24 Learning: July 2015

24 Learning

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Handwriting - Back to the future?

Image result for handwriting debate 

I am participating in in some online PD with the CPPA this term. This post is a response to the blogging challenge and a response to Jo's blog post.

The debate about handwriting vs typing is a debate about skills that are of enduring importance vs skills that have only temporary importance. I remember at high school learning to touch type (long forgotten skill now sadly). Typing is I believe a skill that is fast becoming less important than we might have thought in the past.

A quick browse of online writing on this issue  (1, 2, 3) suggests the reasons put forward arguing for keeping handwriting instruction in the curriculum are either about nostalgia or about brain development.

Looking at Jo's post it seems the children are mostly concerned about the speed of their typing. I really wonder whether we are in a very short interim period where we can see that typing is useful and should be taught and the time (fast approaching I believe) where we will just be able to talk to our devices and they will translate spoken word to text for us. I think typing will quickly become a skill that is not required. Soooo.... If I am right the debate will not continue to focus on how quickly children can type but will refocus on whether there is something useful for brain development that the physical action of writing promotes. If that is true, is there some other action we can take that will promote the same brain development (if indeed that is important) or do we actually not need that part of our brains to be active any more?

A parallel argument could be held for something like memory. It used to be quite important for us to develop our memory capacity. Intelligence and academic success was mostly about remembering. Who remembers learning the names of capital cities, periodic table, prime ministers, etc? Success at high school and university was significantly about how much swotting we did before those big exams. Now we have much less need to remember stuff cause google has a much better memory and recall ability than the human brain ever will. Academic success is also being examined in more diverse ways that are about application of skill rather than regurgitation of remembered facts.

Linking these ideas are some challenges for us as educators.

Will handwriting and typing both be equally redundant soon?
Will memorisation of facts become redundant?
What else that we have traditionally deemed important will become less important?
What do we hold on to in the curriculum as essential skills?

Some of this is crystal ball gazing and some of it is current reality. One place to look I believe would be to ask employers what the skills are they are looking for in their workforce.

This is what Forbes magazine has to say on the topic...

1. Ability to work in a team structure
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
5. Ability to obtain and process information
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
7. Technical knowledge related to the job
8. Proficiency with computer software programs
9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
10. Ability to sell and influence others

How well are we doing on preparing our children for this list? Does handwriting (or indeed typing) fit in here importantly?

Or this list from Careers and Employment UK

1 Able to express your ideas clearly and confidently in speech
TEAMWORK 2 Work confidently within a group
COMMERCIAL AWARENESS 3 Understand the commercial realities affecting the organisation.
ANALYSING & INVESTIGATING 4 Gather information systematically to establish facts & principles. Problem solving.
INITIATIVE/SELF MOTIVATION 5 Able to act on initiative, identify opportunities & proactive in putting forward ideas & solutions
DRIVE 6 Determination to get things done. Make things happen & constantly looking for better ways of doing things.
7 Able to express yourself clearly in writing
PLANNING & ORGANISING 8 Able to plan activities & carry them through effectively
FLEXIBILITY 9 Adapt successfully to changing situations & environments
TIME MANAGEMENT 10 Manage time effectively, prioritising tasks and able to work to deadlines.