Wednesday mornings are sacred. I wake up extra early to meet with a group of friends to reflect and blog. However, my laptop was sitting on my desk at school. I had a few options. I actually thought about skipping it. I didn't have time to run by school, and who wants to write without a laptop? I could blog on my phone, but it would be tedious and hard on my thumbs. And then I realized, I could reflect on paper. Yes, paper!

I'm now one paragraph in, and it actually feels good! I am really enjoying the friction of the pencil on the white page, and my ideas are flowing fast. Maybe I'm nostalgic. I grew up in an era before the Internet. To watch my favorite Saturday morning Smurfs, I had to be seated in front of our RCA color TV at an exactly pre-determined time. Miss that moment and Smurfette's antics would be lost forever. The first mobile phone I ever saw was held by Mangum P.I. while he was leaning against his red Ferrari. I thought it was simply TV magic. I had no idea that a device the size of his whole head would be the forerunner of the smart phone I now have in my pocket. Forgetting my cell phone is like leaving home without my wedding rings. I feel quite lost; a little piece of me is missing. But today, I do like the feel of this pencil in my hand. The bright yellow paint, perfectly sharpened point, and unmarred eraser. Feels somewhat hopeful.

My own personal writing has become increasingly digitized. I journal in a blog post, submit reports with digital signatures, and even keep my grocery list on my phone. A few weeks ago at CUERockstar, the presenter asked us participants to complete a task using paper and pencil. Our table had to pool our resources to come up with a writing implement for each person. I don't even carry a pencil or pen in my purse anymore.

There are many benefits to writing in a digital world. Revising and editing are so much easier. I have access to my drafts on any device, including my phone, and sharing with a wide audience through a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media outlets is certainly a new way of publishing.

In the 21st Century, what are the benefits of paper and pencil? California added the art of handwriting back into the Language Arts Common Core State Standards. Hooray! In my opinion, handwriting is still a necessary skill and fine motor skills are still best developed with blocks, chubby crayons, and hands on tasks such as threading, cutting, and pasting. But what does the research say? A summary article in the New York Times, "What ls Lost as Handwriting Fades" written by Maria Konnikova in 2014 is certainly thought provoking and worth a read. What are the implications to brain development, learning, memory, and fluency of ideas? What are the implications for school practices such as Writing Workshop, note taking, and daily work.

I would love to know your thoughts: researched based, from practical experience, or even with unbridled bias. In what educational contexts should we choose paper and pencil over a keyboard? To what degree should students be able to choose the tool that best meets their needs or preferences?

Other articles of interest on this topic: 

Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter by Dr. William Klemm

Seven Ways Writing by Hand Can Save Your Brain by Yohana Desta


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