The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 11, 2013

Pen and paper ... or keyboard and computer?

(Continued)

But the policy also acknowledged that “new research has been emerging that points to the educational value of handwriting in ways that go well beyond being able to read cursive or take notes without ... a handheld device.”

"Cursive was designed to help speed the process of writing," said Eidahl. "But nowadays, even as an adult, if you've got to get something done fast, you go to a keyboard. I think you'll find less emphasis on cursive writing. Not that it's not taught. Less emphasis."

Typing and keyboarding used to be taught in seventh grade. Now they want their students skilled in home row-style typing by the end of fourth grade.

"We want our kids to be able to compete in the work world and find information," said Carson-Roark. "We need to make sure kids have those keyboarding skills so they can operate in a 21st century world."

A recent poll by Xerox Mortgage Services predicts that by 2016, half of all home loans will be closed electronically without an actual signature.

Yet an Indiana University neuroscientist, Karin Harman James, studied the effect of printing and writing by hand as well as keyboarding in the development of children’s brains. The research led her to believe teaching young children how to write by hand is critical to how they eventually learn to read.

"These kinds of findings point to there being something really important about printing and potentially also about cursive," said James. “They’re both fine motor skills, so they might be equally important in understanding cognitive development in children.”

A National Association of State Boards of Education report released last fall found the average third-grader was getting only 15 minutes of handwriting instruction a day, down from the standard 30 to 45 minutes a generation ago.

“If kids aren’t taught how to write it, they won’t be able to read it,” said Indiana State Sen. Jean Leising. “So, in a sense, we’ll be creating a new kind of illiteracy.”

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