Last fall I had occasion to sit at a table with some key players in the Ministry of Education. I happened to have a conversation with an individual who quickly let me know her feelings about the current trends in Education. She prefaced her remarks by saying that she was “speaking as a parent” and complained to me about the lack of time her child spends in the classroom learning the basics of cursive writing. She also complained about the lack of use of textbooks. I have pondered those comments for a number of months now, wondering if there were many other parents who shared her sentiments. I wondered if we had somehow failed to communicate the importance of 21st century skills to parents such as this. At the same time, I wondered if she was right. Have we disregarded elements of a traditional classroom that really should be preserved within our current educational environment?
Flash forward to April 2014 and May 2014. I was privileged to meet a wonderful individual, Heather Victoria Held, (http://www.heathervictoriaheld.com) who makes a living as a calligrapher and teaches handwriting to interested individuals – individuals like me. I have always been drawn to calligraphy and, on occasion, have been lucky enough to add to my own personal collection of fountain pens and inks. It was through the local pen store, Phidon Pens, that I learned about Heather’s classes and eventually signed up for Handwriting Parts 1 and 2.
At the beginning of the first class, Heather provided some rather strong arguments to advocate for the continued use of the actual physical writing process as a way of organizing one’s thoughts and ideas. She spoke eloquently about the meditative quality of cursive writing and pointed out that our brains actually process thoughts differently when the physical act of handwriting is involved. I chatted with her for a while after class. She found it curious that my job involved teaching others how to imbed technology into daily learning yet here I was, taking the handwriting class.
It was late that day as I reflected on her ideas and was doing some research (on the computer) that I stumbled upon the following blog post: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/cursive-print-or-type-the-point-is-to-keep-writing/
As I read, I compared the ideas listed with my earlier conversation with Heather. I was reminded once again of my belief that we must have a strong pedagogical foundation for 21st century learning. We must continue to build upon what we know are effective teaching strategies. As I have stated before, technology integration is not an “add on”. It is designed to be woven throughout daily learning both inside and outside of school hours. In present day learning, the choice of an appropriate tool for the task may very well include the use of pen, ink and paper … or a computer. Each is not mutually exclusive of the other. Maybe this is a different example of a blended classroom – blended with traditional learning within the context of 21st century skills. Maybe using cursive writing is just the tool that a struggling writer might use to challenge the brain to process thoughts in a different way. Maybe I need to challenge my own brain in this way too?
Hmm… I just may decide to take a fountain pen to work from now on. What about you?