Ask Reading Kingdom: Will Technology Put Handwriting to Rest?


The keyboard whether physical or on a touch screen has all but replaced handwriting.  Is this good, bad or unimportant?

A teacher asks:
Is writing/penmanship a lost art? Has texting become the norm?

Dr. Marion Blank (creator of the Reading Kingdom) answers:
There are several issues embedded in this important and topical question. Writing is frequently being discounted as a passé activity that was needed in its day but not in today’s modern high tech world. Accordingly a common recommendation is to drop it with little concern as to the consequences. The abandonment of any significant activity should not be done lightly and so it’s worthwhile considering just what is involved in taking this path.

The first issue relates to the mechanical aspects of writing (i.e., what you need to do to get the letters on a page). Typically these have been carried out via handwriting (penmanship) but they are now produced primarily via keyboarding.  These 2 forms of writing represent different physical skills, and neither is difficult to teach—particularly to young children where there is generally time in the curriculum.  So in terms of time or pressure, there’s little need to give up one for the other. Nevertheless, that well might happen since our society tends to move in the direction of discarding the old when new things come to the fore unless parents band together to pressure schools to retain both forms of writing. (There are even moves afoot to end keyboarding on the grounds that devices can now transform speech into written text; thereby eliminating the need for keyboarding.)

But there is a second aspect to the question that covers a quite different terrain. It concerns the “language of texting.” Texting – and its offshoots such as Twitter which also relies on the 140 character limit of the text format –  does not simply eliminate handwriting and minimize keyboarding; it eliminates almost all extended writing (of diaries, creative writing, essays etc).

Here we are not discussing the mechanics of writing but the content that writing can create. Texting, with its short bursts of disconnected ideas—written in a shorthand known only to the group, works to smother many key forms of writing. It need not do so—it could and should co-exist with longer, better organized expressions. If the end result, however, is replacement and not co-existence, it will be a great loss to the society. Hopefully this will not happen. But once again, people have to be concerned and speak out. And out leaders in education must show a commitment to maintaining important key skills and enabling the best of the old and new to co-exist.

To keep handwriting alive, we must teach children its significance.

  Start with our Letter Land by Hand program, and follow up with a free 30 day trial of Reading Kingdom. Our educational programs are the perfect blend of technology and time tested techniques that teach children ages 4-10 how to read and write.  We’ll see you soon!