Tag Archives: debate

Digital Debate – A Unique Approach to Debating

Create a digital debate

There’s no debate here – teachers agree that debates are a great tool for engaging students, teaching critical thinking skills, developing persuasive writing techniques, and learning an appreciation for multiple viewpoints. Now there’s another bonus: debates can integrate technology.

Debating a controversial issue has traditionally been an oral exercise. But there is a fun, unique alternative: student partners use Google Slides or Office Online to create a debate presentation. They pitch persuasive arguments justifying two different viewpoints on a controversial issue. The traditional structure of a debate – resolution, constructive speech, rebuttal, and summary – are maintained. However, the two students work simultaneously on the same digital document using G Suite for Education.


Student partners debate “Should Schools Ban Junk Food?” by making an animated Google Slides presentation

Flipping this technique into a digital task not only engages students but also provides a series of benefits. Here are ten reasons to create a digital debate:

  1. Time to think: When debates are written instead of oral, students have the time to make thoughtful, meaningful, and well expressed arguments. Being able to organize and express one’s ideas when ‘put on the spot’ is a skill many students have not yet mastered.
  2. Work simultaneously: Being able to see what the opponent is writing at the same time allows the student to be mindful of the rebuttal they will have to make. As a result, opinions are written with care and attention to the facts and emotional appeals that they are trying to make.
  3. Build quality: When the opponent’s arguments can be seen, the student is encouraged to enhance the strength of their own persuasive arguments. For example, the opponent may be citing a website to support their viewpoint. As a result, the student may research their own facts to find online support.
  4. Inspire and engage: The friendly, competitive nature of debating appeals to middle school and high school students. Debating digitally can be a teaching tool that really sparks the interest of today’s media savvy students.
  5. No stress: Not everyone is comfortable in a public speaking forum. Debating through a digital presentation will engage students who are apprehensive about facing a live audience. They have the opportunity to express their viewpoints without the fear of speaking in front of their classmates. Also, when one opponent can think ‘faster on his feet’ than the other, the debate isn’t a fair match. Writing arguments as a collaborative task levels the playing field.
  6. Get a redo: Oral debates are ‘in the moment’. Spoken statements are made and cannot be improved or deleted. In a written digital debate, students have the opportunity to review, revise, and edit their arguments.
  7. Develop writing skills: A debate conducted as a digital presentation can do double duty as a persuasive writing exercise. It is not only a task that develops critical thinking, organizational skills, and collaboration, but it also integrates language arts. When writing their arguments, students can take the time to express their perspective concisely, organize supporting evidence, and develop an effective emotional or intellectual appeal.
  8. See the debate: The slide presentation includes visual cues that support the opposing viewpoints: different backgrounds, characters who represent the pro and con sides, and clip art that visually enhance the message. The visual nature of a digital debate appeals to both the debate creators and the audience.
  9. Audience participation; Using the commenting feature of Google Apps allows the audience to pose questions and cross-examine the debaters, who can then take the time to compose answers that defend their position.
  10. Have fun! Creating a debate digitally allows students to build essential cooperative skills, etiquette, and teamwork. Working together online is a learning style that holds wide appeal. When students enjoy what they are doing, learning is enhanced.

New Product Release for Google Apps

Teachers using G Suite for Education will be excited to know that another project in the new series has just been introduced by TechnoKids. Following TechnoQuestionnaire, TechnoTimeline, and TechnoMap, the fourth all-new project is TechnoDebate. This project is a unique approach to exploring a controversial issue. Student partners collaborate to simultaneously work on a digital document arguing two sides of a topic. TechnoDebate develops critical thinking skills, persuasive writing techniques, and an appreciation of multiple viewpoints.

Use Google Slides to Make an Animated Debate

Using clip art characters and callout bubbles, each debater states a resolution, presents a constructive speech, delivers a counter argument in a rebuttal, and summarizes their position. Cross-examination is done at the end of the debate by audience members using the commenting feature. Optional extension activities are included for participants to cross-examine opponents and for a judge to select a winner.

Digital debate using Google Slides

Use Google Apps to hold a digital debate

Technology Integration Ideas

TechnoDebate integrates into curriculum. Students can debate on a wide range of topics. Teachers can include project activities as part of a social studies, language arts, history, or science unit. Suggestions include:

  • Citizenship Debate: Care about where you live. What does your community require? How can you help people in need? What action will improve the quality of life for others?
  • Democracy Debate: Become a stakeholder and state your perspective. Should a law pass? Is a rule fair? Should development proceed? Who should pay for an initiative?
  • Ethical Debate: Analyze a moral dilemma to understand diversity in values and beliefs. Is an action right or wrong? Are you for or against an issue? Are the motives of people good or bad? Is a decision justified or unwarranted? Is it helpful or harmful?
  • Advocacy Debate: Highlight a problem with the status quo. Why is there a need for change? What makes the current situation unacceptable?
  • Proposal Debate: Determine which course of action is the best. Why is Plan A better than Plan B? What are the advantages to a new plan? Why is the current system ineffective?
  • Literature Debate: Discuss events that happened in a story. Was the decision made by a character right? Did the character deserve to win? Were the actions of a character fair? What choice should a character make? Should a character have done that action?
  • Historical Debate: Think like a historian. Investigate a time in history to gain a better understanding of the people and events. What evidence suggests current understanding of a historical event is wrong? Was a historical decision fair to all stakeholders? What would a significant person say in a debate about an issue during their time?
  • Environmental Stewardship Debate: Discover the balance between human needs and the sustainability of the environment. Is economic growth or nature more important? How should humans adjust their behavior to protect the environment? Who should have access to natural resources? What needs to change to protect the environment for future generations?

Public Debate Format

In TechnoDebate, students learn how to structure a debate. The student workbook includes illustrated, step-by-step instructions to:

Create a debate using Google Slides

  1. Take a stand: Each side will state their position on the topic. This statement is called a resolution.
  2. Present a persuasive argument: Each side will build their case by presenting three arguments using evidence such as statistics, expert opinion, or observations to support their ideas. This is called a constructive speech.
  3. Prepare a rebuttal: Each side will examine the arguments made by the opposition to find weaknesses. They will explain why the ideas presented by their opponent are flawed. This is called a rebuttal.
  4. Summarize ideas: Each side will summarize their main points and emphasis why their position is correct. The summary should make an appeal to the audience.
  5. Invite audience participation: The presentation will be shared with audience members. The audience will ask questions to which the debaters will respond to defend their position. This is called a cross-examination or crossfire.
  6. Judge debate (optional): The teacher, panel of peers, or audience members will determine which side presented the strongest arguments and were the most persuasive.

Sample Debates Included

To engage student interest and to provide an example of a completed debate, samples are included in the project resources.