The Herald Bulletin

April 6, 2013

Write or wrong? Local educators weigh keyboarding, cursive writing

By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin

PENDLETON, Ind. — Before this year, the notes 8-year-old Jaima Link got from her grandmother were undecipherable, written in loopy characters she didn’t recognize — in cursive, that is.

“My mom or sister would have to read it,” said Jaima, a third grader at Pendleton Elementary School Primary. But after learning the basics at the beginning of this year, she reads and writes it with relative ease.

“I like it,” she said. “It’s easy and it looks cool.”

But possible changes to national teaching standards could soon make cursive writing optional, allowing to schools to focus instead on keyboarding and other skills tailored for the digital age.

In South Madison Community Schools, they subscribe to both schools of thought, said Jaima’s teacher, Connie Broughton. She and other school representatives are convinced the loopy writing is still relevant.

“My thought is, if they can’t write it, they can’t read it,” Broughton said, which is a problem if they ever need to decipher a letter, a birthday card or — gasp! — an already cryptic doctor’s note.

“I’d like to think, if we at least give them an introduction, they’ll still be able to read it when they grow up,” said Broughton, who squeezes cursive in wherever she can, highlighting a letter or two when there’s a lull in class work.

Elsewhere in the muraled maze that is Pendleton Primary, kids lean over keyboards in the computer lab, as they do every sixth day as part of their fine arts rotation.

Typing is “a little harder and less fun” than learning cursive, Jaima said. Like many of her classmates, she uses the “hunt-and-peck” method, searching for and poking individual letter keys when she copies lines onto a glowing computer screen.

“The kids are on a computer about every day,” Broughton said. “It (technology) is incorporated into teaching — more of an introduction to keyboarding, programs, that sort of thing.”

Those skills are also important, she said, especially later in education where students are often required to turn in typed papers. And in the workplace, where her third graders will likely one day be asked to enter data on spreadsheets, or use Microsoft Word to file a report.

But maybe not in every case, Jaima said.

She and a friend plan to open an animal shelter, where Jaima thinks there won’t be much time for typing.

“I think I’ll be mostly taking care of animals, not on a computer,” she said.

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.