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To write or not to write?

We are now living in the technological age and the age-old debate is again in the forefront of educationalists’ and parents’ minds. Why does my child have to learn to write? Can’t they just type on a computer or even speak to their iPad? Cambridge University has added fuel to the fire by announcing that a percentage of all exams will be digital! So, why learn to write? Should we be teaching this skill or not? Is forming letters really essential in the 21st century?

As an Apple Technology school, and as a teaching faculty, we have both researched and debated the long-term forecast for writing and the power of technology to usurp the requirement for physical writing.

Interestingly, when I hold staff meetings, my teachers are not recording their notes on their iPads, rather they are writing by hand. It was agreed unanimously that our recall of information was far greater by the physical act of writing something down.

Certainly, when we write short notes, we store the information more readily in our short- and long-term memories than when we type. Therefore, if the objective of a teaching lesson is to learn and be able to recall the information, writing must be the correct option. Our thought processes are directed to what we are writing, and we are activating the part of the brain that is involved in the thought and memory processes.

When writing, our brains are stimulated creatively. There is no underlining of incorrect spellings nor the wrong use of grammar by the latest version of Word! We are able to write freely and allow creativity to develop. We are unrestricted in our thought processes, and the work that we produce is of a higher quality.

The physical, actual act of writing and the posture that it makes us assume are both essential for our physical growth and development. The act of learning to write at an early age from forming letters on a sandy beach to practising letter formation are both very important for our brain’s development.

Of course, there are many times when using a laptop in order to create a pictorial presentation is faster, more visually stimulating and much more effective than if it had been written by hand.

Technology can give us the world at our fingertips and allow us to embrace the modern technological world in a fast and efficient way. Students with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, find that dictating to an iPad or using a computer for their writing allows them to ascertain an even keel with their peers and, in theory, technology becomes an invaluable writing tool.

I would suggest that, just as we have implemented in our school, that one advocates the use of the correct tool for the task. Students should be encouraged both to write when the task is appropriate and to use technology when a technological approach is warranted.

Students should be encouraged to express themselves in a range of other mediums when creativity is at the forefront of the learning process. Handwriting skills are still and should always remain an element of the 21st century, stimulating and developing our ever-evolving brains.

I’ll call for pen and ink and write my mind – William Shakespeare

By Penelope Best, Head of School,
Eupheus International School, Loulé