Yesterday I listened to an episode of Freakonomics (http://freakonomics.com/podcast/who-needs-handwriting/) on handwriting. As a child I disliked penmanship and was horrible at it (still am). Eventually my teachers just told me to print so that they could read my answers. This is also a tech show, which should have an audience that leans toward the fact that computers are awesome. But most of you fine listeners should be interested in what is the best solution to a problem. Especially if that solution is contrary to conventional thought.
Many reasons were given for handwriting to be a thing of the past and I think most of them are a lot of bull.
First some more qualifications for me. I am a college dropout that did eventually graduate. Until last week I was a teacher who worked with students who were not always the best. I have been without a cell phone for two years and I love fountain pens. This probably does not qualify me for much, as I am certainly not a doctor or a scientific researcher, but I do have some real world experience and have been experimenting on my students (all in a good way).
So here are some of the cons:
- Handwriting is old fashioned – true
- Typing is faster – true. Cursive is on average 30 words per minute.
- Hands hurt after writing – true
- Lack of success as a child demotivated me, left me “school damaged” – true
These are all excuses that I have made and are all excuses my students have made. As a computer science teacher, I require all of my students to keep a handwritten notebook in my classes and they can use it on all of their tests, quizzes, and assignments. What an old fashioned stick in the mud I must be (they must have a cooler way to say this).
There is nothing wrong with using tech to help with anything, but if you do not understand concepts of why and how, all the tech in the world will not help you and many people try to use tech as a crutch.
Typing is faster, most students get to the point they can type everything that is said in a lecture. This skips a crucial part of learning where you use your brain to analyze what is being said. Writing is slower but should force you to put content in your own words by thinking about it and being an active listener.
The pain in your hand should go away with practice, good form, and proper tools. I like fountain pens as they glide over the paper and you do not have to hold them in a death grip. Form means to use your arm, not your wrist, to write. With practice this can be done.
I was bad at handwriting as a child and my teacher was wrong to tell me to stop. Part of education is to teach about failure and difficulty. If people only do the easy things who will do the hard ones? A person interviewed on Freakanomics said their school put too much emphasis on handwriting so they moved their child to a different school as this was having too much of a negative effect on his feelings. Way to teach your child to run away from hard things. I hope no college professor ever hurts his feelings to requires too much from them. Life gets harder, education should be hard to prepare students for the work of life.
So enough cons, how about some pro argument.
Laptops are full of distractions, most adults I know cannot focus with their email and social media trying to grab their attention.
In an independent study talked about on Freakanomics, two researchers found that handwriters and laptopers had no difference in learning faces, unless they were allowed to review their notes before the quiz, where handwriters gained an edge. Concepts on the other hand, handwriters always held and almost like they thought about the concepts more than the students who just typed everything that was said.
Something not really covered was writing new content. I give my students fountain pens as rewards and this makes writing so much more special. They take more time to write things and think more about what they are trying to say. This is a win-win.
Now everyone is different. Please try handwriting for a few weeks and see if it helps you retain more. If you are not a student, watch a lecture on the internet or read a book and see if you learn more.
Finally handwriting is personal. I am willing to mail a postcard to almost anyone that sends me their address (droops @ gmail) so that they can get that personal feeling.
So I made some arguments, handwriting makes you smarter, helps you develop grit, makes you feel special, and gives you super powers. Hopefully you will try it out.
This has been droops and this is Hacker Public Radio… HPR.
Fountain Pen Suggestions
Fountain Pens I give my Students: http://amzn.com/B0052HYKC0
Fountain Pens I use the most: http://www.lamyusa.com/fountain_main_safari.php