Its debatable…Speak Up!

March 16, 2009

Back from Birth and PDF to Word Computer

Filed under: Debate,NFA LD,Research,Technology — bk2nocal @ 5:08 pm

So, I was due to have a baby on April 12, but she decided to arrive about seven weeks early!  Mackenzie Claire was born on February 19 at 32 weeks and 4 days…I was in the hospital for about a week and she was in for three, but we are both at home and doing pretty well now.  Being more-or-less without tech for a number of weeks made me realize how much I appreciate it!  So, I thought I would share a tech idea with you all today!

For those of you who, when cutting evidence, find it totally frustrating when a PDF will not transfer to Word for your purposes, I have found this free PDF to Word converter.  I have not tried it yet, but it comes recommended by CSU Chico’s Technology & Learning Blog, so it should work pretty well.

Enjoy!  And good luck to everyone at the various national tournaments coming up in the next few weeks!


January 21, 2009

Is being successful at Forensics too “hard”?

Filed under: Debate,Forensics - General,Motivation — bk2nocal @ 12:29 am

I love speech and debate.  I loved it when I competed in it and I still love it as a coach/director.  One of the things I love about it is the challenge.  Although things have changed a lot since I competed (some things have been made easier, while others have become more difficult), I still think there is a lot in it that is enjoyable.  But, I find that, at least regionally, there are fewer and fewer who enjoy speech and debate for the challenge.  Many find it likable for other reasons:  the travel, the social interaction, the ability to talk about things they want to talk about on a near-weekly basis…but, few seem to really thrive on the challenge.

It seems like many students today want a shortcut to success in the competitive (and classroom) realm.  Maybe it is my sports background, where I remember being rewarded for working out hard enough to build up enough lactic acid to make myself throw up.  Disgusting, but a challenge all the same.  The gatorade commercials show that this is still the mentality in sports – to work through the pain.  Even to thrive on the pain.  But, in academia or intellectual competitions, it seems like its quite the opposite for most.  Most people’s questions revolve around finding out what the absolute LEAST amount of work they can do in order to achieve their goals – or achieve the minimum acceptable level of achievement for them.

I feel like motivating students to achieve more, to want more and to focus on something other than finding the easiest possible path to achieve the most average level of success is part of my job.  But, its exhausting sometimes to want more for your students than they want for themselves.  So, how do you get around this?  How can I do a better job of motivating my students to motivate themselves?

I am familiar with goal-setting and I definitely try to have the students set some realistic goals each semester.  But, I feel like I fall behind on staying on top of tracking their movement towards those goals.  I guess I always considered that to be their jobs.  My job was to provide them with guidance in reaching those goals, and their job is to do the stuff that needs to be done.  But, maybe I’m not realizing the inexperience they have with reaching goals and working “through the pain”.  Maybe I’m not realizing how easily distracted they are by tech, social networking, extra curricular activities, etc. they are.

So, this semester, I’m adopting a new tracking regime.  Each WEEK the students will have to write down a SPECIFIC and REALISTIC goal/objective to achieve that week and get it signed off by a coach.  This can be something as simple as doing all necessary revisions on a speech or researching a new affirmative or reading up on and answering some key questions about counterplan theory.  It will be a PERSONALIZED goal that can easily be tied to the overall semester goals they have set for themselves.  The next week, they will turn in/show the results of the work they did on that goal and again, will have that signed off by a coach and put in a file, and establish a new goal for the coming week based on their progress.  Although this is going to create a little more work for the coaches and require some organization of file folders for each student and it means that as coaches we will have to be on top of what each individual is working on/needs to work on, I think in the end it will make our jobs easier and make the students more realistic in their expectations and work habits.  Hopefully, once we do this for a few semesters, it will become more individual responsibility than coach responsibility, but for now, I think we just need to take on the additional responsibility to help guide the students more.

I’m wondering if I should just make this something that is tied to grades and competitive success, or if I should provide some additional incentives.  I always worry about providing too much external incentives, which I believe trades off with internal incentives/motivation.  I already think that students are too tied to grades and not tied enough to LEARNING.  But, that is not something I’m going to change overnight.

So, anyone out there find a successful way to motivate students to take personal responsibility for their success?  Do you think this will work?  Do you think that I am stereotyping students too much?  I realize there are exceptions to this – I definitely have a handful of those exceptions on my team.  But, I am now concerned with getting the rest of the students to that same place…or at least somewhere in the same region!

January 14, 2009

True Flight Info.

Filed under: Uncategorized — bk2nocal @ 8:17 pm

Any of you who have been conned by the online flight tracking from your carrier that says “on time” when you log in two hours before your flight, only to find out when you arrive at the airport that the flight is actually hours behind schedule now have a choice.  This post summarizes the benefits of FlightAware – which has no interest in lying to you about the flight schedule.  In addition to tracking flights, there are a few other interesting things provided by the website that are quite useless, but could be entertaining.  These include many pictures of planes, squawks about the aviation in the news (which can actually be a little disturbing), and tracking the Space Shuttle on its trips.

Some interesting info/ideas from Edebate today!

Filed under: Uncategorized — bk2nocal @ 6:33 pm

I’m always excited to see valuable and interesting information coming across edebate instead of snide remarks to others or the ever-present cite request.  Today there was actually more than one piece of information that came across that I thought was worth sharing.  The first was more of an idea than information.  West Georgia is hosting a tournament this weekend and Sarah Holbrook sent out the following request to edebate:

We have 4 novice debaters attending this weekend and we’re trying to
make sure it’s an educational experience for them so we need some
Please email me if you or any of your judges are willing to be a
Novice Mentor – let them watch/flow a debate with you while you judge,
speak with them during and after to help them get the most out of it.
Thanks to the other folks who have already volunteered.

I thought this was an great idea for insuring that new novices (or high schoolers or administrators) visiting a debate tournament for the first time have a good and valuable experience.  I think, too often, we wait until the tournament has started to deal with these things and these people get lost in the chaos and often have poor, or at least uneducational, experiences.  I appreciate the fact that West Georgia thought of these individuals early in the process and are working to find people who are novice-friendly and willing to share their thoughts and ideas and answer questions after debates over the course of the weekend.  I am definitely going to utilize this approach (on a more local level) for our tournament we are hosting in February.  Thanks Sarah for thinking of this early and for working to insure that those new to the activity are getting something out of attending a tournament!

The second piece of information was more of a reminder as I remember seeing this come across edebate a while ago, but often these things get forgotten, so I’m going to try to put a link in the sidebar for those who come to this post later.  Matt Stannard has a forum board (debatecooperative) that he runs where he has been posting forensics jobs as he sees them come out on different lists, etc. and that others can post to when looking for coaches.  The link for the forum specifically for job listings can be found here.

There are the two things that I found worth sharing on edebate today…a good day for edebate I would say!

Hope things are going well in the new year for everyone!

January 13, 2009

Happy Belated New Year – Getting Ready for Spring Season…

How the heck are we already in 2009?  Time flies when you are having fun, I guess.  And, I have to admit, I am still having fun coaching speech and debate and teaching and living in Chico.  I really wish I was posting more regularly on this blog…and I’m really going to try to commit to it in the new year.

I just got back from the Southern California Swing debate tournaments at USC and Fullerton.  That is a brutal eight or nine days with travel, but such a valuable experience for debaters.  I remember how much I learned the first year at those two tournaments – it was like a crash course in a whole new level of debate and I feel like that same experience happened to my students this past Swings.  Sometimes it was a bit painful (after all, it is called “crash” course for a reason), but overall I think my students came out with a renewed commitment to debate and a new understanding of what it takes to be successful in debate at the Open level.

I wish that there was a similar tournament experience for IEers during the break, when all they have to think about is speech, but I’m hoping that our early tournaments at Southwestern and Pt Loma will prove fruitful for them.  The Spring semester is such a short one competitively speaking, so we really need to get out to a fast and well-prepared jump.

I’m interested to hear what some of you do to keep students active during the holiday break – especially those like us at Chico who have an extended break (five or six weeks).  Some students stay on top of it and communicate well, but others seem to fade out into their non-school/non-forensics lives and come back even less prepared than they left in December because they haven’t looked at a file/speech in five weeks and have not competed in almost three months.  I would also be interested in hearing how you get new novices up and running quickly in the Spring semester’s short season.  It seems like they have to get ready to compete in a VERY SHORT amount of time and then they have a VERY limited competitive experience before the season is over and they lose the competitive drive.

November 4, 2008

Get Out and Vote!

Filed under: Uncategorized — bk2nocal @ 11:35 am

Just a reminder to get out and vote today!

October 14, 2008

Back to work…

Filed under: Uncategorized — bk2nocal @ 5:32 pm

Well, I’ve said this before and I will probably say it again, but I am going to get back to blogging.  I was excited to see the number of views some of the posts on this blog have received and I’m hoping to find some additional valuable information to share.  There is a lot going on in the forensics community right now, and I’m excited to be able to share it with people.  There is some great resource sharing opportunities happening over at the NDCA website and CEDA is working on some exciting developments for the future.  In addition, I have some additional discussion items in the areas of Individual Events that may be interesting.  So, here I am.  I hope you’ll join me again for a more regular schedule of posts!

June 27, 2008

Series: Web 2.0 for Forensics – Part I

I’ve been trying to incorporate a little more of the web 2.0 programs in my academic life, and this has led me to consider the way these same programs can be used for forensics.  So, I am going to start brainstorming ideas for using different tech to make our forensics lives easier and turn them into a series of blogs.  I’m sure that many of these are already being used by those who are more advanced in the web 2.0 experience than I am, but hopefully it may spark some ideas for you to expand your technological helpers for forensics.  Please feel free to post any additional items in the comments section and the series will continue on a weekly-or-so basis and as other items strike my fancy!

This first blog in the series will include wikis, facebook and


I began using a wiki in my Argumentation and Debate class last semester to collect the evidence that students turned in.  I had them turn in the evidence on the wiki on a page with their name on it.  This allowed me to collect evidence without having to carry around a bunch of papers, make corrections to the materials electronically, and be sure that they were doing the evidence assignments electronically.  In addition, the students could search through all of the evidence from the class using the “search” function on the wiki.  So, when they were constructing affirmatives and negatives, they could easily do word searches on the topic they were working on and get all the different evidence found by their classmates.

I am also starting a wiki for our team.  This will be a clearinghouse of information, where I can post tournament invitations, articles for debate or speech topic ideas, results from tournaments, pictures from tournaments, etc.  Individuals on the team can have access to add things themselves.  It makes it so much easier than having a file cabinet in my office or an in-basket as everyone has immediate access from wherever they are. I think this will make things much easier on me and the students.


I was late coming to Facebook.  In all honesty, I avoided it like the plague for the past few years.  But, I am a convert.  I am convinced that this is the new email.  The listservs of the 90s changed the face of forensics, with national participants able to communicate with everyone else in the nation in one message and with quick response.  Facebook allows that same level of communication, but adds so much more of a personalized exchange and a way to access those who don’t even know you exist.  I am going to focus on using facebook as a recruiting and PR tool, because that has been my experience with it so far.

Facebook is one of the most popular social networking programs in the world.  If someone isn’t on Facebook at this point, they probably will be in the next five years.  One of the first things I did when I got on Facebook was form a group for “Past and Present Members of CSU Chico Forensics” and invite everyone I knew who was on or had been on the team in the past.  From there, they informed their friends and others requested membership.  Now, I have a single location to post information and requests for alumni whenever I have something.  In addition, I have been contacted by incoming freshman who found the group and are interested in joining the team when they get here in September.  Its an easy way to get the information out that used to require a ton of posters and flyers and visits to classrooms, etc.  I look forward to using Facebook as a PR tool next year as well.


If you have not used, you probably have seen it on the bottom of an article or blog you have read.  It is a tool that appears across the web and allows you and your students easy access to collecting information.  It is a “social bookmarking” program, that allows one person to bookmark articles and then make those bookmarked articles available to a group of people.  The program uses “tags” to identify the important information in the article (answers the “why did you bookmark this article?”) so you can search by tags an find all the pertinent articles on that subject.  Using you and your students can create a “webliography” of speech topics or debate topic articles that can then be easily accessible by everyone on the team.

I have to admit I have not used much, but I just read a blog on using it as a learning tool and it inspired me to consider using it for the team this semester.

There are a TON of different tools out there for incorporating web 2.0 into education and therefore forensics.  I think the key is to consider a few things before starting to use any of these tools:

(1)  What is this going to SAVE me having to do in the future?  If the answer is nothing, than it may not be worth it.  After all, we all have way too much to do to be adding things on to that list.  But, if its going to save you some time and effort in the future (e.g. using the wiki to post invitations saves printing, copying, etc. of schedules for the students – they can just log on and get it themselves whenever they want – all I have to do is post a link) than its worthwhile to learn a new skill or introduce a new routine.

(2)  How difficult is this going to be to use?  Is this something you or your students are already using for other purposes.  So, Facebook makes sense to me versus finding another social networking program because most of my students are already there, most of my recruits will be on there and many of my colleagues are/will be on there.  So, why use a different program that requires an additional logon, an additional post, and learning new methods of posting, groups, etc.?

(3)  Is this really adding value?  Sometimes I tend to use tech for tech’s sake.  I’m just fascinated by new things and since I can remember a time when most people didn’t own a computer, I am amazed at the access to information and different gadgets/programs we now have.  But, I often have to ask myself whether what I’m doing is really adding value to my life/academic experience or whether it is just something that is catching my eye.  I guess this is kind of the same as #1, but I think of it more as asking if it adds something of value to my life.  So, even if it doesn’t save me having to do something, if its something I find enjoyable or attractive or fun, I am more likely to continue doing it in the future.  If it doesn’t do any of that for me, than I’m probably going to spend a bunch of time learning how to use it, etc. and then not come back to it often enough to make it worth my while.

Look for Part II, where I’ll go googly over Google – docs, reader and calendar!

June 23, 2008

Revisiting Research: Ethics in Debate – Changes Since 1993?

Filed under: Uncategorized — bk2nocal @ 12:37 pm

This paper, “A ‘Fair Play’ Perspective of ethics for intercollegiate debate,” examined ethical concerns in debate in 1993.  It would be interesting to see an update of this paper.  What are the ethical concerns 15 years later?  Are the same?  Are there new concerns today?

Orbitz Price Guarantee

Filed under: Forensics - General,Organizing and planning,Travel — bk2nocal @ 11:26 am

With the additional costs of flying nowadays, it seems pretty important to be getting the cheapest price possible.  I previously posted on this blog about Yapta (read about it here) which allows you to request a refund if a cheaper ticket on your same flight comes available.  But, according to Go Green Travel, Orbitz has taken it one further.  They will now refund the difference, without you having to request it, if ANYONE books a cheaper ticket on your same flight at a later date.  The Go Green Travel post about it includes the small print for you.  Orbitz does have a booking fee, but if you know you’ll get the cheapest possible ticket, it seems worth it.

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