Look, Ma – No Hands!

I recently heard a technology “guru” discuss how students don’t really need to learn to write anymore, that handwriting is more or less obsolete with all the technology now readily accessible. As a former English teacher (and world citizen) my heart broke to hear her misguided view. To take this stand on education is to be ignorant of how the world actually works as well as ignore thousands of years of the evolution of the written word.

Full disclosure: This blog post is being written by somebody who will go to some pretty extreme lengths to avoid handwriting anything! My writing hand only has four full fingers thanks to an unfortunate run-in with a lawnmower (really!) and with this accident, my already pretty awful handwriting went from just passable to nearly illegible. So I truly appreciate the electronic means of communication to make my thoughts clear to others. But even I recognize there are times when I simply must grasp a pen in my four fingers and press the ink to the paper.

My hand. Yeah.

So, until photo and movie apps completely replace the written word in modern society (which may well happen eventually!) students still do need to learn how to write letters, words, and sentences… by hand! *GASP*

Let’s think of the ways handwriting still matters:

  1. Doctor prescriptions are still written and/or signed by hand
  2. Essays for the S.A.T. are still written by hand
  3. Checks, legal documents, and autographs are still signed by hand (despite the electronic signature)
  4. Batteries die, electronic charges end, and power still goes out…
  5. Not every person in society can afford an electronic device in order to electronically write
  6. Sometimes, writing with a good pen on paper with a light texture just feels better!
  7. It is an art form – think of the study and practice that goes into calligraphy!
  8. Handwriting becomes a distinct part of who we are.

My eighth reason comes from personal experience. Readers of my blog know my father recently passed away. He was in ICU for a week, unable to breath on his own. Before being intubated toward the end, he had a double bi-pap machine that forced air into his lungs. Mouth dry, weak, and unable to draw a breath deep enough to talk, my father pantomimed writing and so we found a scrap paper and pen when, in a shaky hand, he scribbled out “Cough.” He was telling us he was unable to draw a deep enough breath to cough.

At the time we gave a bittersweet smile and kept the scrap paper intending to show him how awful his handwriting was when he was in the hospital. Alas, that form of communication is now a memento of the last time he “spoke” with us.

And once we were home, going through a crate of his belongings from his childhood, I took great delight and comfort in reading stories he had wrtitten as a high school student, seeing love notes as a newlywed to my mother, looking at signed birthday cards from his parents. Imagine if these had been done electronically, there would be no crate to go through! Perhaps only an old hard drive to sift through with some typed font for words. How robotically impersonal!

So, when I saw this video about a 7-year-old girl with no hands winning a national handwriting contest by Zaner-Bloser, I knew I had to write this blog post.

Handwriting is important, and fortunately the iPad has plenty of handwriting apps to help our students “offline” too:
Zaner-Bloser Handwriting–Manuscript
Zaner-Bloser handwriting–Cursive
Alphabet Board

Lovely apps to have fun with your handwriting:
Bamboo Paper – Notebook
Use Your Handwriting Gold
Handfont Personal Handwriting
Calligraphy Art