Virtual debating


Virtual Debate in progress

Virtual Debate in progress

After weeks of trying to successfully use MS Communicator, we succeeded today, in linking our grade 4/5 netbook students with students from Beeac Primary School for an online debate. This was the first time that our grade 4 and 5 students from this grade had participated in a debate.

The topic:  “Too much money is spent on space exploration”

Who:- Two teams of three students from each school. A classroom audience of 25 students

Where: The grade 4/5 room,

Hardware/Software:  Interactive white board, a netbook preloaded with MS Communicator, a USB microphone and webcamera on the netbook. My name was registered on their remote server for login purposes.  A music stand was used our end for students to stand at, rest their notes on and sit our usb microphone on.

Time allowed:- 1 hour as this fitted in with each of the school’s busy timetable as it is the last week of term 3. (This was not long enough to have two teams compete)

Preliminary organisation

  • All contact via email,
  • a 10 minute test session, in MS Communicator,  on Friday to ensure the video, audio etc would work. (It did although our image was not so clear at their end and sharp movements pixellated the student image)
  • Use netbooks for online research for speech content

On the day

  • logged on 15 minutes early to test again (Test is such an important element for successful connections)
  • problems for us with feedback, speakers etc which we continued to tweak throughout the session.
  • Beeac were the team for the affirmative and they sat at a table to present. They started the debate.
  • One by one each of the students spoke to their topic. All spoke eloquently, clearly and well. Both schools could see each other well and despite some sound feedback could hear each other.
  • Unfortunately, the bell beat us and the final speakers in team 2 were unable to speak.

Learning outcomes:-

  • Highly successful exercise, students in the class as well as the teams were fully engaged
  • Students all spoke well, introduced themselves and it was a fantastic exercise in oral communication, confidence development
  • Students had written their speeches and researched the content – great for literacy!
  • ALWAYS fully test equipment prior to the formal start of the sesion.
  • The usb desktop microphone although adequate may need to be replaced with a better one to enable improved audio transmission
  • Need to work on body language and keep any movement to a minimum to prevent pixellation of video.
  • Concentration and advanced listening skills required.
  • Requires constant pre-communication between organizers for success
  • Liked the software MS Communicator – a secure environment but restricted in use across schools
  • Innovative yet obvious use of technology.

Possible extensions

  • Bring in a third school as a judging panel, or bring in other experts online as judges
  • expand the program
  • debate with students in another country.
  • involve global teams
  • Mix teams of students  across schools. Use the netbooks for brainstorming,  communicating and preparing the team debates.

The opposition team


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