Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Technique Tuesday - Debating Computer Science

One of the other hats I have worn in my career is that of a debate coach. Lets face it, we love to argue.

Lincoln Douglas Debates
Debate can be a great way to get kids really thinking about a topic. Also I think we all need to learn to disagree civilly. It is the only way to move towards solutions on difficult topics. I use it a few times a year as a way of getting everyone involved in material we are covering.

I start them off with a game we used to play when I was coaching. Then we use this technique in a discussion board debate.

To play the game you divide the team in to two groups and line them up - one pro, one con. Assign the sides before giving the topic. The sides take turns offering points until everyone has gone twice. Team with the highest score wins.

I start them with Resolved: NASCAR is not a sport. We're in the south and every one of my kids has an opinion. You could also do something about cell phones in school, driving age...whatever your kids would get interested in.

Rules? Any good game has rules, and keeping score makes them more engaged:

  1. +1 for a new point
  2. +1 for asking a question
  3. +2 for rebutting a point made by the other side
  4. +1 if you cite a source - this is for the discussion board phase.
  5. -2 talking during the other sides turn
  6. Also, no personal attacks, be respectful, usual class rules apply
NOT that I adjust the points any, but the -2 for talking rule is good for keeping the score close. Try to keep it within about 3 points, if one team is winning by a landslide attention wanders.

We use the same teams for the discussion board debate. We did this last week and the class spent over 45 minutes going back and forth on the topic. A lot more effective than me yammering on forever. I had to kick them off the computers and send them off to their next class. Seriously, writing for 45 minutes.

Topics? Sometimes I chose a news article, but I try to crystallize it down to one core point.

Some ideas:

  • Privacy on the Internet
  • Tracking devices in cars to monitor speed and safe driving - hot button for sure
  • Cybersecurity issues
In short, and computer science topic that related to broader values of society. The real goal is to get them thinking about where computer science fits into the society they live in.


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  2. I love your blog, and I think you are a great writer and teacher!!


So, what do YOU think?