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It is no longer a requirement in American schools for students to learn cursive or ‘joined up’ handwriting. Some states still feature it in their curricula as they view it as an important part of a student’s development, however, others, like many countries around the world, see the teaching of cursive handwriting as an outdated skill in an increasingly digital world.
The argument against the teaching of handwriting is really all balanced on the fact that children from the earliest of ages are very comfortable using keyboards and since most things are digitalised or require a keyboard to make them work, some say that handwriting skills are effectively becoming obsolete.
There is something to be said for this argument. Logically, it kind of makes sense. Children use keyboards more and more so then why should we expect them to learn how to handwrite if they don’t do it in their daily life, surely it’s a waste of time and we should be teaching them how to touch type and code, not waste their time writing on paper?
On the other hand though, handwriting has been proven by countless educational and psychological studies to be closely linked with learning to read since the physical, fine-motor movement of creating letters in organised joined-up ways ignites the parts of the brain associated with reading.
Cursive handwriting, or even just writing neatly, requires more cognitive effort than keyboard use and again that cognitive effort of doing something repeatedly makes it more likely that it will be retained quicker and for longer.
A recent university study amongst students went some way in proving this. It found that those who handwrote their course notes rather than typing them into electronic devices scored higher in instant assessments after the lecture as they had a deeper memory retention compared with the more shallow retention rates of their keyboard-using counterparts.
There is no doubt that technology can help students who struggle with learning differences such as dyslexia, or even speaking, but just because the technology is there doesn’t mean that we should blindly use it and equally, in my opinion, it doesn’t mean that we should presume everything will be better if we do it at the expense of important things like learning to hand write legibly.
I believe the beauty of technology, particularly technology in education, is that we have a choice whether to use it or not and if schools do choose to invest in it, then they should be prepared to justify the investment by demonstrating the impact it has on standards of learning or preparedness for the adult world, since the true measure of any investment in new technology is the impact it has on the quality of peoples’ lives.
Some believe education has to evolve with technology, but I don’t … particularly if it means discarding subjects or skills that are inherently useful.
Technology, when used creatively in schools, can enhance understanding and even speed up the learning process, but it is dangerous to make the assumption that newer is always better without considering what might be lost for children in our schools alongside any potential gains.