By Marcy Winer
On her first day of Kindergarten over 18 years ago, my daughter made a picture on the computer which the teacher printed out for her. I am 100% certain that I when I started Kindergarten many moons ago, I came home with a picture that I colored. Technology has changed for school children over the years. Now, the little ones are encouraged to do spelling and phonics games on tablets and it seems writing has taken a back seat to expressionism. Creative drawing and writing have become antiquated due to the influx of technology. Video games, hand-held devices, and social media have propelled our children into a technology frenzy. Today, all children want the most exciting video game, the best phone, and the newest tablet. If Johnny has a tablet, Suzy wants one too. Even if Johnny’s parents do not know how to use a tablet, you can bet Johnny has already figured it out.
I asked my 12-year-old nephew what would he rather do - play a video game or write a story. He said (perhaps predictably) “probably play a video game.”
What has happened to writing? I fondly remember learning the rules of penmanship with those long red pencils. Children in elementary school need to write more than they do. They need to learn how to practice printing their letters, capitalizing when appropriate, and using grammar and punctuation properly to form paragraphs and write essays. The essay portion of many college applications is mandatory. So while today’s applicants may not hand write it as I did, they still need to write thoughtfully.
What about cursive? Most children today have no idea what cursive writing is and how the letters are formed. Recently, on an episode of WCVB TV’S Chronicle, Liz Roessler was profiled for the popular calligraphy classes that she teaches in Boston. The report suggested that many people wanted to get back to writing things with personalization. I always felt that, when you received a gift, a personal hand-written “thank you” letter was appropriate; not a computer-generated note. or, worse, an email.
Students will be required to sign a variety of documents. Electronic signatures have replaced actual penmanship in some cases, but you still need to sign on the computer at least once.
Penmanship and creative writing need to return to schools. I have been writing for many years and have had various articles and essays published. It has always been an exciting outlet for my ideas and views. Give me a blank page and I am ready to go! I was very excited to open up my Lowell Sun on a recent Sunday to see essays written by five Lowell High School students. These students, under the direction of their ESL Social Studies teacher Jessica Lander, were challenged to write about important issues in their community. It was compelling to read their essays about cyberbullying, the use of drugs in society, diversity and other issues. They had a chance to express themselves and their essays proved that, given an opportunity, students will write. They are now published writers and should be very proud of themselves! I am sure their teachers, families and friends are very proud of them for their writing. Hopefully, seeing their essays in print will inspire them to try their hands (not their keyboards) at more creative writing.
Technology is always going to be accessible and exciting. More and more advancements will it easier to cnnect with others, yet more difficult to connect pen to paper. I have an attachment to my technology as most adults do. It is what we are used to and what is easy to do and natural. It doesn’t harm us to change it up a bit, however, and to fall back on older ways. So the next time you want to communicate,get creative, write something fabulous and then sign your name!
Marcy Winer has been a paraprofessional in Lowell for over 10 years. She also is the founder of the literacy program Project DEAR (Facebook.com/ProjectDear).