Students learn keyboarding, but cursive lessons live onTechnology may have become a staple at home and in school, and Grand Forks educators may be mulling an even earlier start to keyboarding classes, but traditional cursive continues to survive in some classrooms here.
By: By Jennifer Johnson, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
Technology may have become a staple at home and in school, and Grand Forks educators may be mulling an even earlier start to keyboarding classes, but traditional cursive continues to survive in some classrooms here.
“They’re really eager to learn because they see it as a mature way to write,” said Principal Ali Parkinson at West Elementary School. “As a whole, they just love to practice it.”
Until written doctor’s notes and family letters are obsolete, she said, she feels there’s an expectation on the district to make sure students are proficient both in handwriting and keyboarding.
“Even in the age of technology, I think cursive writing is still relevant and important to learn,” Sandy Gregory, a teacher at Carl Ben Eielson Elementary who teaches cursive, said in an email.
Keyboarding is edging out cursive, though, compared to decades ago when the parents of today’s students were in school.
In Grand Forks Public Schools, students start to learn to write in loops and curves in the third grade. By the fourth and fifth grades, some assignments require cursive so students maintain the skill, but otherwise students can print if they want to, said Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson in an email.
By sixth grade, every student has a school-issued mini-laptop. Standard keyboarding classes start in seventh grade.
Not soon enough
“It seems a little bit behind the curve,” said Eric Ripley, director of career and technical education who oversees the keyboarding courses. He meant teaching keyboarding so late.
Children in some North Dakota school districts have started learning keyboarding skills in the upper elementary level, and it’s happening more now than it ever used to, said Matt Strinden, director of teacher and school effectiveness at the state Department of Public Instruction.
“Certainly, this digital age has made a difference when schools are delivering their curriculum,” he said.
Some elementary instructors in Grand Forks have taken it upon themselves to teach the skill, too, but it’s not happening on a consistent basis, said Ripley.
A former middle school keyboarding teacher, he backs teaching typing at the upper elementary level. Some bad typing habits can establish themselves by the seventh grade, so maybe the class could act as a “refresher or a skill-building course,” he said.
The issue is not a new one, but it’s complicated, he said. Administrators have to consider the way they would instruct the classes, who would teach them and the number and varying size of elementary schools in the district, he said.
Educators say one of their biggest concerns is finding time for keyboarding during the busy elementary school day, which periodically includes instruction on cursive.
Practice on iPad
Time spent teaching cursive varies from class to class because teachers determine when students need more practice.
In Sandy Gregory’s class, it’s “a quick introduction of the formation of the letter, followed by a few minutes of practice.”
After they learn the skill, students are required to complete various assignments in cursive the rest of the year, such as a handwritten letter to a pen pal. Students are allowed to use iPads, which have touch screens, to practice letter formations, and they have access to a variety of online resources.
Educators say students should be able to read cursive writing, which can resemble computer fonts, and write their own signature.
Because learning cursive or keyboarding isn’t required by the state, local districts are left to their own discretion.
There are no data tracking the teaching of cursive in each district, but some clearly want to keep it around, said Wayne Sanstead, longtime state superintendent.
“I certainly would like to see youngsters be able to write as well as print and use computers,” said Sanstead, who still writes notes in longhand. “I pride myself on my penmanship.”