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Defining a high school debating topic – 08. With Sarah Jackson

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SARAH JACKSON: Hi, I'm Sarah. I'm an adjudicator who works for The Arts Unit, and today, I'm going to be deconstructing a topic for you to chat about what the definition should look like. That topic is a really popular topic from last year's Premier's Debating Challenge, and that is that we should ban all technology from the classroom.

So when I first get a topic, I like to think about three things. Firstly, where should this change happen, what are the details, and when is the change going to occur? So I want to start off by thinking about whether or not this changes to happiness in a specific place or whether it can be Australia-wide. And for this topic, I don't really see any reason why all classrooms in Australia couldn't be tech-free. I think that it's really fair to suggest that classes all the way from Kindergarten up until Year 12 should have technology removed from them, and there's no reason why we should isolate this to either just private schools or public schools.

I guess when I go through this part, I want to think about whether there are any exceptions that I should make. Are there any schools that should be allowed to have technology? I guess I might think that we'd probably make an exception for students that are differently abled or that might be partaking in distance education, but that would be a special exemption, and it's probably not a big deal in today's debate.

In terms of looking at the details, I've got to now think about exactly what technology I want to be banning from classrooms. So I mean, yeah, I guess we don't need to go back to a really remote kind of classroom back in the 1900s before we had any technology at all, but I think that there are quite a few things that we want to ban. When I start thinking about whether or not I should include mobile phones and the teacher's laptop and smart boards, I want to be thinking about what problem on the affirmative team I'm trying to solve. And I know here that I'm thinking about distraction, about health, about passive learning, and I want to improve all of that, so I probably want to make sure that all the technology that I ban is going to help fix that problem.

So I think it's OK that teachers are allowed to have their laptop because they're not the ones getting distracted. It's also probably important for safety reasons that teachers have access to a phone in the classroom. Everything else, though, I think it's pretty important that we get rid of any personal devices that each student has, whether that be an iPad or a laptop.

I think that because I'm going to suggest that screen time is very bad for students' health and that video watching is quite passive, that I'm going to get rid of smart board or TVs in the classroom. The one thing I think that I would let students keep is a calculator because it's pretty essential for maths, and it's not like a calculator is super distracting and you can personally message your friends on the calculator. So that's pretty much everything that I want to ban.

In terms of when I want this to start, I think that the start of next term would be totally fine. We probably can't do it tomorrow because we've got to make sure that all the students get the message. It also probably wouldn't be fair for teachers because they've put a lot of work into their lesson plans, so we don't want to mix things up straight away, and then teachers' hard work go to waste. But next term would give everyone enough time to plan for that, to get their exercise books, and to cater learning to not use technology.

So I'm now going to deliver the first minute of the first affirmative team speech, how I would start off if I was the first affirmative speaker. There are two things I'm going to do. Just firstly start with giving a little bit of an overall context of what the problem is. That would be my introduction, and then I'll move into the definition section.

In Australian schools today, we think that we have a massive problem. Students are spending all day every day on their technology. And during class time, this is being really distracting, and it's also quite bad for their eyesight, for their health, and it increases passive learning. That's why as the affirmative team, we think that it's essential that we ban all technology from classrooms.

Today, as the affirmative team, we think that we should ban technology from all classrooms from all across Australia from Kindergarten until Year 12. We think that the devices that we're going to ban all technology devices for students, but we'll let teachers keep on using their mobile phones and their laptops because they need them for safety and lesson planning.

And we also think it's fair enough that we make an exception and let students use their calculators during maths. We're going to start this policy at the beginning of next term so that students and teachers have enough time to plan for the change.

And, yeah, that would be my definition. I hope that helps. Thanks, everyone.

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