Conference to introduce results from the 100-School Networking Project (Phase
Senior high school meeting
Inter-school Exchange through Online Debate -2-
Yukio Nakoshi, Tohokugakuin High School
- In "Online debate," the entire debate process is carried out over
a network. In the future, debating skills will have be taught in a course
devoted exclusively to debate, but currently they are taught in several existing
subjects. Debate is taught primarily in Japanese, social studies, English,
and sometimes in science and morals, at the teacher's discretion. In our debating
program, we wanted to provide students the actual experience of debate, rather
than simply with lessons in how to debate, as is currently done in Japanese
lessons. In conducting debates in writing, as opposed to oral debating, participants
generally have a greater sense of responsibility both in presenting arguments
and in responding to arguments. Conducting debates in writing also levels
the playing field for handicapped students, and creates a lower-anxiety environment
that permits beginning students to debate with more experienced students.
Two debate sessions between students, and one between teachers and an expert
were held in FY 1997. In this report, I would like to discuss the results
of the project and difficulties encountered during its course, including our
experience with the Internet and the opinions of those who participated in
our online debate forum.
2. The idea behind "Online Debate," taken from the "Debate using communications
equipment" held in FY 1996
- The "Debate using communications equipment" program was conducted
in FY 1996 as part of the 100-School Networking Project. Students from five
schools participated in the program, including students with muscular dystrophy
from Division of Senior High School in Nishitaga Prefecture School for the
Health Impaired. In this program, debaters were supported by students using
a networking system to conduct research, through the use of a retrieval system
and mailing lists, as well as advice sent via Internet Relay Chat (IRC). For
the actual debate, however, students met and debated orally, in the traditional
manner. Thus, students from Division of Senior High School in Nishitaga Prefecture
School for the Health Impaired were unable to participate in the actual debate.
We achieved two goals in this effort to promote communication between schools:
(1) The debate was conducted in a way that differed from the traditional
school-versus-school debate style, with debate as a means of communicating,
rather than merely a forum for competition.
(2) Successful use of mailing lists as a method of sharing ideas and opinions
on a common theme.
We also found it effective to carry out the debate process with e-mail, as
it allowed each school to participate at its own timetable, and permitted
handicapped students to participate as equals. In replacing the "Debate
using communications equipment" program, the "Online debate"
program should improve on the former program's weak points.
3. Teach students through debateCharacteristics of "Online debate" and
- Formal debate is characterized by affirmative and negative sides, with
both sides advocating their side of a proposition according to fixed rules.
The winner is decided by a panel of judges at the end of the debate. In contrast
to a discussion at a meeting, both sides have equal opportunity to state their
arguments, and both must conform to the same rules. In pages 31 to 33 of his
book, *Basic Debate* (published by Chukei Publishing Company), Michihiro
Matsumoto sets out the following benefits deriving from the practice of debate.
(1) cultivates the ability of dispassionate analysis;
(2) cultivates skills in logical reasoning;
(3) polishes skills in presenting an argument;
(4) improves the ability to listen acutely;
(5) and cultivates skills in research and marshalling the results of research.
These are also the goals of our "Online debate" program. Carried
out on the Internet, the electronic format of "Online debate" enables
students to exchange opinions with students from other classrooms and other
schools, without regard for distance. Conducting a debate through e-mail permits
even handicapped students and awkward speakers to express their opinions fully.
This style of debate also raises the quality of communication between participants,
since all statements are recorded, and each participant held to a higher degree
of responsibility for his or her statements. Winning a debate held in this
format requires reading ability sufficient to understand opposing arguments
correctly. As a result, this style of debate improves students' comprehensive
Japanese skills, in addition to reading and writing skills.
4. Conducting an "Online debate"
- In FY 1997, we conducted three debates:
First online debate: 6 teams comprised of students from 3 schools
Tuesday July 8Thursday July 17
Theme: Fashion statements such as dyed hair, ear piercings, and loose socks
are appropriate for high school students: right or wrong.
The team arguing the negative case won.
Online debate between teachers and an expert: 8 teams comprised of teachers
from 5 schools and one expert
Tuesday Nov. 11Thursday Nov. 27
Theme: Japan's educational system should allow students to skip grades, and
should advance students as they see fit: right or wrong.
Second online debate: 18 teams comprised of students from 5 schools and an
one other person
Monday December 16Thursday February 5
Theme: Abortion vs. delivering the baby
5. Using the Internet
- We used networking systems for "Online debate" in the following
- (1) Exchange e-mail
Most statements were exchanged by e-mail, which proved to be an especially
remarkable experience for students at Fukushima Prefectural School for the
Blind. (See the report presented by Fukushima Prefectural School for the Blind.)
- (2) Using mailing lists
A mailing list was established for the operating group, students and teachers,
those on both the affirmative and negative sides, and the experts. The mailing
lists for the affirmative side and the negative side were used to check on
the progress of the debates and to resolve stalemates.
- (3) Use of IRC (Internet Relay Chat)
We used IRC for real-time question-and-answer sessions during a debate. For
the second online debate, in an effort to eliminate differences in typing
speed, we tried out a format in which one participant debated against two
participants. We provided opportunities to allow students to chat regularly
before the sessions during the first online debate, and during these sessions
students tended to talk freely, building ties and practicing their typing.
- (4) Creating a home page for the debates
Creating a home page was easy, since all debate statements were already in
In the online debate between teachers and the expert, the debate was linked
to material evidence on the Internet. In the second online debate, a debater
created an image incorporating material evidence, to which the refuting side
established a link.
6. Participants' opinions
It was an interesting project. I enjoyed corresponding with students from
It was a lot of work to type while we were chatting. I wish we had more time.
It was hard to adjust the margins. It was frustrating that I sometimes couldn't
fully understand a statement, because I couldn't see the person's expression.
® In response to this opinion, Mr. Ueno, a
teacher at the Seisen Jr. and Sr. High School, suggested sending picture attachments
with e-mail when students introduce themselves to other participants, or sending
images through conference systems such as CU-SeeMe during a debate.
- About the debate
Because I was familiar with the theme, I was able to think about it in a focused
but relaxed manner. It was a good experience, because I was able to establish
my own opinions on an issue, while listening to the opinions of others. I
learned the importance of explaining my ideas clearly, to make it easier for
others to understand my arguments. It was my first debating experience. It
was a lot of fun, and I found it consistently exciting.
I thought the statements written in text form were very accessible. The format
gave me time to think about what I wanted to say, and time to read other people's
- A foundation for "Online debate" was established as a result of
three debates held in FY 1997. The number of participating schools increased
to five, including Fukushima Prefectural School for the Blind. Other schools
expressed interest in joining, and one high school student participated as
an individual. Students got to experience the fun of exchanging e-mail, and
created an HTML image incorporating material evidence. They were quicker to
learn to use a network system than their teachers.
On the other hand, as might be expected when a number of schools participate
in a program, scheduling tended to be a problem. The debates weren't always
held as scheduled, and this diminished the tension that characterizes a good
debate. We need more input to create a program that can bring students closer
togetheromething like a team competition, in which teams consist of students
from different schools.
We plan to continue this program next year. Please contact us if you are interested.
Conference to introduce results from the 100-School Networking Project (Phase II)