Does Cursive Handwriting Need to Be Taught In A High Tech World?

Cassowarys Victorian Modern Cursive
Cassowarys Victorian Modern Cursive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Hi everyone,

This article describes the situation in the US curriculum, and may give some indication of trends that may hit the Australian education setting as well.What are your views on this?

Cheers,

Dr Robert Muller.

Does Cursive Handwriting Need to Be Taught In A High Tech World?

By Linda S Spencer

You may not have noticed but cursive handwriting is quickly becoming a skill of the past. Many schools are choosing to eliminate handwriting instruction from their elementary classrooms.

Controversy is growing over the role handwriting and keyboarding instruction will have in the classroom, particularly in the elementary grades where students are still developing their reading, writing and motor skills. The controversy was addressed earlier this year by an Educational Summit held in Washington, DC titled "Handwriting in The 21st Century."

The Department of Education Common Core State Standards for education was developed in 2010. These common core practices apply to English language arts and Mathematics. The standards represent a set of expectations for student knowledge needed to succeed in college and careers.

Keyboarding is listed as a skill that students must acquire, manuscript handwriting is minimally addressed and cursive is excluded altogether. These major changes serve to increase the controversy over the roles of handwriting and keyboarding instruction in elementary schools.

Cursive handwriting has long been a cornerstone of education yet the elimination of cursive handwriting has been based on assumptions including the assumption that keyboarding skills are superior to handwriting skills.

Today the Common Core State Standards allow each state to decide whether to include cursive handwriting in their curriculum. Given the choice more and more states have been choosing to eliminate cursive handwriting instruction from their schools.

Some feel that teaching cursive is "old fashioned" and a waste of time. Others believe that it should continue to be taught. Regardless of your point of view, you should be concerned about the removal of handwriting from the curriculum because these changes are occurring without researching the possible consequences for the young learner.

At the heart of the controversy is the lack of evidence regarding how the elimination of cursive handwriting will impact learning and education in general. Much of the education research that has been conducted by universities has focused on technology and literacy. Little regard has been given to the interrelationships of handwriting development and reading, spelling and composition. As a result many kids educated in the last two decades cannot write in or even read cursive.

Many policy decisions were made without researching the possible impact on young students who are still developing their reading, writing, and motor skills, and specifically, how these skills relate to cursive handwriting instruction. That may be changing.

The Educational Summit titled "Handwriting in the 21st Century" held in Washington, D.C. included the attendance of professors, neuroscientists, teachers and interested citizens. Presenters shared cross-disciplinary handwriting research and attendees voiced their opinions about whether - and how - this skill should be taught.

Through presentations and workshops, attendees learned how handwriting is a foundational skill that helps children develop in other areas, such as reading, writing, memory, and critical thinking.

Several neuroscientists presented findings ranging from handwriting and occupational therapy to neuroscience research that documents the impact of handwriting on kids' learning. In a survey at the conclusion of the summit, 85 percent of the attendees believe that handwriting instruction is "very important" in the 21st century. A majority responded that handwriting should be taught from Kindergarten through 5th grade.

All of the research presented at the conference indicates that teaching handwriting is beneficial. Although the conference was sponsored by a handwriting curriculum company, the presenters came from a broad range of fields and presented a convincing case.

One of the most remarkable findings came from Karin Harman-James at Indiana University. She presented research she conducted using MRI scans of children's brains. Her research which was conducted in 2012 showed that writing by hand activated parts of the brain associated with language development, while keyboarding did not.

For anyone interested in learning more about how handwriting and keyboarding produce different changes in the brain many published research articles are available for perusal on the internet.

In addition, some neuroscientists have published books which have sections describing how handwriting affects the learning process. One of these books is "The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture", by Dr. Frank R. Wilson.

His book describes in detail the pivotal role of hand movements in the developing of thinking and language capacities and in "developing deep feelings of confidence and interest in the world-all-together, the essential prerequisites for the emergence of the capable and caring individual."

Considering the bullying problem and the lack of empathy many teachers are noticing in their students, could it be that learning cursive handwriting has an effect on the area of the brain that develops empathy and tolerance for others? We don't know ... yet.

Another book is, "The Brain That Changes Itself", by neuroscientist Norman Doidge. His book discusses the subject of neuroplasticity, how the brain changes and develops neuropathways in relation to habit changes and repeated actions. His research describes how handwriting and keyboarding require different actions and affect the brain in different ways.

Dr. Doidge has said, "When a child types or prints, he produces a letter the same way each time. In cursive, however, each letter connects slightly differently to the next, which is more demanding on the part of the brain that converts symbol sequences into motor movements in the hand. Each of these actions creates different neuropathways in the brain".

Much controversy exists regarding the importance of cursive handwriting. Evidence is building that indicates the brain is affected and changed in ways we never realized. Brain research is constantly providing new revelations.

As this research is growing and available, changes in curriculum that impact how kids learn and retain knowledge need to be carefully examined and evaluated prior to being implemented. At present most school districts can still decide if they want to teach cursive handwriting. Where does your school district stand?

If you think cursive handwriting is important to learn contact your child's teacher or school administrator and express your concern. Some states are reinstating cursive handwriting into their education curriculum. A white paper summarizing the research presented at this conference is available on the summit website: http://www.hw21summit.com

By Linda S. Spencer, CGA, MS

Linda Spencer is a certified Graphoanalyst with over 25 years of experience working as a handwriting expert. She holds a masters degree in Human Service Administration. She has six years of experience working in both the public and private sectors of education and has worked with teens with developmentally delayed and high risk concerns. thewriteapproach@ameritech.net
http://LSSpencerandAssociates.com

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GaryP
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February 13, 2014 at 5:14 PM delete

Just had our kid start school and this is the garbarge that is taught???? Upper case normal printing (Yes ok) but lower case writing with NO lower case normal writing??????? I want her to be able to write the same as she reads ! Teacher said she will use this in life????? I said in my entire life I used that old way less than 1%, I want her to learn something she will use instead of wasting my child’s life on garbage that will never ever be used. I will teach her how to write normally at home. Teacher said then her grades will get marked down? mmmmm? like I care if she gets marked down for learning how to write normally. I cant believe this “old school” thinking ways still exists in this modern age, its time to replace those in charge with modern realistic thinkers.

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jamesmmm
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December 9, 2015 at 6:56 AM delete This comment has been removed by the author.
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jamesmmm
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December 9, 2015 at 7:04 AM delete

Hi G apparently it's not only about "wasting my child’s life on garbage that will never ever be used..." - Penmanship was a cornerstone of education in America for decades. Removing or weakening a cornerstone can be a substantial risk to the entire foundation of education. America has been falling behind other nations in several areas of education and one of the most problematic areas is reading. Learning to write in cursive is closely related to learning to read. Care must be given to subtle and obvious changes developing in school curriculum. Students must be computer literate to compete in today's global economy but keyboarding should be in addition to, not instead of penmanship skills. We can and we must discover how the tools being used in teaching affect the learning process itself. A Nation at Risk (described in the Federal Government's landmark 1983 report) is still at risk and can no longer afford to allow curriculum changes to occur based primarily on opinions and assumptions.the article at the following link is written by an author of the same name but I do not know if they are the same person See more at: http://www.articlesbase.com/learning-disabilities-articles/learning-to-writewriting-to-learn-2244626.html?sms_ss=google&at_xt=4d671f46888cea00%2C0

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