This summer, the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy will be featuring a new session entitled, Deliberative Dialogues. We will be tackling some of the important (and sometimes controversial) issues that arise as digital literacy pedagogies of inquiry enter the worlds of educational practice. Joining us this summer is Troy Hicks, an expert in digital writing and composition, who addresses one of the great debates: typing vs handwriting.  

To Write? To Type? To Speak?

The Debate will not Yield

Guest Post by Troy Hicks

Screenshot 2016-06-27 09.52.03Writing – the act of translating our abstract ideas into letters and words, sentences and paragraphs – involves a number of cognitive and physical processes. Before we even choose the right word, we must know what letters comprise it, and before we can even commit that letter to print, we must choose a medium through which to express it.

And – as our youth have increasing access to alternative forms of putting those letters and words into sentences and paragraphs – educators struggle to balance the benefits of handwriting, touch typing, and more recent developments such as mobile device keyboards, swiping, and voice-to-text dictation.

Or, put more bluntly, the Vice channel’s Motherboard blogger Kaliegh Rogers asks in a recent post: “… considering [that] most of us rarely lift a pen these days to begin with, why is cursive writing still a thing?” Rogers connects cursive to “nostalgia and romanticism.”

Others, such as Jimmy Bryant, the director of archives and special collections at the University of Central Arkansas, see it a different way. He argues that “Cursive writing is a long-held cultural tradition in this country and should continue to be taught; not just for the sake of tradition, but also to preserve the history of our nation.”

While the debate about writing is often reduced to a question of how much time should be spent “learning cursive” versus “practicing typing skills,” the dilemma is deeper than that. In this session, we will explore a number of overlapping questions:

  • What are the cognitive processes involved in the act of writing, or physically translating our ideas into words?
  • How are those processes affected as we move between holding a pen, typing on a keyboard, using just our thumbs, or speaking into a microphone?
  • What cultural, historical, and interpersonal values are at risk if we shift from one method to another? Why? For whom?

At the upcoming Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, participants will use their favorite writing implements, analog or digital, so we can jump into this Deliberate Dialogue the “write” way!

Troy Hicks is Associate Professor of English at Central Michigan University. He explores the variety of issues related to teaching writing with new media for K-16 teachers and teacher educators. As Director of the Chippewa River Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project at CMU, he teaches pre-service writing methods classes and facilitates professional development on the teaching of writing, writing across the curriculum, and writing with technology. He is author of The Digital Writing Workshop (Heinemann, 2009) and Because Digital Writing Matters (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

2 thoughts on “Typing vs Writing by Hand

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