In a recent article, “Does Handwriting Have a Place in Today’s Tech-Driven Classrooms?” CBC journalists explored the research to determine the relevance or necessity for today’s students to master the art of printing and cursive writing. The article hits on a hot topic for educators and parents who are witnessing (and participating in) the rapid decline of handwriting and the steady increase of reliance on technology for communication. Kids belonging to the ‘Digital Generation’ are acquiring cell phones and computers at a very early age – they are texting and surfing before they learn how to form letters. Teenagers are even more reliant on cell phones for daily use. In fact, according to the article, “52.5% of 13-17 year olds in Canada own a Smart Phone compared to 37.1% of adults age 35 and older”. As such, it is not surprising that educators are increasingly incorporating technology and digital media into their classrooms to engage students and expand means and modes of communication.
In as much as the advancement of technologies in the classroom is a tremendous benefit to many students and to learning in general, it does have its downsides, particularly when it comes to the skill of writing by hand. Virginia Berninger, professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle explains in the article that, “it’s important to help children acquire the skill of writing by hand almost as they would a second language”. Berninger conducted a recent study (2009) that examined students’ ability to complete various writing tasks both on a computer and by hand, the results of which were quite illuminating. The study found that when writing by hand, students wrote longer essays and more complete sentences and they had a faster word production rate.
In a similar study, Berninger investigated the impact of spelling on students’ writing skills. She found that how well children spell is directly related to how well they can write. “Spelling activates some of the thinking parts of the brain in the frontal lobes.” Berninger explains. “We think that it is a cognitive portal, because it helps us access our vocabulary, word meaning and concepts … It is allowing your written language to connect with ideas.”
These results are just two examples that illustrate the importance of developing handwriting skills. The article suggests that educators should welcome the advancement of technological learning platforms but at the same time recognize that the fundamentals must be taught in order for that technology to be used effectively.
For information about handwriting skills and technological assistive devices for learning, contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space (416) 925-1225 or visit .