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Write On!

It seems every time I turn around we’re losing or giving something up. The latest is cursive writing, something which is being discontinued throughout Canadian schools. Teaching this age-old skill is now optional in Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland.

The trend in schools is to switch to laptops and tablets, the inference would be, cursive writing is no longer necessary. I understand that, but I am not sure why we would want to discontinue the practice.

The thinking is, as typing will take over from writing, and electronic signatures and pin codes are rapidly replacing hand scribbles, we will no longer need to write. If the only need for cursive writing is the need to sign legal documents, then perhaps we should phase it out.

The Frontiers in Psychology journal, recently published a study stating, writing produced far more brain activity than typing. Dr. Hetty Roessingh, a professor at the University of Calgary, found writing by hand creates memory traces in the brain that assist children with the recognition of shapes. Typing on a keyboard does not have the same impact.

Repetition is not a bad thing, contrary to what some educators preach. When children learn basic skills, to a point where they can be done automatically, it is far easier to move to more complex learning.

The other aspect of connecting letters together in script makes it possible to write more quickly, helping students move information out of their short term memories. Interestingly, an article in the academic journal, Psychological Science, shows university students who took notes by hand, retained more information than students who used laptops.

One of the reasons for this is, when typing on a laptop, information is usually entered verbatim, without processing, in other words, information comes in through the ears and out through the fingers. Not needfully through the considerations of the person. For all of the above reasons, elementary students need to learn how to print first, and then learn how to write. It does not say much for our society, if we advance an army of students, who can’t write their own name when they graduate.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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