The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

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The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby Adventure Temple Trail » Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:28 pm

This thread is the last part of the "The Big Vision" series. Click here to go back to index/introduction.

Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?
Seeing if other organized mind competitions inspire thoughts, without blindly copying stuff that doesn’t work for us

Many quizbowl players, coaches, etc. engage seriously in many other extracurriculars of a similar, “mind competition” bent. Quizbowl is unique in a lot of ways, and has figured out what works for quizbowl pretty well. But it can’t hurt for people with experience in other activities to look at the way other activities do things, and see if there are aspects of how things are done elsewhere that might be worthwhile to learn from. (Positively or negatively -- there could be some aspects of having more funding/sponsorship [as another activity might] that we seriously want to avoid as we move forward.)

In my case, my usual comparison point (if you haven’t gathered by now) is the time I spent in policy debate, an activity which does a lot well and does a lot of other things in a way which didn’t gel well with me. My high school had a pretty well-established debate program, and began training all “novices” for serious national-circuit success the instant they joined the team. It became clear to me very quickly that while the activity did many things right, some aspects of it frustrated me. One such issue was the very strong bifurcation between the very best teams and everybody else; basically every tournament was split between Varsity and Novice divisions, and the learning curve for ‘breaking’ to the (always single-elim) playoffs was very, very steep. There were far fewer events which qualified teams for nationals, and teams which wanted to attend the most prestigious national (the Tournament of Champions, or TOC) had to finish in the top few teams at two events during the year to qualify. Because nationals qualification was much more limited, and many serious schools had far more financial resources at their disposal, the country could be basically split into a “national circuit” of teams who could fly to the most prestigious qualifiers from Friday through Monday every single weekend on one hand, and teams focused on state & local events on the other. (Since each round was two to three hours long, and most tournaments offered 5 to 7 rounds, almost every debate tournament took two or three days to complete.) I think that among the eight or so tournaments I attended, only two were in driving distance. As it turned out, I was not very interested in national-circuit debate success in the way that I later was in quizbowl. Part of this is that quizbowl allows a far more robust level of same-day trips and local participation in most areas. I’d like to ensure that local competitions with same-day travel continue to be the staple of our game’s organization. It then became clear to me that there was no way to do the activity “for fun” or at a more casual/relaxed pace -- the opportunity cost was just too high for all the time it threatened to take.

But there were many very things which impressed me in my time in policy debate as well, which we could look towards. Many tournaments were able to get over a hundred “judges,” including dozens of retired high school players, to staff rounds by paying them something for their time. Several of the best teams were able to up the number of serious coaches to two or three (comparatively very rare in quizbowl), allowing the extra adults to focus on training novices or on preparing in specialty areas. For kids who really wanted to improve, there was a very serious culture of summer camp training (some kids went to two or three camps in one summer, and each one lasted 2-4 weeks compared to our usual one-week programs). And of course, there’s the fact that colleges accepted serious debate scholarships.

Perhaps other people have seen other activities which make for interesting bouts of compare-contrast, both with regards to specific protocol and general culture. (Model UN/Congress? Math team?) (Or even from some sports? Though we obviously don’t do single elimination if we can help it, and we’re a lot less restricted by the need for huge astroturf fields or by the threat of physical injury.) I can’t claim to have done every thing -- few of us can -- so I imagine there’s a lot of interesting ideas to be dug up once we start doing “comparative literature” on the other things that are out there. As our activity expands, we can also expect to foresee some problems on the horizon, by taking a look at other activities which have them, and try to pre-empt. (One example: As far as I’m aware, on average high school quizbowlers at hotels for nationals, two-day tournaments, etc. are exceedingly well-behaved compared to average. Let’s keep it that way .)

It might also be interesting to try and cross-pollinate some of our good ideas with other competitions if we happen to have players who are involved in both. For example: Many debate tournaments used power matching/Swiss pairs to determine who plays whom from round to round. But in doing so, they actually had to wait for all of the records from the last match to come in and tabulate new pairings every single round. It remains confusing to me why other activities in that situation haven’t figured out the HSNCT-style card system; it’d save them hours of time.


******

With that, I've now posted everything I have to start us off. Again, I welcome general thoughts/comments in the replies to part 1, and specific comments under their respective threads.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby kayli » Sun Aug 31, 2014 1:52 pm

In all of the non-quizbowl national and state level academic competitions that I went to in high school, there was always an opening ceremony and a closing awards ceremony. Now, I know a lot of quizbowlers think that these things are really tacky (and believe me a lot of high schoolers did as well), but it gave the competition an air of legitimacy and was a nice ceremony for the parents and chaperons that attended with us. If we want people to start celebrating the achievements of dedicated quizbowlers, the best place to start is with ourselves, and while as older quizbowlers we all know that winning HSNCT or NSC is a big deal, we never really show people that it's a big deal. I think a ceremony where teams are awarded their trophies, and inviduals are given shiny medals in front of other teams, parents, and various adults would really help with this. To add to a bit of suspense that I think good ceremonies have, I think we should also consider awarding HSNCT/NSC "All Star Players" awards to ten or so individuals, based not entirely off of PPG (this, I think is also fair to various "role" players). This should come with a plaque and possibly some nominal scholarship money.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby JKHtay » Sun Aug 31, 2014 6:19 pm

I have participated in several Model UN competitions and most of the top programs in the nation have an elective class for Model UN where students prepare for conferences, do research on their countries, etc. (Centennial's MUN program is one of the few that doesn't have a serious class for it). Debate also commonly has a class associated with it for people to practice. However, as far as I know, none of the GA teams actually have a quizbowl class. If you have enough people on the team to fulfill the minimum requirement for a period, perhaps trying to get a quizbowl elective period would obviously provide more practice for teams and serve to legitimize it as a competitive sport in the eyes of school administration.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby RexSueciae » Sun Aug 31, 2014 6:50 pm

JKHtay wrote:I have participated in several Model UN competitions and most of the top programs in the nation have an elective class for Model UN where students prepare for conferences, do research on their countries, etc. (Centennial's MUN program is one of the few that doesn't have a serious class for it). Debate also commonly has a class associated with it for people to practice. However, as far as I know, none of the GA teams actually have a quizbowl class. If you have enough people on the team to fulfill the minimum requirement for a period, perhaps trying to get a quizbowl elective period would obviously provide more practice for teams and serve to legitimize it as a competitive sport in the eyes of school administration.


If I remember correctly, several of the DC Metro quizbowl schools have elective classes to prepare for It's Academic (unless my memory's failed me a second time, I think the Centennial High School in Maryland follows this model). I haven't heard of any schools that actually offer an actual quizbowl class, though.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby cchiego » Sun Aug 31, 2014 7:06 pm

Some schools in the South in particular have an academic competition class. Unfortunately, there are some issues with offering one:

1. It often only counts as a "standard" class on a student's transcript, which Honors/AP/IB students don't like having on there.
2. The schools that have it often are bad QB only schools for some reason.
3. There may be strings attached with getting it, such as doing well in local bad QB competition X.

I think it's a great idea if you can get it in general though since it gives the coach a release from a regular class and more time to focus on preparing for quizbowl (just like athletic coaches often get) and it makes the students practice consistently.

Model UN does a couple of other things that might be useful for quizbowl to look at. One is that everyone is supposed to wear professional attire, which definitely provides a positive image booster. Another is that they often get someone like a local professor in to make a big address or talk about a current issue, which is often very variable in quality, but can be a really cool experience. I don't know how quizbowl might do this, but it could be neat to have a tournament offer some kind of mini-class during lunch break if people are interested in learning more about a certain, fairly narrow topic. Finally, almost every Model UN competition I've seen offers a coach's/sponsor's hospitality lounge with free food/coffee, which I've also seen at several quizbowl tournaments in the South before and might be an interesting idea to try to have at more tournaments.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby Strongside » Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:04 pm

My former middle school offers quiz bowl as a class during the school day. It is different from a regular class in that is not graded and not for credit, it instead takes the place of a study hall/free period.

I do not know of any other schools in Minnesota with anything similar to that.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby kayli » Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:12 pm

As much as I think that quizbowl is a worthwhile pursuit, petitioning for schools to offer classes in quizbowl is the course of action. I'm opposed to it on principle (I'm also against it for Model UN and debate because those are stupid), but also it's the wrong thing to put our energies into because the problem is precisely that people may not think that quizbowl is a worthwhile activity even outside of school, and at this stage it'd be delusional to think that any substantial number of people would sacrifice a class period for quizbowl.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby at your pleasure » Sun Aug 31, 2014 10:31 pm

cchiego wrote: Another is that they often get someone like a local professor in to make a big address or talk about a current issue, which is often very variable in quality, but can be a really cool experience. I don't know how quizbowl might do this, but it could be neat to have a tournament offer some kind of mini-class during lunch break if people are interested in learning more about a certain, fairly narrow topic. Finally, almost every Model UN competition I've seen offers a coach's/sponsor's hospitality lounge with free food/coffee, which I've also seen at several quizbowl tournaments in the South before and might be an interesting idea to try to have at more tournaments.


This seems like a good idea(and gives coaches/parents a nice little treat, since I think a lot of these kinds of programming would wind up appealing more to them and a few students interested in that specific topic). Offering a mini-class or even a presentation/workshop during a lunch break on a narrow topic(for example "if you want to stay and order pizza, we'll have So-and-So give a short talk about their research on X"; in addition tournaments could partner with on-site cultural institutions to organize for example a trip to a lecture or similar activity the friday night before a tournament (this would obviously pose a difficulty with many team's travels but quite a few college campuses usually have some interesting or talk Friday afternoon), a lunch-break brown bag talk or tour of the campus art gallery if on a college campus.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby RexSueciae » Mon Sep 01, 2014 12:22 am

That sounds like an idea that only a college tournament (and maybe high school nationals) could manage to pull off, and would probably be very impractical for most regular-season high school tournaments. Who's going to manage the logistical aspects of getting Professor [Insert Name Here] to the school, or transporting all the interested teams to [Insert Location Here], while tournament stats / printing out packets / ordering lunch for staff gets done? Pre-tournament events seem even more strictly confined to college events (very few high school tournaments, bar nationals, last more than one day).

It would be lovely if, say, History Bowl Nationals also offered participants discounted tours of historical sites in Washington D.C. (or wherever it's due to be hosted next year), or something like that, but on the same hand I'm worried that people will start trying to pile so much stuff into tournament weekends that they end up completely neglecting the actual quizbowl.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby The Stately Rhododendron » Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:01 am

RexSueciae wrote:
JKHtay wrote:I have participated in several Model UN competitions and most of the top programs in the nation have an elective class for Model UN where students prepare for conferences, do research on their countries, etc. (Centennial's MUN program is one of the few that doesn't have a serious class for it). Debate also commonly has a class associated with it for people to practice. However, as far as I know, none of the GA teams actually have a quizbowl class. If you have enough people on the team to fulfill the minimum requirement for a period, perhaps trying to get a quizbowl elective period would obviously provide more practice for teams and serve to legitimize it as a competitive sport in the eyes of school administration.


If I remember correctly, several of the DC Metro quizbowl schools have elective classes to prepare for It's Academic (unless my memory's failed me a second time, I think the Centennial High School in Maryland follows this model). I haven't heard of any schools that actually offer an actual quizbowl class, though.


Your memory has failed you, they don't have an elective class. What they do have is a specific time on the schedule (not every day, may 2-4 times a month) set aside for extracurricular activities. It's not like a daily class on It's Academic or anything.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby Fakespeare » Mon Sep 01, 2014 12:33 pm

I'm fairly certain that at one point, our neighbors Seven Lakes HS offered a quizbowl class as a study hall.

My school currently has a honors/pre-AP leveled class (5.0 GPA) for Academic Decathlon, which is a holdover from the late 1990s/early 2000s when Taylor was a dominant decath squad at the national level. It'd be nice to give the same opportunity to quizbowlers, especially those who are competitive at state/national circuits.

From what I hear, our decath squad managed to secure a GPA-earning class for themselves mostly through the activism of the coach, so perhaps if quizbowl coaches continuously heckled the administration (with the help of their players, of course) the quizbowl class could become a reality.
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Re: The Big Vision: [10] Looking Outside Quizbowl for Ideas?

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:40 am

Like Matt, I also have experience with policy debate (having done it at a lower level than Matt for 3 years in high school), and he's outlined many of the advantages and disadvantages of the activity in this post and others. The positives, in my mind, are the culture, the dedication, and the in-built network of support from coaches and the community. Something that's worth adding is, at my high school and several others I know of at least, there was an ingrained culture of college debaters serving as assistant coaches for their old high schools or for local teams. Now, in debate, there are probably more roles for such people than in quizbowl (driving, cutting evidence, judging practice rounds, talking strategy, etc), but the general idea of people in college "giving back" in various ways to high school teams is a good tack to take (and many do, through PACE and so on).

However, my larger avocation in high school (before I discovered quizbowl) was math competitions, and I think there may be some things that quizbowl can learn from them. The most popular math competition in the United States in the AMC, which is a series of tests which end in the selection of the US team for the International Math Olympiad. The first round test (the AMC12) is taken by tens of thousands of students around the country (schools are mailed the tests, and they're administered by a teacher). Those that score at least 100 out of 150 points go on to take the 15-question AIME; those that achieve a certain total score on those two (around 250 students total nationwide when I was in school, I think around 500 or so now) go on to take the USA Math Olympiad, etc. etc. This hierarchical structure allows some clear signalling on college applications (e.g. "I qualified for the AIME all four years of high school", "I qualified for the USAMO in sophomore and junior year") and divides a whole gamut of difficulty into manageable stages that feel like an accomplishment whenever you cross from one to the next. On top of that, there's an entire culture of devotees, with textbooks, an online forum, etc. etc.

Basically, the things that this contest does well are three-fold:

1. It has a very large exposure. Anyone and everyone can fairly inexpensively take the first round test, and (combined with the fact that online resources are easily available) anyone and everyone has the opportunity to compete and do well if they catch the fever. Obviously, some schools have more of a "math team" culture than others, but the access is there.

2. It has broad recognition among educators. Doing well on the AMC is a real badge of honor. MIT's college application in my time had a slot for your scores, even, alongside your SAT/ACT and whatever else.

3. It offers rewards at every single stage. I was awarded some state-level awards for my performance on the AMC, in addition to qualifying for the next stages. Other math competitions I participated in (MATHCOUNTS, GPML) had a similar hierarchical rewards system (you could win regional, state, and super-state level awards).

I think quizbowl is looking to exploit these ideas as well (e.g. by having state-level competitions in every state), and I hope that continues; I too look forward to a day when writing 'HSAPQ state champion' is something that's easily recognizable. However, I think quizbowl is missing that first-round penetrance that the AMC has, and I'd love to brainstorm a way for that to happen (even if its just mailing a practice packet to every school in the country for a teacher to read and score to a group of their students or something).
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