Classroom Debates with iPod Touch and Facebook


By definition, formal debates limit participation because only 1 person at a time may speak. The idea was to use hand-held devices (iPod Touch) to provide more participants an opportunity to participate, critique, review, and argue.

The Debate:

As expected, access to hand-held devices boosted participation. Out of approximately 45 participants (2 groups back to back), our Facebook debate page showed that over 137 online communications (complete sentences discussing the topic at hand) were made possible because of this device. Given our time constraints, this clearly would not have been possible in a conventional classroom debate. Out of these contributions, about 1/4 were formulated after class time since students were told that they could continue to contribute for an additional 48 hours after the event.


An overwhelming number of students described the experience as ‘great’, ‘engaging’, ‘fun’, and ‘so cool’. Many expressed that it was extremely beneficial to them to be able to say what they wanted to say when they wanted to say it. Some also said that they would not have participate as much or at all if they had to speak up in class. Many noted that using technology to debate allowed them to think before they expressed their thoughts.

Some drawbacks were mostly related to the application used (Facebook). While the application allowed us to debate simultaneously, it is not designed for this type of discussion. One of the reasons why is it was chosen was because many students were not allowed to join ‘Twitter’ but already were Facebook subscribers. Another problem that caused some frustration was that our initial access router could not support more than 10 devices so we had to install a more powerful router. This caused some frustration on the part of the students. Some students also expressed that those who were technologically challenged felt that they could not compete; as they attempted to type their thoughts someone faster would trump them.


Overall, this tool was extremely beneficial to both students and myself. They allowed everyone to participate simultaneously and to continue adding even after class had ended. The device promoted the use of the target language created an intensely engaging environment in which students could express themselves freely. Having access to the discussion transcripts at my own convenience allowed me to conduct a more thourough assessment of student contributions.


  • hand out devices only once all instructions have been given
  • provide access in the classroom on a regular basis so that all students may acquire the desired skills (typing with thumbs / interface familiarity)
  • use a more ‘discussion’ oriented application that will refresh instantly when students contribute

Where Does SMS Fit In?

Link to ETEC 531 Digital Unit – UBC Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy Moodle

View VoiceTread Presentation of my Digital Unit (only if you are not authorized to login)

In ETEC 531 we examined the social and human implications of technological advances. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects of this program because as educators we have the power to introduce technologies (or not) that will alter how our students operate; we also have the power to stimulate reflection in our students so that they will develop a critical sense toward new technologies.

In his essay “The Question Concerning Technology”, Heidegger states that “there [is] nothing technological about technology. He contends that technological determinism poses a great danger to our way of life and our ability to think (Murphy & Potts, 2003, p. 164). While technology should by definition signify the rational process by which challenges encountered in human activity are remedied, it is rare that those who embed technology into human activity engage in the rational process of analyzing its consequences (the environmental impact of the automobile for example). Integrating technology in the classroom is not enough – students have to understand how technology impacts them and the world around them.

In this group project, we created a digital unit that would get grade 12 students thinking about the impact of technology on society. We brainstormed about some of the issues that were of particular relevance in our professional context and divided the tasks among the 5 of us according to the various unit topics we had come up with. I worked on the SMS language unit.

SMS language is rapidly gaining popularity (Carrington, 2004), especially within secondary school youths for whom texting has become the main form of communication with peers, and many educators see this as a contributing factor in the decline of literacy skills. Integrating SMS into the curriculum not only helps students understand the value of explicit communication and the impact of technology on literacy, it also makes learning relevant for students as it brings their world into the classroom. Because literacy is a huge issue in education today, that is, secondary level students struggle with comprehension and writing competency, my focus was on having students show off their SMS language skills while exploring the ways it is impacting communication and language.

Works Cited:

Carrington, V. (2004). Texts and literacies of the Shi Jinrui. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(2), 215-228. Retrieved July 3, 2009, doi:10.1080/0142569042000205109

Murphie, A., Potts, J. (2003). Culture & Technology.New York: Palgrave Macmillan.