The lost art of … handwriting?

My handwriting is shocking. It’s always been pretty scrawly, probably due to the fact I’m a fast-writing pen-choker, adopting a sort of strangulation grip, having ignored my mother’s impassioned pleas over many years to develop a normal, comfortable pen-holding style.

Looks somewhat like my handwriting

In recent years, any semblance of legible handwriting seems to have gone the way of my ability to do mental arithmetic. I can imagine the confusion of the poor person who had to mark my recent uni assessment – a series of short essay responses, scrawled out in a two-hour exam marathon that saw me having to take regular breaks to massage my hand, arm and shoulder. The tension! I had blisters on my fingers. Blisters. From writing. Welcome to the digital age, eh?

I joked with fellow students before the exam about how ridiculous it was we were still expected to handwrite an exam. Surely the university had the technology to do exams digitally? Wouldn’t it make so much more sense – for students, and especially for examiners – to be able to conduct assessment electronically? No more markers staring at completely illegible hieroglyphics, attempting to discern whether the student was a frenetic genius, or simply mad.

But when I read over the weekend that NAPLAN testing would be conducted online, I felt a little sad. I looked at my little girl – not yet 1 – and wondered if she would learn to write.

Of course she’ll learn to write, you might exclaim! But really, why would she need to?

Children in prep are handed iPads, and teachers are increasingly expected to prepare (and distribute) electronic notes for students of all ages. One teacher friend lamented the frustration of preparing slides for advanced high-school mathematics (subscripts/superscripts, anyone??), only to watch students sit in class, not take their own notes, and demand the notes at the end of the class. Handwriting aside, there must be huge implications here for actual learning.

But then in the ‘real world’, what do we handwrite, anyway? Everything is electronic – our calendars, to-do lists, shopping lists, our work and other documents. And as we enter a world where you can no longer sign for a credit card transaction, there’s really no need to ever pick up a pen!

I know, progress and all that. And as I said, my handwriting is appalling and only getting worse as more and more of my life shifts online. But I’m a teeny bit sad to think that E may be the most excellent typer-and-swiper, but her experience with a writing implement may be limited to Crayola.


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