The “Other” NFL rules for using the iPad for debates

English: Isaac Cruikshank, Debating Society (S...

English: Isaac Cruikshank, Debating Society (Substitute for Hair Powder). London: Published by Laurie & Whittle, May 5, 1795. Etching and engraving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using the iPad for debates saves toting a bunch of papers and books to the debate site and, among other obvious benefits, helps the debating team travel light. However, before you consider toting that iPad – or any other electronic gizmo to the debating site, consult the governing body rules. For example, one national debating organization that goes by the initials NFL – stands for National Forensic League – has some rather demanding rules on using iPads and laptops.

According to their Spring 2010-2011 Competition Events Guide, NFL rules on bringing and using electronic devices in debating events are rather specific. To wit:

  • It is strictly up to the district debate sponsor to decide whether or not iPads or other electronic devices will be allowed. Their decision is autonomous and cannot be appealed.
  • Any computer (includes iPad) equipped with a removable wireless card must have its card taken out and disengaged before the competition begins. (Note: Cell phones and Smart phones are banned in the debate preparation area and the debate room.)
  • Any computer that has built-in wireless capability must have the wireless connection disabled. It is the debaters’ responsibility to do that. Expect to have your computer looked at to make sure the wireless capability has been shut down.
  • No wired connections (phone or computer) are permitted during each round of the debate. (Get caught fudging on this rule, and you could get thrown out of the debate.)
  • You can’t use the web, e-mail, an instant message, or any other means of getting information electronically from outside the debating room.
  • If you are asked to produce a copy of the evidence used during a debate for the inspection by a judge or an opponent, you can use your printer. Your evidence may be printed during the debating round or it must be produced in some manner that is easily read by the judge or someone on the opposing team.
  • If you choose to use a computer or iPad, all the supporting gear (batteries, extension cords, etc.) are your responsibility. Don’t expect any logistical support (paper, printers, etc.)  from the debating site.
  • You are responsible for safeguarding your computer equipment from theft or tampering. (Note: No power outlets can be used in the debating room. Your iPad or laptop must be on battery power. Make sure they’re charged!)
  • No computer game playing is allowed at any time during the tournament.
  •  Don’t expect sympathy or help if your equipment fails. You will not get any “special consideration or accommodation,” i.e., extra time if your iPad or computer crashes or runs out of power.
  • You may share your computer with a contestant from your own school, but you may not communicate with other contestants during debate prep time.
  • If you choose to bring an iPad or a laptop to an NFL-sponsored debate, you must allow tournament judges access to your files.
  •  If you print electronically retrieved evidence for use in the competition, it must be cited using MLA style.

The “NFL Penalty Flag”

Contestants who are discovered violating the rules on wireless cards and connections or to have received outside electronically generated information from any source, according to the NFL, “will be ranked last in the round and receive zero NFL points.  Likewise, if a contestant (or coach) is caught using an electronic device inside the debate room the debating team “will be disqualified from the tournament and will forfeit all round credits and NFL points.”(Go to the NFL website to download complete debating rules.)

So for NFL-sponsored debates, you can bring along your iPad, but it can only be used as a storage resource. Connectivity will have to be disabled, which is easy.


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Were coding our new iPad App. Meanwhile, our blog and twitter machines will give you great tips on speaking confidently, ruling the room and being awesome.
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