I sincerely think that you are missing the point.
But what does this mean for learning and development? Maybe it was a document for work, a message to a friend, or a simple shopping list.
Did you use a pen?
Or did you type it? The decline of writing by hand — particularly among young people and children — has been in the news. But what of the role that handwriting plays in learning and development?
And with technology changing how we live and work, what place does handwriting have in the modern classroom? The delegates noted with interest that everyone at the table had chosen to use pens, not laptops, to make notes.
One reason for this could be that writing plays a social role in our lives, said Dominic Wyse, professor of early childhood and primary education at UCL and incoming vice-president, president-elect of the British Educational Research Association BERA.
Having a laptop open would be rude in such circumstances, he argued — and he would find it more difficult to engage. The level of engagement involved in writing by hand is important, said Diana Strauss, co-founder of Write Dance Training, which helps children develop their handwriting skills through music.
She pointed to recent research carried out in France in which one group of adult learners was told to write notes while another typed them. Those writing by hand were later found to have a deeper level of learning.
This is why teachers encourage children to draw in the sand or water, which embeds learning in the early years, noted Naveed Idress, headteacher of Feversham Primary Academy in Bradford.
Encouraging children to concentrate on using computers too early might not be in their best interests in terms of development. Angela Webb, a psychologist and chair of the National Handwriting Association, explained that engagement with the physical environment activated certain areas of the brain and stimulated cognitive development, so picking up a pen has a positive impact not just on literacy but on other disciplines too.
One example of this is the way that it helps to develop the muscles needed to sit at a desk for long periods, said Strauss. She said learning to write by hand aided physical coordination, rhythm, stamina and posture.
Secondary school students are at risk of physical problems later in life if not taught to sit and write properly. Wyse said that while he would like to see children taught to touch-type early in school, it was rare to find children who had formed their first words on a keyboard. One way his school helped itself out of special measures was by focusing on music, which helped build focus and readiness to learn in the children.
He believes handwriting gives children similar skills to those gained through music — resilience, creativity and the ability to interact socially. We are making them ready for life. But for Guy Merchant, professor of literacy in education at Sheffield Hallam University, this can take place with a keyboard or touchscreen just as well as with a pen.
Helen Boden, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, said touch-typing can give dyslexic children the kind of automaticity they struggle with when learning to write by hand. Some are wary of putting marks on paper that would be a permanent symbol of their difficulties and are more comfortable with a tablet or computer where making corrections is easier.
Technology can also help those with little or no English to interact with their classmates, said Hana Emami, primary school project manager at the National Literacy Trust. Yet she warned that not all young people have good access to computers in their schools or at home, meaning too much emphasis on technology could set up educational inequalities.
But Merchant insisted digital literacy was essential, especially in a world where means of communication are rapidly diversifying. So is there a balance to be struck in how we teach children to write?
For Idress, this is key:By Anne Glennie Education, Gossip, Literacy a curious teacher, Big Writing, connectives, gossip, Michael Rosen, open letter, Roald Dahl, wow words Dear Mr Rosen, I notice you’re fond of writing open letters, so I thought you wouldn’t mind being on the receiving end of one.
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