Student Inter-school Debating with Skype

This post includes 2 debates between Berwick Lodge Primary School and Bellaire Primary School. The students were in grade 5 & 6 and this was part of our inaugural debate rounds.

“We loved it, so much better than normal school! :)”

This is the student response to inter-school debating online. I thought it was a fantastic experience all round – for teachers and students. Admittedly it was fairly nerve racking at first and I think the teachers were more nervous than the students for the first couple of debates but by the time we had completed three or four it became more routine and quite easy to manage.

The success was due to a number of key factors not the least being a very cooperative and keen partner school. Special thanks to @rakt for his help and organisation. It certainly did help to work with a school who had had debating experience and we learnt a lot throughout the whole competition. Our students were novices with no experience or training in the art of debating.

How does it Work?

The Draw

Create a draw with the debate statements. It is best if you have an affirmative and negative for each debate and then they can practise against each other and it helps prepare for rebuttal statements. In other words if you have 3 Debates you need 6 teams at each school.

The Draw

Preparing the Arguments

Each team worked together on a shared Google Document that I prepared as a template with some indicators of what would be expected from each speaker. The teams had an “in school” practise debate against each other. They also practised their speeches against the clock to make sure they had the right amount of material.


debating wire

Each team had 3 speakers who had 90 seconds to present their arguments and rebut the opposing teams arguments. We allowed half an hour for each debate but this gave us plenty of time between debates. Older or more experienced students could have longer. The chairperson was provided by the affirmative team and each school was responsible for their own time keeper. We adjudicated our own students solely on their manner according to agreed criteria and compared scores on the screen while the students turned away or while the projectors were blanked out.

SKYPE Connection

We were fortunate to have a great Skype connection which we had tested well before hand. I had purchased a microphone especially for Skype calls that made it even easier. It allowed the students more freedom to present as it was much more effective in picking up their voices and easier to mute than using the internal microphone on the laptops.

In Summary

Debating is one of those authentic learning experiences where students develop higher order thinking skills. They work together as a team and it is clear which students are team players able to support and encourage others. They develop confidence in speaking and listening skills. There are so many teaching and learning opportunities within such a rich learning environment.

Skype enhances the experience by allowing inter-school debating without the  restriction of cost or location. It brings a whole new level of excitement and engagement when the students debate against another school. Our next debating exercise will be international with a school in New Zealand and I can see that Skpe Debating will be a continuing part of my school program afterall it is “so much better than normal school”!

Image courtesy of Flickr – Balanced Debate


Love teaching ICT, and using multimedia as a way to communicate and construct learning. I have developed a passion for blogging as a reflective tool and essential ingredient in learning I am an ICT Leading Teacher and Mentor with a Master's of Information Technology in Education

19 thoughts on “Student Inter-school Debating with Skype

  1. Thank you for sharing this post. Our grade 5 students who have no debating experience are about to go online for a debate as well. However, we will do it using MS Communicator, as the other school, Beeac primary want to use that medium. However, we have had great problems connecting through MS Communicator which required our techies all to collaborate as well and work in virtual teams. The Beeac team have not debated before either.
    What microphone did you purchase for skype calls? Was it one bought through the online skype shop?
    Do you have a copy of the adjudicating criteria? Did you take into account the fact that it was not face to face? I was wondering whether I get outside judges or just work within the school. I think with Communicator I can have more than one party on the video and that is why I would love to bring in a third party. Would you and your class be interested in being adjudicators? If so, will have to work out the Communicator issue with you as well! Anyway a very timely post for me, so thanks!

    1. Hi Anne
      I got the microphone from ITMadeSimple and it’s called a Duet mic because it has a speaker as well. The link is in the blog post.
      I can send you the adjudicating criteria but it was easy for us because we only adjudicated on the manner in which they presented. We encouraged them to use eye contact, to emphasize key words, etc. The rest of the criteria sort of took care of itself because otherwise students didn’t have enough material to talk for the required time. You would have to have a number of adjudicators if you wanted to give points for the arguments as well as manner or you could have more than one adjudicator so that they could take note of different aspect of the debate.
      I would love to be a third party if it is possible for your debates. I am thinking of trying out Eluminate so that we can have more than two schools watch and listen.
      Thanks for the comment

    1. I am presenting using Elluminate for providing a philosophy class and would be interested in trying debating too! I would love to chat with you about how I should go about setting this up :o)


  2. Hi Lois,

    Great to hear about the debating and that everything went well – those mics/speaker units are fantastic for these sorts of activities.

    It would be interesting to explore the debating process by extending the activity with technology and online tools to make it more enhanced activity – you could get the audience to rate/provide feedback to speakers in real time or after the event using Google forms or poll anywhere. You could also have a follow up wiki to allow for students to post feedback and questions after the event – a great way to consolidate and grow knowledge and learning after an event like this.

    Keep up the great work.


  3. Hi Lois,

    Myself and the kids really enjoyed being a part of the Skype debating. I think you really can’t go past Skype as a medium for doing this sort of thing. It only dropped out twice for us I think which is pretty good considering we were connected over for 5 hours all up across 1 and a half weeks.
    It is interesting to also point out that I created a new Skype account that is used primarily for school activities, so as friends and family weren’t able to contact me during a debate.

    I would like to thank Lois and the Berwick students and staff for being so supportive and accommodating with the organising of the debates. It was amazing to see the kids grow in confidence as the debates progressed.

    I am interested in extending the experience for the kids next time by having a microphone and camera that is separate from the laptop. This way the kids can stand and deliver their speech just like they would in a standard debate between two teams in the ‘same room’.


  4. Wow how nice this post. I used to participate on debates during the time I am still studying, and during those time our opponent were just from our school, preferably from another section or year level. That was exciting experience actually. But this one, debate over skype must be more exciting and thrilling. Your opponent were from another schools and it would possible for an international debating since communication is not a problem anymore.

    Thank you for sharing this post.

  5. It’s nice to know that you have integrated the use of technology like skype in your teaching methods, like for this instance debate over the internet. This will make learning experience more enjoyable for your students. I salute you and your school for that brilliant idea. Keep up the good work and may you bring home the bacon with each debate session.

  6. “Debating is one of those authentic learning experiences where students develop higher order thinking skills. They work together as a team and it is clear which students are team players able to support and encourage others. ”

    I agree, when I use to teach I dp this exercise with the kids alot and they really enjoyed it.

  7. I taught English in Asia for a while and one day coerced my sister to staying up late so that the students could talk to her on Skype and ask her questions about America. It worked great, but I wish I had thought about debating at that time!

  8. WOW, this is a great format of debate using Skype. I must say debating has reached a whole new level with the introduction of Skype. I think this will be a trend in the future. No matter where you are, you can debate. May be it using format like yours or Oregon Oxford or Australasian Parliament, debating via Skype can be done!
    -Louis Lagassé.

  9. hi everyone. it’s good to hear that there are other teachers who managed conversations between their students and other students from other schools. I would like to share my experience with you. I am from Palestine. I did 7 meetings through Skype between my students and a Russian group of students whose ages were 12 years old, a Romanian group of students whose ages were 17, a group of British girls and boys whose ages were 14-17. I am also going to present this idea on the IATEFLE 2015 in Manchester.

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