Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Is hand writing a dead skill? Does this matter?

Over the last two years I have noticed more and more schools moving towards web based learning through applications for students. Many of these are very successful programs such as Mathletics. My maths department uses this program and seems to get great results from it. The students love it. They are able to compete online with other students from around the world, win prizes online and parents can have scores emailed to them weekly. The teachers set the work online for them and it is aligned with our NZ curriculum. It hooks and engages the students and it has made mathematics fun.

I came across an online writing tool called MY Access it automatically generates scores for essays, critiques five aspects of writing, and provides feedback for improvement. A comment made by students on their homepage video made me think - are we going to lose the skill of writing with pen and paper? The students said, "....it's fun to use and its better than having to write it on paper" and another student said "If I had to use paper and pencil then I don't think it would be as much fun. Its a lot quicker on the computer and its more fun to type."

Does this matter for our future society? How will the digital divide impact this? If we still have a literacy problem worldwide and communication moves more and more to the computer. Will we now have a "literacy divide" problem? Wired carried a story last year that reports that the digital divide is not only alive but growing.

We found cave writings on the walls of stories from thousands of years ago. What stories will they find thousands of years from now? Will our media survive as the cave walls have?


SMeech said...

Interesting blog entry and well written. I am moved to comment based on your last premise of the cave writings.

My question for you would be, "Does the legacy matter?" Perhaps there is a problem with not writing anymore but it doesn't seem to me that it should be dependent on what we leave behind. I joke with kids that their handwriting looks like they wrote with their toes... they laugh...but it can be a problem. I do think it is a skill that is less important for sure. Just like any of the basics of anything though... we need to have them for sure!

BF said...

I think I have seen some of that "toe writing" with my own students :)

I think it is an interesting discussion for educators and I agree with you - does the legacy matter? I am a technologist but I believe it is a combination of tools that supports and engages our students in learning. I would hate to see one lost for the other. Maybe we could engage them in handwriting with graphic tablets and tablet laptops? Maybe we wouldn't have to loose the skill...just change the tool?