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 PostPost subject: Handwriting: old fashioned?        Posted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:45 am 
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This was on digg, it seemed newsworthy enough.


Handwriting is irrelevant

They couldn't remember how to write the letter "I."

Is it one loop or two? Does the pen start at the top of the squiggle or the bottom? "I forgot how to handwrite," says 18-year-old Kris Tofer Baker, as he mulls over the execution of a "w."

Don't misunderstand. Baker is an intelligent young man. He just hasn't needed to use cursive script since Grade 4.

"I print out or type the majority of my school work."

He's not alone. On the Ryerson and University of Toronto campuses, few students were able to handwrite naturally, when handed a black felt-tipped pen. After some moments of meditation, most remembered, sort of, how to script — although they couldn't remember the last time they needed to.

Computers have turned cursive handwriting into an archaic and unnecessary form of writing. It has been relegated to an era of calling cards and heartfelt love letters crafted by candlelight and fountain pen.

"One of the comments I got back on a test was `I don't understand what you wrote.' The teacher had told us to handwrite, but you saw, I had trouble with the T. I don't remember what they're supposed to look like," says Ikram Abdi, 19.

Her friend agrees. What need is there to handwrite? "Everything we do is on the computer," says Fatima Nuzhat, 19.

Cursive script is still taught in early elementary school. But distinctive handwriting, the tiny neuromuscular ticks and twitches that form the recognizable style of an individual's script is formed in the late teens and early 20s, says Frank Hicks, a forensic document examiner from California.

"Young people tend to have handwriting with a large amount of variation," he says. "It's still in its formative stages. They still haven't done enough to have fixed the habit."

Anyone with little experience with the calligrapher's pen would, he expects, retain handwriting that has " a wide range of variation ... because they hadn't done much of it."

In other words, too much typing will create a generation of bad scripters. "Teenagers are still experimenting with their handwriting and trying out new things," Hicks says.

The imminent end of cursive, however, is not all QWERTY's fault. "Penmanship skills are not being taught properly," says Sargur Srihari, professor of computer science at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He did a computer study that tried to identify age and sex by handwriting samples. Young people, he says, aren't even holding their pens correctly.

Instead, schools are spending time teaching something more practical — keyboarding.

"We did some studies determining age and we did find that handwriting difference between the older and younger people was quite discernable," he says. "Age can be told by the nature of the handwriting."

Srihari is developing a computer program that can objectively analyze handwriting samples to determine their authorship. As a tangent to that research, he said that he has noticed the quality of handwriting become poorer as people come to depend on computers. There are differences in the strokes, connectedness and the slant.

But if an over-reliance on pixels and type is leading to the downfall of ink-connected letters on pulp, no one under the age of 30 seems to be weeping.

"Ninety per cent of my time, I'm usually on the computer," says Amin Khalat, 24, who last joined letters with a pen in Grade 9. "(Handwriting) is not mandatory. Just so long as your writing is legible, it's okay."

Tara Bernard, 18, agrees. "I don't feel I need to handwrite. And when I try to, it doesn't work out."

She can't write quickly enough, and the text turns to scribbles.

"I came here from Africa in Grade 6 and I was never taught how to handwrite," says Shehzad Khan, 17. "Is there any need to handwrite nowadays?"

For note taking and grocery lists, printing seems adequate to the task.

Though Ryerson English professor Jennifer Burwell says that even margin squiggles in notepads are doomed. "More and more students are taking notes on laptops. Writing and printing are becoming more and more irrelevant."

Not that she minds. She only prints as well. "If I could have my students write on a computer and ensure that there is no cheating, I'd do that."

But Toronto-based forensic document examiner Pat Girouard ponders this new trend and remains skeptical. Sure, computers dominate our writing lives. Sure, handwriting seems somewhat anachronistic, but still, cursive seems to be an ironic sacrifice in the digital age.

After all, she says, "printing takes longer (than handwriting) because it's disconnected."

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:46 am 
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Heh, I wish I could forget how to write, more excuses to use a computer in college 8)

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:51 am 
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I'm allowed to use a computer, and I do in every class :oops: . My handwriting's always been bad, so I guess this will make me even worse :cry:


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:53 am 
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BraiNDRa!N wrote:
I'm allowed to use a computer, and I do in every class :oops: . My handwriting's always been bad, so I guess this will make me even worse :cry:


We're only allowed to use them in certain lessons, depending on what we have to do. I usually use one at least once a day though.

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 9:37 am 
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sad really. We really only use computers in computing subjects, and the occasional time when we need to do some research or something. I will admit my writing isn't the neatest, but i still know how to write.

How do these people pass exams, or can you guys use computers during the exam?


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 9:37 am 
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I get to use them about 3 times a day at school

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 10:03 am 
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I'm in US Public school, grade 8, I can't read or write cursive anymore. Its gotten to the point that I cant do my homework because I cant read the board

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 6:29 pm 
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 PostPost subject: I dont know...        Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2006 9:28 am 
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I still find some of my second grade papers and my handwriting is barely different :I


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Sun Dec 10, 2006 5:21 am 
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I actually had trouble signing the paper on the sat's because I couldn't remember anything but my signature in cursive.


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Sun Dec 10, 2006 10:20 am 
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Within the last month I did four exams on a computer. English, Media studies, Science and Geography. It's annoying, because I'm in a room all by myself, apart from some fat 40 year old lady that glares at my screen every 20 seconds or so while reading some paperback love novel (i had her for two, the other lady was ok). I could never write properly, some people here know why. It is embarrasing having to explain why I didn't go to the exam to my classmates (they didnt see me in the exam room).


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