“Learning how to type is more important than learning handwriting.”
Wow. The statement slipped out of my mouth before I’d really had a chance to think about it.
Someone had asked whether I thought teaching the kids to type was important. I guess I have a habit of making big statements to get my point across, and this statement certainly was ‘big’ and possibly radical to some of my fellow teachers.
Once I started I couldn’t stop.
“The children we are teaching today will never use handwriting in a professional capacity. There is not one child here that will use handwriting in their life for anything other than scribbled notes to himself or a friend.”
To my surprise everyone seemed to agree! Someone even commented how outdated our focus on handwriting is. How over the last few years it had really slipped into the realm of being ridiculous.
After teaching grade 6 for so long, I’m struggling with the whole concept of how handwriting is taught in grade 3 and 4. Why are we still teaching students ‘Victorian Cursive’ and making big fusses over ‘joining licenses’ and ‘pen licenses’?
I’m not sure what the situation is elsewhere, but in the schools I’ve taught in, typing is either not taught at all or has been a recent addition brought about by the frustrations of individual teachers. Typing is not being taught as a result of systematic school curriculum planning.
Surely typing is now one of the most important literacy skills we can provide our students with.
While I’m at it, why do we teach students to write a different alphabet than the one they read?
We put up letters of the alphabet in our room written in cursive writing, practice Victorian Cursive letter forms over and over, and then ask them to read print! I know there were originally reasons behind this (to make the difference between ‘p’ and ‘q’ and ‘b’ and ‘d’ clear for one), but are those reasons still strong enough in the digital age? How many hours of Primary School are dedicated to teaching students an alphabet and a form of written communication that is next to extinct?
Back to my Level 3 meeting. While I was at it, I thought I’d take a broadside at our spelling program as well. If our students will be doing the vast majority of their writing in life on electronic devices with spell checkers, why don’t we ever teach them how to use one properly?
Why aren’t spell checkers a major part of our spelling program?
The only time our students will need to spell accurately in their life without the aid of a spell checker is in school!
That’s not to say students don’t need to learn how to spell, they definitely do. You need to know how to spell to some extent to use a spell checker accurately. But if we consider that most writing will be done with a spell checker, how would that alter our spelling programs? What sort of things would we think were most important to emphasise? Would there be a bigger focus on homophones, for example?
It’s time we reviewed these traditional elements of our school literacy programs in light of the explosion in digital devices in recent years. We need to ask ourselves, what do the most important aspects of literacy today look like? And what are they likely to look like by the time the students we are teaching are in the professional world?