Category Archives: Technology

Discussion: Alternatives to Dropbox?

Lifehacker has a lengthy post today about Dropbox and its alternatives. Dropbox seems to be the default service that debate teams have used for file sharing but the quality of the alternatives is increasing and Dropbox has had a series of recent mishaps. Have you tried any of the alternatives? Is Dropbox still the best fit for debate teams? Share your thoughts in the comments.

New Free OCR Tool

Daniel Gaskell has recently released ScreenOCR, a front-end for the Tesseract engine that lets you instantly OCR anything visible on your screen with a single click. After playing around with it, ScreenOCR gets my official stamp of approval: it’s the easiest way yet to OCR text so that it can be copied into your debate template. The download is available online for free along with some suggestions for using the software. One hint that I’ll echo: make sure you zoom in so that the text is very large before using ScreenOCR. Once I figured this out, OCRing text from Google Books became a snap. Thanks to Daniel for making this software available to the debate community.

Paperless Discussion: How Does Your Squad Manage Its Files?

With the exception of a few early adopters, many high school debate teams have completed or will soon complete their first season of paperless debating. From a coaching perspective, one of the most difficult parts of the transition has been managing the distribution and organization of our squad’s files. Looking forward to next year, improving file management is at the top of my “to do” list. If you’ve made the paperless transition, how have you managed your squad’s files? What worked well? What didn’t work so well? Specifically:

  1. How do you organize the team’s file set? Is there a master or shared tub? Does each team have a private tub? What happens when students switch partnerships?
  2. Who is responsible for downfiling new updates? Are assignments completed before a tournament distributed as update files (like they would have been in the days of paper) or is the person completing the assignment responsible for updating the master file?
  3. How are highlighting responsibilities shared? Does each team highlight their “copy” of each file? Or are highlighted files shared between teams?
  4. How do you distribute new files? Via a dropbox? Via email? How do you prevent students from altering/deleting “master” files?
  5. How do you organize “core” (topic-agnostic) files like impact defense and critique answers? Does each team receive a “copy” of these files to highlight and organize? Or are they shared between all teams?

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments—they are greatly appreciated.

Georgetown Debate Seminar Releases Hoya Template 1.0

The Georgetown Debate Seminar over the weekend released the 1.0 version of the Hoya Template, a paperless debate template for Microsoft Word designed by Anton Strezhnev and based on Alex Gulakov’s pioneering Synergy program. The Hoya Template offers several improvements over previous software including a streamlined automatic cite request generator, enhanced speech document functionality, and a superior reading mode.

The Hoya Template 1.0 is available for free download at the Georgetown Debate Seminar website. An example card that was cut in the template is also available for download; use it to try out the impressive reading mode and cite request features.

Strezhnev will again be serving as a technology consultant this summer for the GDS where he will help students incorporate this and other paperless software into their debating.

Have you taken the Hoya Template for a test drive? Do you have any tips for improving paperless debating? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Fixing The "White Screen" Problem With The Wiki

The problem that some people have been having when trying to edit pages on the NDCA Wiki is a result of formatting errors. When a large wiki page contains formatting problems (lots of “span” tags, incorrect nesting of bold tags, and other syntax errors), the “Visual Editor” chokes when trying to process the page and crashes. In some browsers, this produces a “Script Has Stopped Responding” message; in others, it just results in a blank white page being displayed. The problem seems to be most pronounced in Chrome and for computers with slower processors, but it has effected users of other browsers, too.

There are two ways to resolve this issue:

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New Version of Office for Mac Released Today

The new version of Microsoft Office for the Mac—Office for Mac 2011—was officially released today. It is a major upgrade from the previous version that many Mac users have been eagerly awaiting. Of particular interest to debaters is the restored Macro support: Office for Mac 2011 includes Visual Basic and the Ribbon and so should support at least most of the paperless tools that have been developed for the PC. Microsoft is offering Office for Mac 2011 to students at a discounted price ($99.95 for eligible students).

Has anyone upgraded to the new version? What can you report regarding paperless support?

Tips For Using The New NDCA Wiki

With the first weekend in the books, I wanted to share some tips with debaters and coaches regarding the new NDCA Wiki. While there has been some criticism of the new wikispaces site, the vast majority of people that I talked to at Greenhill were pleased with the change. From an administrative point of view, the new site is substantially easier to manage and hopefully will cut down on the amount of cleanup required to correct mistakes. With the goal of assisting users with the transition, I have provided several tips regarding the wiki—they’re below the fold.

Before diving into the tips, though, I wanted to issue an official 3NR shout-out to Kinkaid’s Vivek Datla and Zach Rosenthal, the early favorites for this year’s Disclosure Award. Their wiki page is well formatted, well organized, and comprehensive; while it could be improved at the margins, it is a great example of what a well-maintained page can look like using the new wikispaces format. Kudos, Kinkaid!

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