Using an iPad as a Viewing Computer?

Has anyone considered using an iPad as a viewing computer for paperless debating? By using Dropbox and/or FileApp, it is relatively easy to transfer Word documents from a laptop to an iPad. The advantages of using an iPod are pretty clear: it’s smaller and lighter than any other viewing device, the screen size/resolution is good (certainly better than most netbooks), and it is super easy to use/handle. There are also obvious disadvantages, though: it does not have a USB port so it is impossible to jump files without either accessing a network or connecting it to iTunes, it doesn’t allow documents to be edited (just viewed), and the screen is smaller than a full-size laptop.

Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Would debaters and coaches feel comfortable with an iPad as a viewing computer? Has anyone else experimented with this yet? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

27 thoughts on “Using an iPad as a Viewing Computer?

  1. Josh Gonzalez

    I've started toying with the idea – the key, I think, is either having a "viewing" iPad to which you could throw documents or just using a USB thumbdrive, like other paperless teams do. The only real advantage that you gain is a very nice display on the iPad and the ability to use multitouch gestures to navigate the speech. The major downside is the time it takes to upload/share documents to the iPad (depends on having internet access) and getting used to the sensitivity of the touchscreen for card marking during speeches.

    That having been said, I'm totally going to find a way to make this work, because it pleases my inner hipster.

  2. Scott Phillips Post author

    The biggest DA to this I see is that a viewing "computer" acts as a backup if the computer you usually use/speak off of goes down.

    An Ipad weighs 1.6 lbs, a netbook weighs around 2.5, seems pretty negligible.

    The screen is 1024X768 vs 1024X600 for most similar sized netbooks, again negligible.

    Ease of use seems subjective, to me a netbook with a usb port seems dramatically easier to use.

    Doesnt seem worth the several hundred extra dollars

  3. Bill Batterman Post author

    After playing around with it, I do think the iPad could be a functional viewing computer but Scott's points are well taken. If it was $200 instead of $500, I think it would be a great investment. Given the price of netbooks, however, it does seem like too much money for what amounts to a more elegant but less functional solution.

    Another question: is there a consensus among coaches/debaters that a netbook is a sufficient viewing computer? I know that people complained about this last year and demanded/requested the ability to see their opponents' speech documents on a 'regular' laptop; is that perspective representative of the community at large? When purchasing viewing computers, what are (or what should be) the minimum expectations for size/speed?

  4. Brad Meloche

    @Bill Batterman
    Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I think it is a reasonable request to be able to see your opponent's evidence on a 'regular' screen. I already think paperless in general puts debaters with bad eyesight at a disadvantage, and from my experience it can be damn near impossible to read evidence off of a netbook.

  5. Interested User

    <blockquote cite="#commentbody-10280">
    Brad Meloche :
    @Bill Batterman
    Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I think it is a reasonable request to be able to see your opponent’s evidence on a ‘regular’ screen. I already think paperless in general puts debaters with bad eyesight at a disadvantage, and from my experience it can be damn near impossible to read evidence off of a netbook.

    I agree with everything said here taken from the perspective of being in the debates where this has happened.

  6. Robert

    <blockquote cite="#commentbody-10279">
    Bill Batterman :
    Another question: is there a consensus among coaches/debaters that a netbook is a sufficient viewing computer? I know that people complained about this last year and demanded/requested the ability to see their opponents’ speech documents on a ‘regular’ laptop; is that perspective representative of the community at large? When purchasing viewing computers, what are (or what should be) the minimum expectations for size/speed?

    I've always hated viewing the other team's speeches off of a puny netbook that they would never even consider reading off of, especially when they are not willing to jump the speech to your laptop. The one thing that seems to make it bearable is the fact that you can increase the size of the text and modify the formatting to make it look good for you. That being said, because the iPad does not allow you to edit your documents and the screen is small, it would be near impossible to read the small text of cards using the iPad.
    I think that netbooks should be at least about 13 inches to be used as viewing computers, otherwise the amount of scrolling through text of the speech is ridiculous and easy to not know where they are in the speech. As per speed, I don't think that is a very large factor for viewing computers, as long as they are able to get the word document open and the opponent team can easily scroll through and enlarge the text. I see old viewing computers all the time that work fine and are about 15 inches in screen size that were bought because they were cheap.

  7. Whit

    As long as the screen is wider than 8.5" (and almost every netbook is) it is just as large as a sheet of paper. Length is irrelevant because it's functionally infinite on a computer. And you can change the font size on a computer. Anyone who complains about reading off a computer is being unnecessarily whiny.

    I know nothing of the ipad, because i'm not a dirty hipster. So forgive for being naive when I ask, can you open word documents on the ipad? If so, do you have to buy word for your ipad?

  8. Michael Antonucci

    @Scott Phillips: Agree, it's like the attempt to prescribe font ethics guidelines, but remarkably manages to be stupider.

  9. Lyall

    @whit you can open word docs with multiple applications some of which are free additionally several of these applications do allow document editing the one I have used is called pages additionally, something I have not actually tried but have read about is USB file transfer through two additional methods I believe both reacquire the iPad to be jail broken. The first method is to install a third party file browser via cydia through which documents can be transferred, the second method uses the iPad camera connector kit for USB to transfer files although this seems to have had spotty success rates.

  10. Rob

    This reminds me of when Roy told the story on the podcast of how he sent a card to his students the morning of the tournament and told them to just read it off their iphones.

    On the issue of the ipad: Who wants an iphone that can't make calls and doesn't fit in your pocket?

    And Gonzo: Wasn't debate was created to put hipsters in their place?

  11. Nathan Ketsdever

    I'm still not convinced, but it is worth pointing out that the iPad PDF problem has been "solved" & apparently there are other apps for reading PDFs. Otherwise this would be a rather serious concern both with old backfiles and reading other peoples backfiles (plus just generally a pain).

  12. Liam Hancock

    I think that there will be some "hipsters" that will do this just for their own personal reasons. I think anybody who already has access to an ipad, but not a net book, should go ahead and use the ipad as a viewing laptop. I think an ipad can reasonably be used as a viewing laptop. However, if you either already have a netbook, or are trying to decide which one to get, i think its clearly better to buy a netbook. On the issue of the other teams right to view it on a regular computer, i think they do have a right to refuse the ipad (though i can't think of a particularly good reason to do so).

  13. Raghav K

    I tried convincing people at camp that as soon as an iPad becomes affordable, people will start using it for paperless debate instead of their laptops.

  14. Michael Antonucci

    What is all this "right to refuse" stuff?

    We bought a distinct computer for you to view our stuff. If it's too small, change the font.

    Get over it. You don't have a "right to refuse" some team's blocks because you don't like the bright pink paper, which is a pretty good analogy for the iPad (showy, unnecessary, flamboyant, expensive for no reason.)

  15. Rodrigo Quirch

    My opinion is that this will be taking it to far in the case of paperless, it also makes the digital divide in debate so much larger. It is smart tho in the case of docs being stolen or copied. But still there is no reason why this should become a norm or even be used.

  16. Whit

    I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

    1.) Disclosure isn't a right, it's a norm. You don't have the "right" to refuse anything, because you don't have the "right" to receive anything.

    2.) iPads and Netbooks > paper. You can't change the font size on their printed blocks. You don't have to pick up the netbook off the floor or wait for them to sift through it during cross-x if you want some evidence.

    digital divide? Nobody said you have to reciprocate with paperless or that you have to buy an iPad. It was just a question of whether is was ok to present it to the other team. The standard for acceptability (IMHO) should be: "Is it comparable to paper?"

    The screen should be 8.5" or larger. It should have enough free RAM that you can scroll through it without lag. That's it. Any other requests are unreasonable.

  17. Ross

    I think while some people do have very small computers people who debate with paper might consider investing a little time (maybe an hour) working through how they can view files most efficiently. This is not to say paperless teams should not be as accommodating as possible, but rather that from a practical stand point paper teams could benefit greatly by learning to efficiently navigate paperless speeches. More than one round last year I had a significant advantage just because the other team was bad at using MS word, but we gave them a full brand new laptop.

    Additionally for those who say teams won't let you jump speeches to your own laptop instead of their net book, this is obnoxious and poor etiquette the kind often practiced by high schoolers. I would say if you are paperless let the other team view the evidence in the way they most prefer, nobody is really trying to 'steal' your evidence. The point of a viewing lap top should be so people without lap tops (which is a lot of people in high school) can still see your evidence, period.

  18. Robert

    @Whit
    No one is claiming that we have a god-given right to view their speeches on our own computers if we prefer it, we are just saying that it is the courteous thing to do. I'm not saying that smaller laptops are a problem and that different systems of formatting should not be allowed, I'm just saying that if you prefer to view it on your own computer, the other team should be ok with it if you delete the speeches after the round / ask for specific cites to get. To say that request is 'unreasonable' may be true for some, but if it is no extra effort to jump it to their computers, why not? Would you like to be not liked by the other team? Are you trying to gain an advantage off of only allowing them to view it on their computer? If there's no real disadvantage, I see no reason why it's unreasonable.

    @Ross
    I agree with everything said here – it is obnoxious (yes Whit, it is still their choice to not let you do it) for other teams to give you a computer or touch-pad that you are unfamiliar with and say that you are confined to using that even if you have a laptop that is adequate for viewing. While there is no exact equivalent in paper debate, the advantages of reading off of a computer, such as increased font size, flipping pages quickly, are all moot points when you are not familiar with their computer and you prefer to use your's. It's just the nice thing to do – good debate karma – not unreasonable.

  19. TimAlderete

    @Robert

    I think that some teams would prefer use a viewing computer rather than jump their speeches to the other team's computers in order to avoid viruses. That is what would concern me. If there is no downside to using a viewing computer, and it avoids the risk of the Virus disad, what is the harm?

  20. bruce najor

    @TimAlderete
    Probably off topic but the "disad" to viewing computer is there is only one. 2Ns and 1Ns can only look at one card at a time when trying to prep for the block. This is not the case when each has a copy (be it a hard copy, or a copy on their own computer). This isn't restricted to the 2N/1N block prepping either. There are lots of scenarios where teammates would normally be peeking at different cards at the same time. This is a serious "disad" to the one viewing computer. I'm sure there is a reasonable solution to it (Dropbox that the other team can access on their own computers seems fair, but requires the internet… something that isn't always available at HS tournaments), I'd just like to see a norm established on this.

  21. Robert

    @TimAlderete
    I agree and that is a fair concern, but there are certain ways to get around that. There are programs you can download on your flashdrive that can scan your computer for viruses before allowing them to access your flashdrive (I believe one was posted on this website a little while ago if I'm not mistaken). Also, I think that the use of gmail threads and dropboxes to send speeches will become more popular over the years for transporting speeches, so the 'virus problem' won't be as big of a deal. And yes, there is no real 'disad' to a viewing computer aside from the problem that bruce mentioned (that teams can't look at different blocks at the same time), but I think it is just the nice thing to do if the other team is unfamiliar with the OS.

  22. Brad Meloche

    @Scott Phillips
    @Michael Antonucci
    I looked back at the comment I posted above and realized I picked my words poorly. I certainly didn't mean to imply that a team has the right to refuse a viewing computer with a small screen, I just don't think its unreasonable to ask the other team if they would jump it to your computer instead so that it is easier to see.

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