As communication becomes increasingly electronic, educators have debated whether elementary school students should learn handwriting, typing or both. Some educators argue that writing by hand accesses different parts of the brain and causes increased critical thinking; others believe that script is growing increasingly irrelevant and that teachers should devote classroom time to keyboarding lessons. Both sides offer arguments that could potentially change not just how primary school students learn to write, but the ways they think and communicate in the future.
In 2011, Indiana schools chose to remove cursive handwriting from the primary grade curriculum. According to Indiana University professor Karin James, however, teaching handwriting fosters critical thinking skills that are crucial to language comprehension in children. Her studies with five-year-olds concluded that forming letters by hand causes significant brain activity, while typing causes much less activity. According to an article from "Education News," research also suggests that teaching handwriting is connected with better reading skills and even higher quality writing, which can benefit young students throughout their education.
Memory and Motor Skills
Along with developing critical thinking and reading skills, the Oak Meadow Curriculum and School website reveals that handwriting impacts memory and motor skills. Researchers Anne Mangen and Jean-Luc Velay noted that script opens up continuous between the brain and hand. By contrast, typing produces pathways that are disjointed, as if someone were hitting an on and off switch, inhibiting the development and fluency of their thoughts. Their research also revealed that writing things down can actually help people remember them better. For primary students, handwriting can therefore aid in the acquisition of new concepts and stronger learning.
Positive Effects of Typing
While many educators are quick to say handwriting offers greater cognitive advantages, an article from "Education World" reports that typing is a complex skill that offers equally valuable benefits. Lauren Eve Pomerantz, California Space and Science Center program coordinator, states that teaching accuracy and technique in typing is key to helping children make the connection between the act of typing and the words on the screen. Therefore, correct instruction can help primary students master the process of typing before moving toward more meaningful writing projects.
Coexistence of Script and Typing
Ultimately, an article from the CanChild Center for Childhood Disability Research reports that bringing typing classes into classrooms doesn't mean that handwriting is dead. As with any kinesthetic activity, students learn best by mastering different methods. Although writing and typing are different means of written communication, they both offer different skills and thought processes that round out a child's writing education. Although typing is a necessary skill for the 21st century, children still need to know how to sign legal documents, write thank you notes and address envelopes.
- State Impact Indiana: Why Schools Should Keep Teaching Handwriting, Even If Typing is More Useful
- Education News: Research: Handwriting Spurs Brain Activity, Typing Doesn't
- Oak Meadow Curriculum and School: Hardwired for Writing: The Intelligence of the Hand
- Education World: Teaching Keyboarding: More Than Just Typing
- CanChild Center for Childhood Disability Research: To Write or To Type: That is the Question
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