Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Handwriting and Reading - They're Both Important to Education

On my soapbox here today, as you can tell by my post title. Since our education system is in current jeopardy for a variety of reasons, both political and curricula based, I have to voice my writer's opinion on these two important subjects in schools.

In 2010, the Common Core State Standards established a new "rule" that handwriting would now only be required teaching in kindergarten and first grade. After that, students would switch to keyboards. This edict has become practice, in spite of solid evidence that writing by hand improves letter recognition, which is the strongest help to reading success.

Eminent psychologists have learned that, when 5-year-olds were shown letters that they had written by hand, brain regions that involve mastering of reading skills were used. These same regions were not used after the students typed or traced the letters. In addition, it has been proven that college students who take handwritten notes are better able to answer conceptual questions about a subject as opposed to those who type their notes.

Schools today seem obsessed with "a computer for every student". Not only does this require massive amounts of money for education boards to acquire, but there are many negative results to learning when a child does not put pen to paper, or actually read from a textbook in their hands. In addition, they have difficulty calculating arithmetic by hand.

I have read many articles on this subject, all of which point to the current habits by educators, parents and students. They all conclude that technology is helpful, but shouldn't be exclusive to other forms of learning. One of the best op-ed pieces I read focused on certain heads of technology, such as Steve Jobs and others in Silicon Valley executive positions, who stated that they limit their own children to screens and keyboards, going so far as to send their kids to computer-free schools.

I am not suggesting that we eliminate technology entirely, It does have limited positive usage. My concern is that, in the 21st century, we are way too focused on staring at a screen, or doing all our communication by keypad. We're not only ignoring the effects for our children's futures, but we all are losing civility with our fellow man in everyday life. And I don't feel that's an exaggeration.