4 Ways to Stay Focused for Online Debate Camp

Raffi Piliero | Jul 28, 2021
3 min read

The Opinions Expressed In This Blog Post Are Solely Those of the Author And Not Necessarily Those Of DebateDrills

For most of us, being stuck inside during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a drag. We miss seeing friends, being in person for school, and just having a change of scenery when working. While some facets of society have started to open up, this is not universally true, with many cities still remaining closed.

As a result, it remains likely that many students will be attending debate camp online this year, for the second year in a row. While camps (like our very own!) have done all that they can to make this experience as enjoyable and engaging as possible, there are some difficulties with online camps as they relate to student focus. This article will discuss some tips for you to remain locked in, even if your camp experience is online.

Force yourself to have a change of scenery

One of the nice features of in-person camp is that you’re not in the same place all of the time. Whether it’s walking to lab, stopping by the dining hall, or sitting outside, you are not in the same room for 10 hours in a day. However, many people tend to stay in the same place the entire day while at debate camp online, sitting in their room or home office for hours on end. This is not conducive to focus, and often results in one feeling worn out – instead, force yourself to move around and change locations.

Take breaks

Just because you can work for hours on end doesn’t mean that you should. Much has been written about “Zoom Fatigue,” where Zoom participants start feeling exhausted and worn out after staring at a screen for hours on end. Take periodic 10 to 15-minute breaks where you don’t look at a screen at all. Better yet, try productivity software such as Pomodoro which puts you on a cycle (working for 25 minutes, with a 5-minute break after each cycle) to put you on a schedule and make it easier to remember breaks.

Hold yourself accountable

It’s easier to zone out in a Zoom setting. You can turn your camera off, or just stare blankly at your screen with social media or texts on in the background. This would be more challenging in an in-person setting. Ultimately, you need to ensure you’re paying attention, since others won’t be able to. Turn off notifications, don’t have other tabs open in the background, and give your instructor your attention – it’s the only way to ensure you make the most out of your experience.

Take initiative

While this is also true for in-person camps, it’s a lot easier to “get lost in the shuffle” in online camps, with fewer opportunities for talking to instructors or students while walking to lab lessons or in common areas such as a dining hall. However, this learning can still happen online. Reach out to lab leaders or fellow lab students with strategy questions, to send recorded speeches, to show your cases, etc. People at debate camp love debate, and will be eager to help you – this only further gives opportunities to learn.

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