Today, the vocabulary of young students includes words like blog, hashtag, and QR code. Elementary students learn the fundamentals of typing in class and often know how to operate computers and tablets by the time they start school. Distance learners and traditionally schooled students alike are learning to connect with students across the globe via video chat systems. But how many of these tech-savvy students can read and write cursive?
Fewer than ever before, studies show. As technology continues to advance, the value placed on penmanship declines. Yet the handwritten word appears to play an important role in literacy.
Research conducted in 2010 by Karin Harman James, a neuroscientist at Indiana University, used brain imaging technology to study differences in the brain based on the way in which preschoolers learn letters, by either printing or typing them. She observed greater pre-reading skills in children who print letters versus typing them, suggesting an important connection between reading and writing.
James' initial research examining cursive revealed that college students who rewrote a paragraph in cursive retained more information after one week when compared to printing or typing the content. Though the benefits of formally teaching or not teaching cursive have yet to be scientifically determined, potential arguments exist for both cases.
Benefits of Teaching Cursive
-Students who write cursive legibly have an increased ability to communicate with others.
-The capacity to read cursive increases literacy. Without it, the ability to read important historical documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, or even a handwritten note from a grandparent will be lost among younger generations.
-Cursive gives students the ability to sign their name, an integral part of adulthood.
-With the ability to write entire words in one fluid movement, students can increase their note taking pace which can benefit them throughout their academic career and within the workforce.
-Writing records by hand increases fine motor skills and memory retention.
Downsides of Teaching Cursive
-With the rise of technological communication, the value given to penmanship has declined.
-Due to the decreased value of the handwritten word, devoting time to cursive detracts time from more "practical" subjects.
-Students who don't practice writing cursive regularly could forget the skill, making the time investment a waste.
-Cursive can appear less legible than print because it is faster to write.
-While the ability to read cursive allows students to read original historical documents, records of historical copy are accessible online in print format.
With questions regarding the benefits of formal cursive instruction left unresolved, how do you rank the importance of your distance learner's ability to read and write cursive? Fortunately for those who consider it important, online resources make it easy to find a template of letters to help your student learn to write cursive.
A related concept to consider as the pros and cons of cursive are unveiled is what will become of learning to write the ABC's in preschool as technology continues to advance and enhance students' ability to write their names, do their school work, and communicate electronically.