The Pen-is Mightier


Before I completely digress and travel down the rabbit hole known as my 20s, a time I filled with Saturday Night Live Celebrity Jeopardy skits before heading out for the evening (thus the Pen-is Mightier), this week’s debate about schools no longer teaching skills which can be handled with technology (cursive writing, multiplication tables, and spelling) must be addressed.  In my usual fashion, I came into this debate with a preconceived notion of what the debater’s arguments would be, and though I was not completely wrong, I was surprised to see the focus on cursive writing and the passion both sides were able to put into promoting their team’s view point; great job debaters!  I found it odd this debate focused on cursive writing as it is the piece of the debate I would have conceded technology has, and rightfully so, managed to replace the need for.  Very few things I receive during the day are written in cursive.  Whether I get work from students, messages for work, or a text from my family at home, they are almost never in cursive (tried to change to a cursive font just for a effect, didn’t work). To Leona’s point about fine motor development, there are practices in other courses that could accomplish the same benefits.

I would compare the use of cursive to knowing how to read and write latin, it was once beneficial for historical scholars to know the language, and now it is no longer needed.  Do you agree?

On to the other components of the debate where my vote for “yes”, let the tech take over, was changed quickly to “no”.  It’s important to distinguish what Durston highlight during the debate in my argument as well; I’m suggesting we use technology to teach multiplication and spelling and not rely on technology to perform the tasks for students and remove those learnings from teaching.  I’m completely in favour of using tech as a tool to support teaching where, for example “the diversity of spelling skills among children can be large… (and) each child will display a unique spelling profile.”  As highlighted thought my choice of title, I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you like to search the best of Sean Connery’s Celebrity Jeopardy, I support drill and practice for spelling and multiplication tables if for nothing more than to avoid the need for pulling out your device in order to save face when reading publicly, or determining if the total your server just gave you makes sense.  Further, during the intro to this debate we saw how poorly dictations programs do with speaking on our behalf, not portraying enough emotion to convince anyone to do much more than fall asleep; Bueller, Bueller.

Too many times I’ve watched messages incorrectly convey meaning because the word recognition software put in a properly spelt word, but without any context, the same software was not able to determine that the word was incorrect itself, and the author did not have the skill set see it themselves.  As a life skill, the BBC in 2017 suggested spelling is not only a practice to be concerned with during your school years, but it is also used to determine competencies in the workplace.  And how many times have you been served and told the total your owing and it was simply your route (that’s what my spelling software wanted there; “rote”) memory that saved you an over payment be it paying cash or with a tap of your card or tech device. 

To summarize my thoughts on our 3rd topic, I’m specifically cutting cursive out as a replaced practice which tech can have.  I’m also content to use the technology as an additional support to make my own life easier and additionally, support teaching and learning in the classroom for spelling and multiplication practices.  And, I am not giving way and voting we use technology to replace the learning and building block practices currently in place for spelling and multiplication. 


One Reply to “The Pen-is Mightier”

  1. Your post is what I needed to end off commenting this evening. Even though cursive writing is still in the curriculum, and students may need it in the future, I wish the prompt had read ‘penmanship’ instead of ‘cursive’, although I know that it wouldn’t have evoked the same emotion as cursive did.

    I think that once basic skills are learned, technology can enhance that learning, and create a balance between worlds. Is typing faster than writing at times? Sure, if you focus on typing skills, learning home row, shortcuts, etc. But to me, that would also be a basic skill… so where does the rabbit hole stop? When I was in elementary school many moons ago (yes, I’m pretty much like 101), we focused a lot of time on being able to functionally type. Yup, typing tests, programs, etc. but the students in my room are always amazed at my typing skills, and in fact, I have received many jobs because of it. So where do we think basic skills stop? Or when do we deem them not important? Or are we biased in deciding because we have many of the basic skills talked about? Interesting prompt indeed!

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