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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Does handwriting have a place in today's tech-driven classrooms? | Caire Penhorwood, CBC News

Hmmmmmmmmmm. Interesting question! And so are the answers--from college professors. Here's the basic answer in the subhead:
Educators say basic writing and spelling skills still necessary for success in school and life.
Penhorwood begins by writing that elementary school students no longer spend much time "endlessly copying letters and sentences from a a chalkboard." She says that teachers don't spend much time on "perfecting strokes and proper curves in cursive writing."

She notes:
With the advent of new technologies like tablets and smartphones, writing by hand has become something of a nostalgic skill.
But she then reports on some college professors and studies that emphasize the benefits of teaching handwriting skills as well as spelling and computer technologies.

Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle:
I think it is wise to continue teaching handwriting. We need to continue to help kids be 'bilingual' by hand.
In a study published in 2009, Berninger and her colleagues found that when writing with a pen and paper, participants wrote longer essays and more complete sentences. They also had a faster word production rate.

In another study, Berninger looked at the role of spelling in a student's writing skills. She found that how well children spell is tied to how well they can write:
Spelling activates some of the thinking parts of the brain in the frontal lobes. 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.
As a longtime writer and editor, I value the useful writing and editing tools built in to computer applications and available online. But I also appreciate very much the point Berninger makes here, for children while they're learning and after they become adults:
In our computer age, some people believe that we don't have to teach spelling because we have spell checks. But until a child has a functional spelling ability of about a fifth grade level, they won't have the knowledge to choose the correct spelling among the options given by the machine.

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