Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why are we still teaching cursive writing?

I have presented a number of workshops for teachers of all grade levels. The topic of these workshops range from technology infusion, to Smartboards 101, to developing your personal learning network. In each of these workshops we review best practices in instructional technology. We talk about differentiation, web 2.0, student publishing, authentic experiences, multimedia, and collaboration. The outcomes we discuss reflect a belief in promoting higher order thinking, creativity, and student learning.

In most cases the feedback from these discussions is very positive. The value of such practices is well received by participants. The sessions end with a high level of motivation and excitement. In almost every workshop however, a variation of this question is always asked, "What about typing?" "These projects are great but my students struggle with typing. They are hunting and pecking. It makes the completion of these projects sometimes take longer then they should. There is a also a level of frustration among students because of their typing skills?"

This is a very valid argument and a concern worth talking about. What about typing? What are we doing to provide our students with basic keyboarding skills? State core curriculum content standards are being revised. The model that best meets these standards is an infusion of technology into the curriculum areas. That means no more computer specials. The technology instruction is infused into the core subjects. Can a student really learn how to type by taking part in a once a week 40 minute computer class anyway? Even if that is the only thing taught all year? The research says no. In order to effectively teach keyboarding to students it must be part of the weekly curriculum. It must be taught for 90+ minutes at a minimum.  That means something has to be replaced by it?

What about cursive writing? This is an interesting thought and one that I am sure will drum up some controversy. How often do we use cursive writing anymore as adults? Do we see the use of cursive writing growing or diminishing? I know that I only write in cursive when signing my name. That is it! Most educators ask students to turn in assignments typed. With the advancement of technology we will be seeing more and more mobile devices in the classroom. Students will be accessing digital textbooks and collaborating electronically with peers, teachers, and global partnerships. I do not see too much cursive writing going on there?

My wife is a reading specialist and literacy coach. She argues that cursive writing assists in the development of motor skills and contributes to reading fluency. She also states that if it is not taught, it is an art that will be completely lost. I will have to gather some more research from her before i provide a more in-depth explanation in this blog post.

Can we replace the significant amount of time we spend teaching cursive writing with keyboarding? Which will have a positive impact on student learning? What are the repercussions of such an action?

My discussion here is based on my own thoughts. I have not cited specific research on the topic supporting the pros and cons. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic as I continue my research.

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