Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Monday, December 21, 2009

more time to think

This is how Simon [a young student and son of the author Anne Trubek] describes why he hates to handwrite: "I have it all in my memory bank, and then I stop, and my memory bank gets wiped out."

As a great follow up to Letters Of Note, here is an article about the art and history of handwriting. In Handwriting Is History, Anne Trubek starts by discussing how we connect handwriting to "personal identity (handwriting signals something unique about each of us), intelligence (good handwriting reflects good thinking) and virtue (a civilized culture requires handwriting)." She traces the history of writing to try to understand how we got to the point where the technology of forming letters on paper with an ink-delivery device came to mean so much to us.

Handwriting slowly became a form of self-expression when it ceased to be the primary mode of written communication. When a new writing technology develops, we tend to romanticize the older one. The supplanted technology is vaunted as more authentic because it is no longer ubiquitous or official. Thus for monks, print was capricious and script reliable. So too today: Conventional wisdom holds that computers are devoid of emotion and personality, and handwriting is the province of intimacy, originality and authenticity.

Our romanticism of handwriting has led to the "handwriting effect" where assessors rank elegantly scripted prose much higher than the same prose written in chicken scrawl.

"...[T]yping in school has a democratizing effect, as did the typewriter. It levels the look of prose to allow expression of ideas, not the rendering of letters, to take center stage."

But more than that, using a keyboard rather than handscripting allows us "cognitive automaticity, the ability to think as fast as possible, freed as much as can be from the strictures of whichever technology we must use to record our thoughts. ... This is what typing does for millions. It allows us to go faster, not because we want everything faster in our hyped-up age, but for the opposite reason: We want more time to think."

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