Will Cursive writing go the way of the dinosaur?

6 Apr

Moi wrote about the importance of handwriting in The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum:

Gwendolyn Bounds reports in the WSJ article, How Handwriting Trains the Brain:

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a “spaceship,” actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called “functional” MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and ”adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.

It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.

Adults may benefit similarly when learning a new graphically different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry, Dr. James says. For instance, in a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters’ proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704631504575531932754922518.html

http://drwilda.com/2012/01/24/the-importance-of-the-skill-of-handwriting-in-the-school-curriculum/

See, The Importance of Cursive Writing  http://www.enterpriseefficiency.com/author.asp?section_id=1077&doc_id=236382and The Case for Cursive http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/us/28cursive.html?_r=0

The Takepart.com article, Goodbye, Cursive Writing? lists the reasons cursive writing is important:

The Common Core State Standards for English do not require cursive. Some schools are electing to find a place for cursive in the curriculum, but administrators in many districts say that teachers don’t have time to teach writing along with everything else that is required.

Although typing skills are a must in a technological future, a legible signature is also still needed for daily life, say experts. Others argue that if students don’t learn cursive, how will they read historical documents? And what about the sheer personalization of writing?

Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger’s Reading Centre in Norway has extensively researched the importance of writing with a pen. According to Mangen, writing by hand gives the brain feedback for motor skills. The touching of a pencil and paper ignites the senses. Mangen, along with a neurologist in France, found that different parts of the brain are activated when children read letters learned by handwriting.

Numerous studies show that daily handwriting lessons in schools have decreased from an average of 30 minutes to 15. Now they are on the verge of disappearing completely.

A 2010 study by the Carnegie Corporation of New York reported that students’ reading skills can improve if they write what they are reading in addition to them learning writing skills and increasing how much they write.

Vanderbilt University education professor Steve Graham, a leading researcher in this area, said in an interview last year with NPR that the brain lights up less with typing, a simple motor skill, than writing, a more complex one. But it’s not cursive writing, Graham argues, but simply handwriting. He also notes that cursive script could be taught in kindergarten or first grade instead of third grade because it’s not as elaborate as it once was.

I would make the case that we want kids to either be really fluent and legible in either manuscript and cursive or both, but also in keyboarding, and the issue is that’s three versus teaching two, you know, there’s a real push on time in schools,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Education recommends in its “Tips for Parents on National Writing Day” to teach children to print before attempting cursive.

But some school systems are bucking the trend of abandoning cursive. In Wisconsin’s Eau Claire School District, students are now learning cursive in second grade instead of third in order for them to perform better on standardized tests. Studies show that students who know cursive often excel on tests because they can write their thoughts down faster using cursive.

The debate on cursive is likely to continue as schools eliminate—and then reintroduce—penmanship to the curriculum. http://news.yahoo.com/goodbye-cursive-writing-225300486.html

T. Rees Shapiro writes in the Washington Post article, Cursive handwriting disappearing from public schools:

The curlicue letters of cursive handwriting, once considered a mainstay of American elementary education, have been slowly disappearing from classrooms for years. Now, with most states adopting new national standards that don’t require such instruction, cursive could soon be eliminated from most public schools.

For many students, cursive is becoming as foreign as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. In college lecture halls, more students take notes on laptops and tablet computers than with pens and notepads. Responding to handwritten letters from grandparents in cursive is no longer necessary as they, too, learn how to use email, Facebook and Skype.

And educators, seeking to prepare students for a successful future in which computer and typing skills have usurped penmanship, are finding cursive’s relevance waning, especially with leaner school budgets and curricula packed with standardized testing prep. So they’re opting not to teach it anymore.

It’s seeing the writing on the wall,” said Patricia Granada, principal at Eagle View elementary in Fairfax County. “Cursive is increasingly becoming obsolete.”

Michael Hairston, president of the Fairfax Education Association, the largest teachers union in the county, called cursive “a dying art.”

Cursive writing is a traditional skill that has been replaced with technology,” Hairston said. “Educators are having to make choices about what they teach with a limited amount of time and little or no flexibility. Much of their instructional time is consumed with teaching to a standardized test.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/cursive-handwriting-disappearing-from-public-schools/2013/04/04/215862e0-7d23-11e2-a044-676856536b40_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend

See, Should cursive writing be required? A N.C. bill would mandate it http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/23/should-cursive-writing-be-required-a-n-c-bill-would-mandate-it/

Science Daily reported in the article, Better Learning Through Handwriting:

Together with neurophysiologist Jean-Luc Velay at the University of Marseille, Anne Mangen has written an article published in the Advances in Haptics periodical. They have examined research which goes a long way in confirming the significance of these differences.

An experiment carried out by Velay’s research team in Marseille establishes that different parts of the brain are activated when we read letters we have learned by handwriting, from those activated when we recognise letters we have learned through typing on a keyboard. When writing by hand, the movements involved leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain, which helps us recognise letters. This implies a connection between reading and writing, and suggests that the sensorimotor system plays a role in the process of visual recognition during reading, Mangen explains.

Other experiments suggest that the brain’s Broca’s area is discernibly more activated when we are read a verb which is linked to a physical activity, compared with being read an abstract verb or a verb not associated with any action….

Since writing by hand takes longer than typing on a keyboard, the temporal aspect may also influence the learning process, she adds.

The term ‘haptic’ refers to the process of touching and the way in which we communicate by touch, particularly by using our fingers and hands to explore our surroundings. Haptics include both our perceptions when we relate passively to our surroundings, and when we move and act.

A lack of focus

There is a lot of research on haptics in relation to computer games, in which for instance vibrating hand controls are employed. According to Mangen, virtual drills with sound and vibration are used for training dentists.

But there has been very little effort to include haptics within the humanistic disciplines, she explains. In educational science, there is scant interest in the ergonomics of reading and writing, and its potential significance in the learning process.

Mangen refers to an experiment involving two groups of adults, in which the participants were assigned the task of having to learn to write in an unknown alphabet, consisting of approximately twenty letters. One group was taught to write by hand, while the other was using a keyboard. Three and six weeks into the experiment, the participants’ recollection of these letters, as well as their rapidity in distinguishing right and reversed letters, were tested. Those who had learned the letters by handwriting came out best in all tests. Furthermore, fMRI brain scans indicated an activation of the Broca’s area within this group. Among those who had learned by typing on keyboards, there was little or no activation of this area.

“The sensorimotor component forms an integral part of training for beginners, and in special education for people with learning difficulties. But there is little awareness and understanding of the importance of handwriting to the learning process, beyond that of writing itself,” Mangen says.

She refers to pedagogical research on writing, which has moved from a cognitive approach to a focus on contextual, social and cultural relations. In her opinion, a one-sided focus on context may lead to neglect of the individual, physiological, sensorimotor and phenomenological connections….

“Our bodies are designed to interact with the world which surrounds us. We are living creatures, geared toward using physical objects — be it a book, a keyboard or a pen — to perform certain tasks,” she says….

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by The University of Stavanger. The original article was written by Trond Egil Toft; translation by Astri Sivertsen. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119095458.htm

It is interesting that in Silicon Valley where many of the tech elite live, many of the top managers send their children to an “old school” school. See, The private school in Silicon Valley where tech honchos send their kids so they DON’T use computers        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2052977/The-Silicon-Valley-school-tech-honchos-send-kids-DONT-use-computers.html#ixzz2PjQ8sOfD

Matt Richtell reported in the New York Times article, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute:

Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Mr. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.”

While other schools in the region brag about their wired classrooms, the Waldorf school embraces a simple, retro look — blackboards with colorful chalk, bookshelves with encyclopedias, wooden desks filled with workbooks and No. 2 pencils. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?pagewanted=all

There is quite a lot that researchers need to explore about how technology affects the mind and body connection as well as how technology affects interpersonal relationships.

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