By Wendy Simms, Biology Department, Faculty of Science and Technology, Vancouver Island University

wendy4I have a confession to make. I STILL, to this day, do not know how to type properly.  Sure, every once in a while I throw in a thumb-to-space-bar dance move, but I pretty much wrote my entire MSc thesis with two fingers. It started with my high school typing teacher who was a complete DUD. After a week of wanting to gnaw my own arm off to get out of class, I decided that I didn’t need that particular skill in life and dropped the course. I admit now that it was a pretty short-sighted decision but I never bothered to remedy the situation because I am a pretty speedy two finger typer if I do say so myself (others, are also quite amazed). And hey, texting and tablets are making keyboards quite conducive to my ugly secret. Old school becomes new school if you wait long enough.

Not being able to type has never really hindered my advancement in life and in retrospect it may have even helped me. As a university student, I wrote everything out multiple times to help with my understanding and memorization of material. Writing was faster than typing for me back then and during an exam, I could remember exactly where a handwritten key word was on my study notes. This would lead to the recall of an entire paragraph, chart or diagram which was a valuable stash of concentrated information. Does my recall function the same way if I type it out? Definitely not.

Fast forward many years and I have been helping my four year old son learn how to write his letters and numbers. In the back of my mind, I am wondering how LITTLE his “digital generation” will actually be taking pen to paper. Some schools (outside of Canada) have already eliminated cursive writing from their curriculum. However, most educators understand its importance in brain development and are fighting hard to keep teaching it at school. Current research highlights the importance of writing in the development of hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and shows that it promotes reading and cognition. More parts of the brain are active during writing than typing, and more importantly, it is the reading part of the brain that is active during writing. So, am I teaching my kids to write before getting them on a keyboard? – absolutely. But I admit that AM using a few writing apps to make it fun for them. Will I teach myself to type properly before my kids start to mock me? Probably not.