Have Handwriting Skills Been Superseded By Technology?
Teaching four-year-old children to write is nonsense says literacy consultant Sue Palmer. “As useful as teaching a dog to walk on its hind legs.” So why has the National Curriculum in the UK adopted new assessments to measure handwriting skills in the first year at school?
Concerned opinion asks why the government introduced a scheme which is immediately openly criticised by a leading expert. How does this happen? Surely Palmer is the one of the key people to assist or review the development of a new school policy in literacy before it is launched.
It is an unfortunate start. The scheme has the right motivation but perhaps lacks the accountability which may have ensured it was thoroughly tested before launch. If government departments could be measured on results the efficacy of many schemes would be more closely reviewed. The problem starts at the top. Ministerial appointments are inevitably transitory. The tenure of the secretary for education historically has lasted around 18 months. But the measure of the effectiveness of educational policy takes a generation of children to measure its impact. Historically it was always a predecessors’ idea - unless it worked. But is Sue Palmer right this time?
Obviously handwriting skills intermesh with spelling. This leads us to another quandary. Teaching children to spell and write words as they sound involves the definition of “phonic.” Where the P and H of phonic of course being pronounced as an “f.” But no worry, as the device the kids will ultimately use to communicate will be a cell phone, with camera, spell check and predictive text - assuming that text abbreviations don’t completely take over.
If a more complex message is required then one of the new mini laptops, or knee tops is ideal. These incredible devices incorporate all the functions of the PC in a case weighing 1kg and a screen of 7inches. Highly portable they could tuck into a small backpack - or even a hood. Not as daft as it sounds. I once met a Berber in Morocco who wore the long traditional cloak and used the hood as a vast pocket.
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