HAND TO MOUSE by etssetcf


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									30 EDUCATION»

                                                    ome people are already beginning to suggest that

HAND TO                                             the skill of handwriting is redundant in the com-
                                                    puter age. It would be better, however, to consider
                                            the two forms of communication complementary for the
                                            time being.

MOUSE                                            The computer certainly has influenced the way we
                                            use handwriting. Students no longer have to submit es-
                                            says that were tediously and often painfully written by
                                            hand and then, at times, illegible to the reader. We have to
ROSEMARY SASSOON ASKS ‘WILL THE             thank the computer for saving our hands from a task that
                                            was asking too much from them – to perform detailed
COMPUTER KILL OFF HANDWRITING?’             and precise movements, at great speed, for a consider-
ILLUSTRATIONS BY JAMES BOURNE               able length of time, and frequently under conditions of
                                            extreme tension. This was resulting in increasing inci-
                                            dence of pain, even the old complaint of writer’s cramp.
                                                 Handwriting is tedious and time consuming to learn
                                            and perceived as difficult to teach by those who have
                                            never been adequately taught themselves and worse still
                                            not been taught how to teach it with confidence. These
                                            problems can be overcome if the altered usage and pri-
                                            orities for a written script are understood. Our kids, our
                                            students, don’t need traditionally neat, slow handwriting
                                            for show, but a flexible personal hand to fill in the gaps in
                                            their life that the computer does not adequately meet. So
                                            when it comes to teaching only essentials need be dealt
                                            with – but those need to be taught intensively at the start
                                            of school. Some of the time saved could then be spent in
                                            teaching young children keyboard skills. For those with
                                            disabilities and real handwriting problems a computer is
                                            an essential tool and often the key to academic progress.
                                                 Think about how you were taught – has it met your
                                            needs? Were you ever shown how to be comfortable, how
                                            to sit and where to place your paper so that you were on
                                            the way to pain free, relaxed writing habits? Perhaps you
                                            remember being told that there is only one correct way
                                            to hold your pen? That is not true today. Modern pens
                                            function at a different elevation to fountain pens or pen-
                                            cils. That often means that penholds need to adapt and is
                                            why we see such a plethora of unconventional penholds.
                                            Some work well but some slow down the writer or be-
                                            come painful under pressure of speed. Writing and writ-
                                            ing strategies should be taught in such a way today to
                                            consider writers and their needs. In the past it was the
                                            reader that got all the consideration.
                                                 Examinations still have to be written by hand. Note
                                            taking is the other main task where handwriting is use-
                                            ful if not essential. Anything from lecture notes to tak-
                                            ing down a phone message (when there is no computer
                                            around) or a shopping list needs to be legible for the

 | intellect quarterly

writer at a later date. It may be amusing when your part-      of these problems. Although a consistent signature is no        OTHER BOOKS BY
ner misreads your scrawled shopping list and brings            longer quite as essential for security purposes, not ev-        ROSEMARY SASSOON
back the wrong commodity – but it is more likely to start      erything has changed. Anyhow the distress of not being
a row, because to criticise your handwriting is to criticise   able to make your mark is considerable.
yourself.                                                          Just recently I had a mature student come to see me
    Our script is the visible trace of our bodies recorded     whose handwriting problems meant she could not fill in
when we have a pen in our hand and it is in contact with       the necessary security forms to apply for a job. Those
the paper. It is a reflection of our self on paper. That is     who design such forms do not consider how small and
why a personal letter brings to mind the writer so vividly     precise your writing must be – and you cannot use a
                                                               computer to fill them in. They are designed for the com-
                                                               puter to read with little consideration for the writer. It
‘HANDWRITING IS A                                              seems we have gone full circle.
REFLECTION OF OUR SELF                                             Inevitably, improved technology will help future gen-
                                                               erations to communicate more easily without a written
ON PAPER. THAT IS WHY                                          script – if they wish. However, we have a way to go before
                                                                                                                               The Art & Science
                                                                                                                               of Handwriting
A PERSONAL LETTER                                              we pronounce the death of handwriting. The only sure
                                                                                                                               Paper, 192 pp. £14.95/$29.95
                                                               way of achieving that is to stop teaching it. {
WRITER SO VIVIDLY                                             Dr Rosemary Sassoon is a prolific researcher, writer
                                                               and international lecturer, and works as an independent
EVEN YEARS AFTER DEATH.’                                       consultant. For more information about James Bourne
                                                               visit: www.drawer.me.uk
– even years after death. Would a love letter be as mean-
ingful if sent by e-mail? Does a text message mean quite
as much as a handwritten note of apology? That would
signal that, at least, you were taking time from your tech-
nologically run life to stop and think of the recipient.
    The computer is affecting the way we write in an-                                                                          Computers and
other sense, for better or worse. Spell checks and gram-                                                                       Typography 2
mar correction is available at the click of a mouse. We                                                                        Paper, 158 pp. £14.95/$29.95
are making life easier but with each function that we rely
on the computer to perform we are allowing our own
memory to deteriorate. This has been happening ever
since the written word evolved partially replacing human
memory. Now the computer is accelerating the decline
of memory rather like greenhouse gases are accelerating
global warming.
    You might think that I am just a lobbyist for hand-
writing or a computer-hater. Far from it. I would be lost
without my Mac. Some years ago I had a stroke. I write
books so the first thing I needed to know was could I use
a computer one-handed? Then, at least, I could carry on                                                                        The Acquisition of a
working from my wheel chair. In the past I had heard                                                                           Second Handwriting
from patients that I met in the course of my hospital work                                                                     System
what a deprivation it was not to be able to write by hand.                                                                     Paper, 160 pp. £14.95/$29.95
Now I experienced something of what they felt. For many
it meant that someone else had to conduct much of their
business particularly anything requiring a signature. In
recent years technology has provided solutions for some

                                                                                                                            intellect quarterly | 31

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