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Archive for Saturday, November 7, 2009

Preserving penmanship in the Computer Age

Teachers afraid cursive might become a lost art

Deerfield third-grader Amanda Stinnett practices writing a “W” in cursive Thursday at school. Teachers across the country are battling to save the art of handwriting as electronic forms of communicating gain cultural dominance.

Deerfield third-grader Amanda Stinnett practices writing a “W” in cursive Thursday at school. Teachers across the country are battling to save the art of handwriting as electronic forms of communicating gain cultural dominance.

November 7, 2009

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Deerfield third-grader Amanda Stinnett practices writing a “W” in cursive Thursday at school. Teachers across the country are battling to save the art of handwriting as electronic forms of communicating gain cultural dominance.

Deerfield third-grader Amanda Stinnett practices writing a “W” in cursive Thursday at school. Teachers across the country are battling to save the art of handwriting as electronic forms of communicating gain cultural dominance.

On the street

Do you have good penmanship?

No, because I have stubby fingers.

More responses

Susan Niedenthal has taught third grade for 15 years at Deerfield School. A staple for her third-grade curriculum, and for many schools around the country, is to teach the art of curling and connecting letters through cursive handwriting.

“I think it’s a skill that’s nice to have,” Niedenthal said, “(and) then if you do write for signing your name and things like that, it’s nice to know that.”

After third grade, however, cursive might seem like an educational relic. Its future seems most affected by the growing presence of technology.

“We learn it, and then we don’t use it,” Niedenthal said about cursive. “We don’t write letters anymore. We do e-mail.”

Instant technology such as e-mail or a text message becomes a simpler, faster way to communicate — placing less emphasis on nice penmanship.

“When we use good penmanship and we’re doing all the pulling ups and pulling out and pulling back,” said Maureen Burns, a handwriting analyst, “that wires our brain for better social connections. And without that, we don’t have the good social connections.”

Burns’ analysis mostly focuses on improving people’s cursive handwriting. She warns against a societal shift from handwriting to technology as a loss of brain function and discipline.

“Because (of) the handwriting, you’re working a lot of parts of your brain at the same time,” Burns added. “You’re trying to decide what you want to write, how you want to say it.”

The Lawrence school district adopted a handwriting book two years ago to possibly prevent cursive’s extinction. Niedenthal said the book keeps penmanship a priority from preschool through sixth grade.

“I do hope that they keep teaching this,” Niedenthal said, “because it is important that they learn it just as a background, something to have.”

Comments

saoirseglen 4 years, 5 months ago

I still use manuscript and cursive when I write stories and also for taking notes during meetings and training sessions at work. I also use cursive when I need to jot down information on a daily basis. I can use a computer and I do text on my cell phone, however I still do more than just sign my name with my writing skills.

I also do math in my head and write it down with pencil and paper. I will not always have a calculator, computer or data device to do math or write when I have to do something.

I am guessing that many people don't see the value of using older methods of working math or writing when they could just let technology do the work for them. Why bother to learn anything then in school if one can just look up information on the internet and have a piece of technology do all of the work for you? Technology is supposed to be a tool, not a crutch. It is important to know how to use alternative means of doing something if there is no complex or modern technology to assist you.

Even in college I had tests where I had to hand write words, complete sentences and even had to use proper spelling and grammar. I also had to calculate without the use of a calculator. Writing papers may have been by computer in the United States, but while I was studying in a foreign country I had to hand write papers to turn in and my handwriting had to be legible so that my professors could read it.

It is important to have manual, brain powered, body powered skills and knowledge just in case technology fails or is simply not available.

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Elrond 4 years, 5 months ago

Irish, Of course! Elrond was one of the most heroic yet understated characters in that classic novel.

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 5 months ago

Elrond May I inquire if your name was taken from Tolkien?

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Katara 4 years, 5 months ago

There are still plenty of people out there who have no access to computers. To assume that is the mode of communication for everyone would be incorrect.

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Joshua Montgomery 4 years, 5 months ago

I'm on lunch break from my duty shift in the Air National Guard, so I don't have much time to respond to the loud mouthed, thread hijacking cyber stalker above other than to say that the George Washington image the wako linked is not mine, nor do I use image shack.

Wow, what nutjob!

-Sent from Android Phone

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Katara 4 years, 5 months ago

Marion (Marion Lynn) says…

Again, from Joshua Montgomery's own photohosting site; what Joshua thinks of George Washington who is of course, widely regarded as the Father of our once Great Nation:

http://img42.imageshack.us/i/georgeco

Flip through his pix; you can see that Joshua has some interesting things for you to see which tells you what he thinks of obese people.

Not nice! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Yeah, Marion ain't too bright on the computer skills as well.

If you flip through the photogallery on there, you'll notice it is a general category and belongs to no individual.

No much different than flipping through this... http://photobucket.com/findstuff/funny/

If it was joshua_montgomery's account, then it would have an account name on it and the pictures would have an account name on them as well.

Marion fails again. http://media.photobucket.com/image/fail/Zombie_boy_Roy/Fail.jpg?o=288

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 5 months ago

Again, from Joshua Montgomery's own photohosting site; what Joshua thinks of George Washington who is of course, widely regarded as the Father of our once Great Nation:

http://img42.imageshack.us/i/georgecopy1.jpg/?a=V&ci=0&rt=4

Flip through his pix; you can see that Joshua has some interesting things for you to see which tells you what he thinks of obese people.

Not nice!

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 5 months ago

"joshua_montgomery (Joshua Montgomery) says…

Printing should be taught in school. Writing deserves to be an art form, for people to pursue at their leisure, not a requirement for schools.

Computers are going to become more, not less, ubiquitous. I would rather my daughters spend their time learning to type quickly and accurately.

As an adult, the only time I use cursive is to sign my name. Teaching it is an un-necessary waste of time.

Students would be better served spending this time learning math and science or (crazy talk) exercising and playing in the playground."

Marion writes:

This from the AK-47 totin' head of Lawrence "Free"net and webmaster of a local "community" site; the home page of which hasn't been updated since June!

Obviously joshua's computer skills are serving him well!

Joshua Montgomery from his own photo files:

http://img150.imageshack.us/i/oojoshuaxq6.jpg/

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Robert Rauktis 4 years, 5 months ago

What the Lawrence School System really needs is more football stadiums.

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Elrond 4 years, 5 months ago

livingstone, Apparently sarcasm is lost on you. Make another pass at my post.

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LogicMan 4 years, 5 months ago

Except for the need to sign legal documents with a distinctive signature, cursive has gone the way of the buggy whip, as mentioned above.

That education time is much better used teaching math, science, civics, work/repair skills, etc. which are in more need this millennium. Stop being nostalgic, teachers.

But buggy whips, and cursive, could make a comeback if the world's economy crashes and electricity becomes scarce. So document how to teach cursive, and file the resulting book in various safe places. Then move on to more effective uses of our limited time and other resources.

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GardenMomma 4 years, 5 months ago

How much class time is spent learning cursive? I think my daughter spent 20 minutes a day on cursive and she was taught one letter a week or so.

Now she does her homework in cursive and also does some assignments on the computer.

It hasn't detracted from her other lessons - still gets science, math, PE, art, spelling, social studies, etc.

Knowing how to write in cursive was a good thing. It didn't take up too much time and now she knows. What's wrong with that?

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Sean Livingstone 4 years, 5 months ago

"Elrond (Anonymous) says… Susan Niedenthal is right. We need to get back to basics and teach traditional scholastic topics. Just because technology advances and forms of communication evolve, that doesn't mean we should adapt curricula. While we're at it, proper use of buggy whips needs to be part of basic education. Those new fangled automobiles will never catch on."

Basics... including how to start fire without using matches? Basics... including how to survive in cave and hunt for animals? Where is the cut-off point? So do we have to teach our kids how to write calligraphy? I hope you understand that ballpoint pen and cursive were once..... technological innovations!

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notajayhawk 4 years, 5 months ago

Like richfree said, my father's handwriting looks just like a 'script'-type font from a computer. He can also add, subtract, multiply, and divide without having to find a calculator.

Even 20 years ago, when I was getting my business degree, I remember sitting in an accounting class one day when we were supposed to be figuring out the per-unit costs from a production run after figuring out the total costs. Everyone scrambled for their calculators and started punching in numbers while the professor and I just looked at each other and shook our heads - there were 100 units. As they were all about to hit the total button, and I said 'Move the decimal point two places to the left,' they all looked at me like I was speaking Mandarin.

I'd love to be there when all the children posting here who say handwriting is useless have to tell their instructors 'I couldn't do my homework, the power went out.' The sad part is there are plenty of teachers who couldn't give a frak and let them get away with that. Our current generation is, for the most part, a joke - they can't tie their shoes if their computer crashes. Just another example of the regression of the gene pool.

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Connacht 4 years, 5 months ago

You've got to love the scare tactics embedded in the article, combined with a total lack of evidence.

There are plenty of activities that exercise the brain AND are valuable tools for the future. Did anyone every stop to think that the ability to think on your feet and articulate thoughts quickly in typing or texting might actually be working your brain even harder?

This is just a cry from the past to preserve something that's become almost completely obsolete. It's time to get teachers into the classroom who aren't so far removed from the 21st century.

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funkdog1 4 years, 5 months ago

The people bemoaning that kids need to "get back to the basics of learning" don't seem to actually have children in the Lawrence School system.

My first grader has, in my opinion, a ridiculous amount of in-school work and HOMEWORK. I never saw homework until I was in the 4th grade. The 1st grade work she's doing now was 2nd grade work when I was in school. And I've volunteered in the classroom a couple of times; there are several kids who obviously don't even understand what they're being taught yet because kids today are being pushed so far so fast.

Kids have an incredible amount of information to absorb these days. Cursive is a dying waste of time. Trying to hold on to cursive because it's "quaint" or "traditional" is silly. The window for actually using cursive has been very short for many years now and it's just going to get shorter.

This is not to say that I'm against "the arts". Far from it. I think art is a necessary part of the school curriculum. Why not add cursive as a unit to 2nd or 3rd grade art classes?

As long as you can sign your name, that's all cursive is good for anymore.

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Darrell Lea 4 years, 5 months ago

Other than signing my name, I had forgotten how to write cursive by the time I graduated high school in 1976. My hand printing has served me just fine ever since. I remember what my father's cursive writing looked like. It was really something to behold. My mom obviously learned to write from the same teacher, since their handwriting was almost indistinguishable from each other.

Will cursive go the way of Latin? Who knows? There are so many other things that kids don't seem to be learning in school these days that handwriting is probablt the least of our worries. English, math, history and the ability to engage in critical analytical thought should be our primary concerns.

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Elrond 4 years, 5 months ago

Susan Niedenthal is right. We need to get back to basics and teach traditional scholastic topics. Just because technology advances and forms of communication evolve, that doesn't mean we should adapt curricula. While we're at it, proper use of buggy whips needs to be part of basic education. Those new fangled automobiles will never catch on.

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 5 months ago

Burns’ analysis mostly focuses on improving people’s cursive handwriting. She warns against a societal shift from handwriting to technology as a loss of brain function and discipline.

This woman is so wrong on many levels. None of this makes any sense to me. Everyone should know how to write, but why should it be beautiful, for the love of pete? I much prefer using Word as you can move paragraphs around, do all kinds of things and it has spell check. Anyone care to comment on why at Hogwarts all the students papers are written by quill?

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BrentS 4 years, 5 months ago

...And nothing of value was lost.

Cursive is harder to write, harder to read, and really only useful if someone who is extremely skilled at it needs to write something in a hurry. In the age of the computer that's not the best way to do it anymore, and so cursive is rightly going the way of the dodo. Print letters or block lettering are much easier to read if written by hand, and the computer is both faster and better for legibility in almost all cases.

We just don't need cursive anymore. Why are we still teaching it?

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promitida 4 years, 5 months ago

This is a joke, even when I was in third grade I knew cursive was useless. My teachers just SWORE when we were in high school and college we would HAVE to write all of our papers in cursive but...newsflash elementary school teachers, cursive is basically banned once you leave 6th grade.

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Sean Livingstone 4 years, 5 months ago

Caligraphy was taught in school before 1900.... it's now an art form. Back then, there were no ballpoint pen, just some pointed tip dipped into ink and people had to write continuously if not the ink would make a mark that made reading impossible. In short, writing is driven by technology. Once human invented ballpoint pen, writing changes. I'm sure people wanted to protect calligraphic writings back then. It become irrelevant. Of course, we need to protect a dying art form, it's important to preserve a cultural heritage. But not everyone need to learn a dying heritage. History is history, best kept in the book while society makes progress. I'm sure 50 years later, QWERTY computer keyboard will become a thing of the past, and people will be trying so hard to preserve it. Let's move on!

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marieann 4 years, 5 months ago

The Lawrence school system needs to quit putting so much effort into cursive. The same goes for home-ec classes, we aren't livning in the olden times anymore cooking from scratch and writing all weird-like just isn't needed anymore, the need to focus on the important stuff like math, science, and PE. Shame on Lawrence for trying to cling to the past, we are suppose to be a progressive town. >:-(

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RETICENT_IRREVERENT 4 years, 5 months ago

Cursive writing is less visually dependent than other motor skills, so the hand-eye coordination argument is moot. Back in the day, we were forced to write blindfolded, to develop meter, flow, and maintain straight lines across an un-ruled page.

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rbwaa 4 years, 5 months ago

“When we use good penmanship and we’re doing all the pulling ups and pulling out and pulling back,” said Maureen Burns, a handwriting analyst, “that wires our brain for better social connections. And without that, we don’t have the good social connections.”

I agree with Maureen Burns. I also believe that learning cursive develops hand/eye coordination that is essential in many aspects of life even for learning to type. Even the typing that children learn now is not by touch but by pick and peck, so giving up one does not improve the other. In addition, how many people type thank you notes or even send them now?

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monkeyspunk 4 years, 5 months ago

I completely agree with Joshua.

Schools have only a finite amount of time to do anything in the school year. Time wasted learning how to write in a form that is not used anymore is less time that can be used in areas in which our children have traditionally lagged behind in, such as Math and Science.

To those that relish in the idea of educational times long past, please pull yourself back to color television and realize that the world is massively different than it was thirty, twenty, ten and even five years ago. The fact that cursive is still emphasized shows that our educational system is stuck mindset long past its effectiveness.

The ability to use a computer is quickly becoming the defining measure of someones ability.

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nbnozzy 4 years, 5 months ago

Joshua--- with just a little effort, students can have both good cursive hand writing skills and be physically fit. No reason to have to choose one over the other.

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Joshua Montgomery 4 years, 5 months ago

Printing should be taught in school. Writing deserves to be an art form, for people to pursue at their leisure, not a requirement for schools.

Computers are going to become more, not less, ubiquitous. I would rather my daughters spend their time learning to type quickly and accurately.

As an adult, the only time I use cursive is to sign my name. Teaching it is an un-necessary waste of time.

Students would be better served spending this time learning math and science or (crazy talk) exercising and playing in the playground.

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lawrencechick 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree. Can we please get back to the basics of education that served many generations very well. Kids don't write in cursive because it is not enforced. My kids were taught cursive and were never required to use it in school, despite my continual requesting it. It's time for our schools demand more quality work from children. I realize teachers are grateful that some students even show up and have to fight their parents if "little johnny" doesn't get an "A", and that is a real shame, but those parents should not get to influence the whole education system.

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orhs1963 4 years, 5 months ago

It is very satisfying to know that Susan Niedenthal understands the value of the "3 R's". It would probably be better if grade school children had to write and not even be close to a computer. The value of good handwriting has far more positive impact than learning the "keyboard". If there is a teacher that desires a "bonus" at Deerfield Shcool that would be Susan Niedenthal. Way to go Susan.

What about the math teachers at Deerfield, do they allow calculators in the classroom or do they have the same standard as Susan and students have to add, subtract, multiply, and divide by "writing" the numbers. ?

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richfree 4 years, 5 months ago

This hits the nail on the head! My sons' penmanship is so bad, he can't read his own writing; my father, who is almost 90, still has beautifull handwriting and has never used a keyboard. Handwriting is fast becoming a lost art !

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