Yesterday, we attended a meeting at our child's school so a new computer tablet could be allocated. This will be used for classes for the rest of the year. This reminded me of a news article, from earlier in the year where 45 states in the US have changed their school curricullum guidelines, so that handwriting is not a priority. http://naturalsociety.com/how-cursive-writing-affects-brain-development/
Everything I have learnt and experienced makes this simple, and seemingly innocuous, statement set off alarm bells. As a trained optometrist, I have learnt that fine-motor skills are part of the learning process and when they are skipped, this can cause problems. In the long term, we may find that it does not make a difference but some studies have used MRIs to show that there may be some cause for concern about the cognitive development of our children. In the study, children who had actually handwritten the letters showed more advanced neural activity than those who had not, supporting the theory that handwriting can improve expression, composition and fine motor skills.
On a practical note, I found that it much easier to learn and retain information at University, when I wrote out notes rather than just highlighting it. If I drew diagrams, I could recall them; if I just studied them, my recall was not as accurate. I also find my writing style is different when typing as opposed to when I am handwriting. I get more ideas when handwriting. If I am stuck for an ending or for a plot twist or segue, I shut the computer and pick up my pen. If I am writing a more logical article, editing or polishing a story or post, I work on the computer.
While tablets are going to help with creative use of innovative technology and possibly of learning to work independantly, I am grateful that Australian schools have not replaced learning to read and write via handwriting with typing technology. I still believe this is a very important part of our children's development and allows them to use varied areas of the brain at an earlier age. My personal opinion is that handwriting is an important step in creative and cognitive learning.
We won't really see the results of the US state's decisions until the current generation has left school but if they are using tablets, maybe the dreaded ipad can be useful than a standard computer and keyboard. At least the touch screen allows the user to manipulate the hand for drawing or electronic handwriting, to form the letters, instead of only typing. I may have to revisit this post in another five to ten years to find out the results of the changing times.
For those wanting further information on studies, this is also an interesting read: