Saturday, February 04, 2006

Paper or Tech- Which to use?

I just read an interstice article on how folks feel about pen and paper versus technology: Getting To Done: Long Live Paper! - Lifehacker. It made me think about my evolution from scratch pad to word processor and the memories came flooding back...

I had always been a pen and pad person. You know, the little spiral pad that fit so nicely just about anywhere. My first true nibble on the digital cookie was the Commodore Vic 20! We bought it for the games for our children, but I found that by using Basic, I could make math spelling quizzes for the children, and make documents for my class. After a while, these types of programs became very available in stores. There wasn't an ecommerce dragon yet for the likes of Buy.com and eBay. They weren't even a glimmer in anyone's eye yet.

Well, I just had to have the new Casio watch calendar, and then the one that kept real appointment reminder dates. I got cool, and dove head on to the Day Timer leather ring, fully tabbed, day at a time, junior book. That became too cumbersome so I downsized to the wallet (checkbook) size. This was my bible. Without it, I could not keep track of breakfast.

Then came the no turning back point, sychronizing software came on the scene to synchronize my Day Timer data with my computer. As if that wasn't enough, the Palm Pilot came front and center. It was given to me by one of my sons. A hand me down, but full of possibilities. After the novelty wore off, it was boring. It had a plain dull screen, limited games, and was hard to read for my already overtired computer eyes.

Then, da dum, tah dah (drum roll, trumpet call,) The clouds parted, sunlight beamed through the heavens, my heart raced... I got my first iPaq- full color with all the bells and whistles. Pant, pant...



A techno data junkie was born! My life has NEVER been the same. My iPaq is now my bible. It syncs with my computer, laptop and cell phone. I rely on getting reminders for appointments, birthdays, etc. I can give photo slide shows, have a program just for my shopping lists, give powerpoint presentations, edit spreadsheets and do email. As if that isn't enough, I actually make my own backgrounds/themes for it to go with holidays etc. Geek to the nth degree. Yep, and I guess I have a bit too much time on my hands too.

That said, I still find some use for pen and paper. Telephone messages go well with message pads. Jotting down a license plate is still faster in the car on the fly with pen and paper. Post it notes work great as bookmarks and leaving "buy milk" notes on the fridge. Truth be told, my handwriting leaves much to be desired. Arthritis has made using pens, pencils very difficult. I believe that my digital communications make a much better impression than by pen (Mont Blanc or not!). However, there are some devoted analog folks who still really love their paper and pens (my hubby is one of them.)

This brings me to the issue of whether or not to allow grammar school students to submit reports (for non-tech subjects) that are done on the computer. I have observed, through over 34 years of teaching, that handwriting instruction is almost non existent, past second grade in New York City. I've heard from other educators around the country that is becoming the norm all over. The focus is on literacy and not legibility. I believe that they go hand in hand. So many students can't add a columns on multi digit numbers because they can't read their own numerals. I've seen countless students unable to read back their own compositions because they couldn't read their own handwriting. Fine motor skills need to be developed. Penmanship is important! Homeschooling parents need to keep this in mind also.

School systems have become so busy, showing that they are providing such complete curriculums in EVERY area, that handwriting is just considered relatively expendable. I've never heard of a supervisor wanting to see a penmanship lesson for an observation. I have never even seen it mandated on lesson plans since the 80's.

I remember when schools provided workbooks specifically for penmanship. There is no such thing in the Big Apple. Perhaps a school here or there gets them, but overall, administrators just aren't concerned with penmanship.
The teachers I've spoken to, embed penmanship into their curriculum. Unfortunately, my observation is that it is not consistent enough, and not done by every teacher across the board. I also believe that there is something to having a book dedicated to it. Somehow it gives a sense of respect for the skill.

Too much time and effort is wasted in schools today running off sheets for elementary students.
One school I know, has reading and math programs that require tons of sheets to be handed out to the students. The teachers have to waste their precious few prep periods running off this nonsense and use their Teacher's Choice money to pay for the paper. This is an outrageous situation which is the result of a union that just doesn't care.) Yes, teachers do model for students, but having samples and letters to trace is, in my opinion, indispensable. So goes by the way side, one of history's most important communication tools.

Students with home access to computers are so busy instant messaging each other, that even invitations to parties are not handwritten any more. Remember the thrill of getting a card in the mail inviting you to a friends birthday party? The art and practice of letter writing, in today's fast paced techno society are long gone. Unfortunately, the teachers who have to mark essays, are left to their own devices to transcribe the chicken scratch that is half print-half cursive. If it isn't given a city wide test, then there is no need to "waste time or money" on it. Thus follows the warped logic of minimizing phys ed, music, art and drama.

Parents who homeschool their children need to find their own happy medium. The world of today requires most professions to have solid computer literacy. A non-computer literate student will be hard pressed to compete in college without solid computer experience under their belt. See an interesting article:
Study: 'Power Users' Drive Pedagogy Research suggests tech-savvy students are having an impact in the classroom- By Robert Brumfield, Assistant Editor, eSchool News.





What's your opinion on the paper vs tech issue?



~JRY
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posted by An Educational Voyage @ 2/04/2006 01:02:00 AM  
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