General Question

zensky's avatar

Is it still important for children to learn how to write (as opposed to type on the computer) and why?

Asked by zensky (13294 points ) February 8th, 2012

If children are and will be using computers in the future, and can type faster than they can write – is there still a benefit to learning how to write?

What about learning how to write in a second language?

What about children with dyslexia and/or other learning disabilities who find it easier to type – should they be encouraged or even forced to learn how to write?

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30 Answers

cookieman's avatar

Yes, it is very important. As ubiquitous as computers are, there will always be opportunities to write by hand. Furthermore, fine printing and cursive develop fine motor skills, attention to detail, and patience. Always worthwhile skills.

My daughter (age 9), has learned (and practices) both. Aside from having neat printing and beautiful cursive, she is very meticulous.

jazmina88's avatar

signing checks, mortgages.

YoBob's avatar

IMHO, that’s kind of like asking whether it is still important for kids to learn how to do basic math on paper. Of course it’s important!

Just curious, when you need to remember something somebody tells you in a telephone conversation do you hope you don’t forget the details while you run to your computer to send yourself an email, or do you jot it down on the pad next to the phone?

When you make out a shopping or “to do” list, must you fire up the printer, or will a pen and the back of an old envelope suffice?

marinelife's avatar

I think it is a skill that has value. You can write down your thoughts without a machine being around.

gorillapaws's avatar

I’m no expert in child psychology or mental development, but aren’t there supposed to be neurons that get linked up when you’re learning to read/write and the act of physically creating the shapes with your hand? Pushing a button that represents an image is a very different physical act than physically forming the shape on paper with a pencil/pen.

Also, as someone with dyslexia, I’m very glad I learned how to write on paper. The process was agonizing, but I’m a much better person for having gone through it. I certainly prefer typing, especially now, but both are important skills to learn. GQ.

Kardamom's avatar

There are learning advantages for children who learn to write with their hand, in addition to learning how to write on a keyboard. There are different parts of the brain which are used/stimulated for each of the types of writing. Kids who don’t learn to write by hand will be missing out on important visual, motor and cognitive skills. Read more about this subject Here

Plus, just the practicality of needing to be able to read and write, when a computer isn’t available is extremely important IMO.

zensky's avatar

@Kardamom Good article.

Coloma's avatar

Absolutely! Comnputers are still extremely new in the grand scheme of communication. Personally I find it sad that we have lost the fine art of letter writing.
At the very least the kid better be able to spell out SOS with rocks and sticks if they are lost in the wilderness and be able to read traffic signs, legal documents and medicine bottles.
Take two stupid pills and call me in the morning. lol

Blackberry's avatar

Adults shouldn’t write like children.

Jeruba's avatar

Yes. I knew a couple who were so keen to have their child be computer-savvy that he was a keyboard prodigy. But when he went to school at the age of 6, he didn’t know how to hold a pencil. That was a disadvantage.

One measure of our independence is how many layers of interference there are between us and the completion of an action.

Aside from the machine-dependence arguments above, I would add that learning to make the letters yourself is a very different experience from learning to recognize and touch them on a keyboard. It’s the difference between knowing how to cook and ordering from a menu. The difference in mastery and intimacy is immense, in this layman’s opinion.

Jeruba's avatar

@YoBob, no old envelopes, though, if everything comes electronically.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think so, computers can crash.

YoBob's avatar

@Jeruba – no worries, I’ll be happy to buy a notepad (preferably made from 100% recycled post consumer waste)

Aethelflaed's avatar

Yes. While computers are getting cheaper and cheaper, they still cost lots of money, and will probably cost more money than pencil and paper as long as any of us are still alive. It’s important to be able to communicate via the written word no matter how much money you have.

muppetish's avatar

If I had not learned to write by hand, I do not think that I would have become—rather decisively at age eight—a writer. I wrote scribbled so many stories down in spiral notebooks and reams of computer paper. Sure, we had a PC and I typed stories there on occasion, but it was not the same for the private, creative process that I hungered for.

Of course I think it is still important for children to learn to write by hand. And it is still important to give them crayons for drawing, clay for sculpting. . . kids need outlets for expression too, particularly while they are still developing. It’s vital that we don’t simply treat it as a tool, but as something that can crack open their soul.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Computers. like any other technological device, are prone to catastrophic failure. The power grid could fail for any number of reasons, components could be compromised, etc. Civilizations have collapsed for lesser reasons.

Bellatrix's avatar

We still need to write notes, fill in forms, shopping lists, sign for things, perhaps write in journals, write letters (it can be refreshing to receive a handwritten letter) etc. And as @CaptainHarley said, computers fail, the power goes out.

I have to admit my writing is truly appalling these days because I rarely write for anyone else. I do think it is still an important skill.

wundayatta's avatar

People survived without their pencils and pads of paper, once notepads and Android phones arrives. I reckon that we’ll be able to survive for a while without our electronic devices, should we forget them, or should they fail.

Hmmm. Do people need to learn morse code? That was once an essential skill if you were going to communicate over long distances. Do people need to know how to ride a horse? That was once essential. I’m sure if I thought about it, I could come up with many other skills that were once ubiquitous and now employed only by a few hobbyists. How about caligraphy?

My son can’t read cursive. Or so he claims. Is it that hard? He has been taught to write cursive… I think. My daughter was. But he had so much more difficulty with writing and reading than she did. He types. Not touch typing, but he does enough to get along online.

I can’t tell. I almost never write by hand. Only when I take notes and I don’t have a computer handy. Although oddly, last time I took notes, I started by hand, switched to computer, and then wished I was writing. Somehow I felt I captured more in writing.

raven860's avatar

If anything…we need to TAKE COMPUTERS AWAY FROM CHILDREN unless something like an iPad is needed for special needs children. Computer, calculators etc should be kept away for majority of the childhood in my opinion. I believe their education and health suffers because of it and they would become far too technology-dependent.

SuperMouse's avatar

I think it is incredibly important for children to learn to write without relying on a computer. As @Simone_De_Beauvoir says upthread, computers can crash, not only that, but not all kids are going to be able to constantly have access to a computer. It is also important so that children can learn to spell and punctuate correctly without relying on auto-correct. If we only teach kids to type we are only going to increase the digital divide.

My son is not a great speller and for years I have been begging his teachers to call him out on this and help the child learn to spell. For years they have told me his lack of spelling skills is no big deal because of word processing programs. I have worked with him at home with at home to improve, but with nothing on the line and his poor spelling having zero impact on his grades, he has no motivation to improve. So he constantly mixes up the there/their/they’re and to/too/two – because auto-correct has no idea which one is right making his incredibly grammar-conscious mother want to scream and pull his her hair out!

Bellatrix's avatar

How ridiculous @SuperMouse. What about if he has to ‘write’ an exam response? We still have many invigilated exams where students have to write essays and responses. If they couldn’t write, punctuate and spell, how could they do this work? Very shortsighted of your son’s teachers.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Bellatrix I could not agree with you more, the entire situation infuriates me!

PhiNotPi's avatar

To answer this question, I propose a challenge.

PhiNotPi’s Writing-less Challenge: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go an entire month without writing a single letter or number by hand.

The important thing is that children who are not taught how to write by hand will not only go one month, but their entire lives. In addition, it wouldn’t be that the children choose to just not write by hand. It would be that they can’t, even if they wanted to.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

“What about children with dyslexia and/or other learning disabilities who find it easier to type – should they be encouraged or even forced to learn how to write?”

The issue for myself and many like me, is that writing is like a one time only code. I write something down, for as long as I can remember what I’ve written, it’s legible. But if I try to read it again a few weeks later, I haven’t a clue what it says. Typing is a godsend for us. I didn’t start typing on a regular basis until perhaps 6 years ago, but I can type at 100 words per minute. I started writing about 17 years ago, and I can only write at well below 60 words per minute. It’s a matter of efficiency for most.

@PhiNotPi I’ll first mention that I sometimes go for months (plural) without writing a single character. But anyway, suppose this same challenge was issued some years ago, but instead in reference to say, the mandatory learning of latin or sketching. The point is moot, as these activities simply fell out of usage. You don’t learn to drive a carriage when the only mode of transport is a car. I strongly suspect that writing will, in the near future, become something of a leisure activity. More of an artform than a method of recording information.

longtresses's avatar

To add to what everybody else has said.. Not learning to write on paper would be missing out on a simple tactile joy of gliding the tip of the pencil across paper—feeling the paper texture, hearing the sound of pencil scratching on paper, seeing the resultant script, making connection with the written word and its meaning. You enjoy it more in a gentle process of being guided by an adult.

Learning should be gentle an enjoyable. It is do-able.

PhiNotPi's avatar

There are still several advantages to writing by hand:
Annotation – Allows a person to correct and write down notes on the same piece of paper as what they are annotating.
Integrity – Almost any device used for typing is able to store information, such as stuff other people typed, or what has been downloaded off the internet. If a person is taking a written test, integrity is a very important factor. There will always be a way to secretly store information on a computer, even calculators. If you write it without access to the things, test administrators know that it came from your brain.
Signature – Any time you write something, the handwriting shows that it is you that wrote it. Signing your name will always be the best signature, because anybody could just type anybody else’s name in a fancy font. Replicating handwriting is hard.
Memorization – I think that it is much easier to remember stuff that has been written down because you actually have to “think” harder about every single word you write down. This is a boost when you have to remember things.
Universality – Anybody anywhere can write. Even if they don’t have a pencil or paper, letters can be formed by anything at hand. Writing materials can be carried easily, and can be used any time you want for years. Computers require a power supply. And money to buy. They can’t be used in specific circumstances because they can damage easily.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it is important to learn how to write. I thought the argument out there right now was whether children need to learn to write in script/cursive. Are people actually saying basic print writing skills are no longer necessary? I hate to think it. When I am learning something, writing notes is what helps the information stick in my brain, and I don’t think I could take notes typing near as fast as I can writing. Maybe some people can? But, sometimes I am drawing arrows on my notes to connect ideas, I need it on paper, sometimes the computer screen just is not as good as pen and paper in my opinion. Also, learning to write is an exercise in copying. Seeing a figure, and drawing it out. That has to have some merit.

LisaS10's avatar

I am sorry but for someone to even asks this shows what is wrong with our society. Yes children growing up today do have more interaction with computers & phones/technology – HOWEVER it is extremly important that they know how to write & have basice penmanship skills. When the day some that they need to sign a contract, or fill out a medical form or any other important form it needs to be legible.

Also there are a lot of jobs where people do not have computers or workstations and when you work in the field you might not have a lapotop, pda or smartphone to use and writing notes for use later on will be needed – what do you do when you dont have this basic skill? How do you write out the check for a mortgage?

Even before they get into the workforce students and young adults should be utilizing this skill I know in my college years rewriting notes from class was a great way to help me study & prepare study sheets. I was studying & retaining the info at the same time-and most of the time would write these notes much neater so after I could replace notes I had taken in class that were not legible…

We need to take makingit accebtable to let future generations get aware without having to learn & practice simple things like writing by hand – spell check only gets you so far in life & it is things like that produce college grads that cant do the most simple tasks on the job. Just bc it seems outdated doesnt mean it is.

fundevogel's avatar

It wouldn’t have occurred to me on a conscious level without all the mention of the difference between a brain on writing and a brain on typing, but I’ve gone back to trying to learn a second language and writing is really helpful there.

wundayatta's avatar

I fail to see what is so important about writing by hand. Yes, if we didn’t have computers and other machines that facilitate written communication, we’d need to do it by hand, but we do have these machines, and they are ten times more efficient than writing by hand, at least for some of us. Wundayatta, for better or for worse, would not exist without computers. Without Wundayatta, some four hundred thousand or more words of writing would not exist. The thinking I did would never have been done if I had to write by hand.

I think that writing will become a specialized skill like carpentry. It’s not going to be a universal thing any more. Only those who need it in daily life will be able to do it. I don’t see how anyone could make a convincing argument that everyone needs to do handwriting every day.

In the old days, there were ways to provide signatures without being able to write, so I don’t think that’s all that important, either. There are other ways do “sign” things besides a hand signature.

You can do a lot of things with handwriting, and taking notes is one of those things. Studying is another. But those are learning skills, and aren’t used except in school, for most people.

The main point is that you do all those things in other ways. There is very little you can do with handwriting that you can do in no other way. The things you can’t do otherwise…. well, not sure what they are. I was thinking caligraphy, but that’s just another type face.

I think it is important not to hold onto old technologies and say they are extremely important just because that’s all you know. You need to recognize there are other ways to do things and that what you feel about it could be mere prejudice.

I have not seen one convincing argument here to say that handwriting is irreplaceable. Not even close.

Oh, and I can both print and write cursive. Not that you could read it. Although I could make it legible if I wanted to take the time. A loooooong time.

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