John Tierney asks at TierneyLab: “You Type. I Type. Why Bother with Handwriting?”
He has mixed feelings, in part because he’s the parent of a young child. But he’s a bit skeptical about the value of learning cursive (which when I was in grade school was known as longhand).
Many, probably most, of the commenters find some value. I do, too, though in my own comment I suggested that typing (which in some circles is keyboarding) isn’t weighed down with the same aesthetic or nostalgic burden that cursive bears.
Except for the extremely retro, few people sigh over the vanished IBM Selectric, let alone the sturdy, upright Underwood. More to the point, no one can tell from the finished work what type of keyboard you used to produce it.
There was a time when I considered learning the Dvorak keyboard, but that was before computers, and I didn’t think I’d always have the Dvorak layout available.
Sometime, maybe sometime soon, I’ll try voice recognition software again, but that’ll be an adjunct to typing.
One possible benefit to handwriting is that it can slow you down — it’s really hard to write 50 words per minute by hand — and thus can make you more aware of the process of writing.
You don’t necessarily want that awareness all the time. I’m thinking of its potential value in building someone’s metacognitive skills — making him more aware of how he learns.
So a student might take notes by hand to be more aware of how he takes notes and what he takes them about.
That’s just speculation — but at least tracks with the way in which I’ll scribble outlines or very brief first drafts of things. Once I have a clear picture of where I think I’m going, I’ll move to the keyboard. I learned to type more than 40 years ago, so it’s a deeply ingrained skill; I started using word processors in 1984, and so their features (annotation, pagination, cut-and-paste, copy-and-paste) seem to rise to the occasion unsummoned.