Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Are We Abandoning Cursive Too Soon?

Those from my generation recall vividly learning cursive writing. Cursive, along with learning multiplication and the memorization of our multiplication tables, provided the focus for 3rd grade. We spent considerable time not just on the formation of the letters, but on the elements which comprised them. We practiced those loops over and over and over again.

The rise of computers spawned an emphasis on keyboarding skills and a decreased interest in cursive writing. The emphasis on preparation for the annual high-stakes test meant less time would be devoted to what was not tested, and cursive was one of those victims.

My wife and I have administered the ACT several times a year for more years than I can remember. Reading verbatim a set of instructions is part of the drill. One such example is the instruction to the students to "copy the certification" and then date and sign the answer document. What struck me is the change to that part of the instructions. Several years ago, two words had been omitted..."in cursive." For years, students were instructed to "copy the certification in cursive." I must admit, the final two words in that sentence would produce its share of "deer-in-the-headlights" looks from those in the room. Clearly, cursive was not something they had used in a very long time. Likewise, when it came time for the students to write their essays, out a group of 25 students, no more than one student ever composed the essay in cursive.

Education, however, is a very cyclic business. Trends come and go. Wait long enough, and what went out of vogue years ago will become the cutting-edge trend. Will we see the same with cursive writing?

A year ago, a bill came before the Illinois legislature mandating the teaching of cursive writing.




Tennessee is proposing similar legislation.
The use of tablets just may be the trigger which causes the return to cursive. Software such as Penultimate allows the user to write on the tablet with a stylus. Users may print or use cursive. If the Penultimate user exports the handwritten notes to Evernote, Evernote will search the handwriting for any desired term. If handwritten notes are scanned as jpeg and added to Evernote, Evernote will also search the handwritten notes.

The latest release of Evernote for Android support handwriting straight into Evernote.



For additional information on this app, here is a post I wrote on the subject.

It's just a matter of time before conversion of handwriting to text will be a standard. Google allows you search on mobiles devices using handwriting now.


Needless to say, one caveat for your handwriting to be interpreted correctly is for your handwriting to be legible. Do you see where this argument is going?

Keyboarding on our mobile devices is no piece of cake. Tablet users purchase external keyboards. But, the use of the keyboard means something else to buy, something else to transport, and makes necessary some flat surface on which to sit the device. With the popularity of mobile devices, we have an increased interest on an easier mode of input than keyboarding.

Cursive writing has been a part of our culture for centuries. For it to become a lost art in a mere decade or two is something I think would be a shame. What do you think?
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