Archive for July, 2011

Replace lessons in cursive handwriting with keyboarding?

July 12, 2011

Replace lessons in cursive handwriting with keyboarding?

In this age of fast-paced change and ‘technological innovation’ and an emphasis on explicit and extrinsic ‘skill formation’ and quantitative measurements what should become redundant in primary compulsory education?
Some schools and teachers would advocate that handwriting be dropped for keyboarding.

Being a doodler and lover of handwriting and font design I wonder…

Such a decision formalises what is in practise a fact, teachers do not spend hours on handwriting. I think that this is appropriate as there are more important things to do. However it should not be dropped as unnecessary or useless.

A feature, without emphasis, should draw attention to the aesthetic aspects of handwriting – who after all designed the fonts we use? How could we justify NOT teaching cursive to NO formal handwriting instruction but leap to keyboarding instead?

Clear, legible, and quick handwriting should be encouraged which is the power of cursive, running writing once mastered – this involves the correct management of the pen as a tool – where we control it to our advantage. This would overcome writer’s cramp after a couple of sentences. The big assumption is that we are writing culture – and that we all have and use keyboards. This is partly supported by the emphasis in schools on decoding at the expense of encoding which is what we do as we write.

As with many thoughts generated by adults about children’s learning developmental concerns are ignored. This is especially so when such ideas a regenerated in the absence of daily contact with young children. To denigrate handwriting ignores the connection of our early steps toward handwriting and self-expression – ‘mark-making’ in preschool and kinder/prep/reception and the intimate connections between reading, writing, and spelling in the early years and through the primary years.

There is a lot happening on a page of handwriting – design, spatial organisation, consistence of pattern, and so on. Not that difficulty in meeting these demands should be used by teachers to exert power unnecessarily over children. In later writing development there is evidence too that young students especially are unable to get their ideas down quickly.

Teachers have observed that children’s imaginative thoughts and story writing are inhibited on the screen. Sketching out a story without regard to spelling and grammar, to be edited later, is lost on the screen as students become preoccupied with editing, especially when prompted by spelling and grammar checks. The process of drafting, editing, and crafting a piece of writing cannot be avoided by working on screen alone.

I wonder, will drawing suffer a similar fate? Even though fine arts trained draughtspersons are sought out in the animation industry over those who only have computer aided drawing experience. I understand this is the case because they have had to consciously consider weight and form and movement and their representation in 2D. Training that cannot occur with a mouse, a tablet tool, and a screen.

Of course I am of a generation that was taught to write in the suggested forsaken manner – I acknowledge not everyone met the desired end but then we didn’t get caned either. Ultimately the employers do not need hand-writers but key strokers, and there’s the rub.


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