,
> or point it out quickly. I have not seen this same willingness on the
> part of the paperless teams I have witnessed. There should be an
> imperative that teams reading off a laptop copy-paste the cards they
> PLAN on reading into a separate doc file and then jump that to the
> other team and NOT the entire file of answers of which they plan to
> read less than 25%. If people skip a card because of time it's easy
> and quick to tell the other team. This, unfortunately, is not what
> I've witnessed thus far.
> The second problem is for novice debate. I have found that novices
> have a harder time organizing, reading, and actually working with
> their evidence when it's all electronic instead of on paper. We have
> all our backfiles electronically that debaters can access and use but
> require our novices at minimum to print those files they plan on
> using. Comparing the work and knowledge done with paper files vs.
> electronic files, novices do way more work on their paper files,
> marking them with notes, going over them, and preparing them.
> Electronically, I'm lucky to get stuff underlined. While this may be
> an issue of the work ethic of the debater, it is not so entirely. The
> ability to comprehend what's read off a monitor vs. paper drops
> significantly after about 20-30 minutes of work and the ability to
> correctly check over grammar and context drops as well. There are
> several studies that show how concentration drops significantly when
> work is done exclusively through a monitor. As someone who does 95+%
> of their work on the computer I'm normally not an advocate of the
> "reading off a monitor is tough" argument. However, I have seen a big
> difference in the internalization of arguments within my novices based
> upon whether they read the file on paper or on the computer. I have
> also caught incredibly grammatically incorrect sentences of mine in
> academic papers when proof reading on paper even after several
> computer-based revisions. None of this precludes debating off the
> computer. However, if everything went paperless it could hurt the
> development of novices who could better get into the activity with
> paper files to begin looking over.
> The third problem is still access. While there's talk of getting a
> third laptop or a printer for each team from the University it doesn't
> solve the problem of people with no personal computer, which would
> make it impossible to read off one and give one to another team. Even
> if they still decided to stay on paper when debating people who are
> not on paper they have to learn quickly on how to retrieve the needed
> information, which is magnified by the first problem I identify.
> People who use computers less are less apt to use them efficiently in
> a debate round. The frustration of going from one laptop keyboard to
> the next is enough for me since I'm sure when I want to hit the down
> arrow I'll end up hitting page down or some other key in a different
> place. I can fix that mistake. Most people can. But people without
> much access to laptops will have a greater problem. Even if it's a not
> a big one, debate is a game of seconds. We say "09" or just "9"
> instead of "2009" to save seconds. If reading all the evidence off a
> laptop causes the opponents to give up as much time as reducing "2009"
> to "9" then it creates a further competitive disadvantage beyond the
> already existing inequalities in debate ESPECIALLY when the other team
> doesn't clearly mark the cards they've read.
> In short, I think moving in a paperless direction is a good idea.
> However, it needs to be done in a way that doesn't further the
> competitive gaps that already exist in debate as well as in a way that
> doesn't make it harder for new debaters to enter into the community.
> The middle ground people are talking about some of these problems but
> not all because it still enables team to jump their entire heg file
> read Khalizad and think they've met their burden of giving the other
> team the evidence they read. This is clearly not the case.
> joe leeson-schatz
> director of debate at binghamton university
> campaigns coordinator of the binghamton/vestal vegan association
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