The benefits of modern technologies such as computers, electronic organizers and other gadgets are evident in everyday life. However, it has been speculated that the increasing use of personal computers and therefore the common use of keyboards to produce written texts may lead to the general loss of handwriting skills. Moreover, some researchers as Sulzenbruck, Hegele, Rinkenauer and Heuer (2011) believe that using keyboards instead of pens could affect the human behavioral repertoire in a more general way, so that a broad class of basic motor skills rather than just handwriting could suffer.
More and more of our current writing is writing with a digital device, whether it is a laptop or a mobile phone. Computers and keyboards are replacing pen and paper at an ever-increasing rate, and children are increasingly being introduced to writing with computers, and even at the expense of, writing by hand. With new technologies, we are changing the role of the hands, as the haptic affordances of digital technologies are distinctly different than earlier technologies such as pen, paper and a print book. We click and scroll with computer mice and tap keys on a keyboard, instead of putting pen to paper. This switch from pen and paper to keyboard and screen entails major differences in the haptics of writing. Writing by hand, we use only one hand, whereas typewriting typically involves both hands; handwriting is commonly experienced as a slower and more laborious process than writing with a keyboard (Mangen & Velay, 2010).
Nowadays, in a world in which everything from personal correspondence to job applications are computerized, the need for such a skill isn’t as pressing. Many schools have abandoned cursive in favor of teaching basic computer literacy skills, a move which, in the eyes of many, better prepares kids for life in the technologically competitive 21st century. Teaching cursive as a discrete skill takes time away from teaching children how to communicate meaningfully. Today’s thinking is that short periods of practice are better. Some experts also think handwriting should not be taught by itself. Instead, they say it should be used as a way to get students to express ideas. But Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of writing, vocabulary, spelling and handwriting programs, stands behind the method so firmly that they sponsor an annual handwriting contest. He claims that learners who become independent and fluent in writing manuscript and cursive letters enter a world of endless opportunities (Gordon, 2009).
There is no doubt that teaching good, legible handwriting skills, whether through print or cursive, improves children’s ability to construct and convey thought. Nevertheless, the major ongoing changes in how we write, and more importantly how children, in the age of digital technology, learn to write and might learn to write in the near future is a question that needs a scientific scrutiny.
Gordon, M. (2009). From cursive to cursor: the death of handwriting. Retrieved from: http://www.education.com/magazine/article/cursive-cursor-death-handwriting/
Mangen, A. & Velay, J. (2010). Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the haptics of writing. Advances in haptics. p. 385-402. doi: 10.5772/8710.
Sulzenbruck, S., Hegele, M., Rinkenauer, G. & Heuer, H. (2011). The death of handwriting: Secondary effects of frequent computer use on basic motor skills. Journal of Motor Behavior, 43 (3), p. 247-251.