Old Slates, New Tablets – Same Difference?

It might feel as though we have done quite a few blogs recently on education, but it’s such an important subject to us, and there is just so much to talk about!

At one of our recent meetings, Sara O’Connor mentioned that during the July Children’s Media Conference it was reported that three schools in the UK now exclusively use electronic tablets to teach, and that South Korea, India and Turkey are launching initiatives to give all children access to tablets.

This got me thinking about how children used to be given slates and chalk to learn on. Much like the electronic tablets, you would be given your own slate, be expected to take very good care of it, and then hand it back at the end of the day. Also, just like electronic tablets, slates were considered an expensive break-through in learning technology – a revolutionary way for children to learn to read and write.

I don’t doubt that tablets are a really useful tool for children who don’t find traditional methods of learning accessible. However, (and although I’m all for children having access to technology – especially children who might not get that access at home) I am a bit concerned that old-fashioned hand-writing might suffer if we’re only teaching our children to type – or to write using their fingers on a touchscreen. We already know we don’t send letters like we used to and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day hand-writing becomes completely obsolete. Also, I am a bit concerned that if we become completely reliant on computers, we are tempting some kind of SKYNET future. ALSO – how will kids throw notes to each other in class if there are no notebooks?!

But that could just be me being a fuddy-duddy – what does everyone else think? Is handwriting dead – and should we therefore adapt our teaching to reflect that – or should we make sure our kids still know how to use a pen and paper?


16 responses to “Old Slates, New Tablets – Same Difference?

  1. You are being a fuddy-duddy. Regular handwriting is not something that needs preserving. Now… beautiful calligraphy DOES need preserving. But my hideous scrawl is of no benefit to anyone, and a keyboard makes it easier to understand (and disseminate and translate, etc). So… bah humbug to handwriting. Bring on the tablet!

  2. Just to add my tuppence worth – there’s been quite a bit of research into the benefits of writing long hand compared to typing and the effects on learning which is interesting to peruse! http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/01January/Pages/writing-versus-typing-for-learning.aspx and

  3. Oh God, no. We must preserve handwriting in the same way (and to me, romantically, more importantly) that we have to be able to preserve doing the maths in our heads even though we have calculators. We have to remember that these are machines we’re dealing with and machines can fail – so we have to be able to conduct our business in that old human way, tool to slate, chalk to slate, pen to paper 🙂 From a very practical point of view as well as a romantic one.

  4. Honestly, a lot of my feelings about needing to preserve handwriting do stem from my fear of a post-apocalyptic world where no one will be able to send messages to each other! I know Native American society did just fine without a written language, but people have been scrawling their names on walls for literally millions of years…

  5. hotterkeykate

    Slate to paper didn’t change the mechanics of writing itself, just the material we wrote on – why would we want to lose a form of communication?

  6. Stanley Mills

    I think we should calm down, take a breather and not panic! Handwriting will always be taught no matter what alse is on offer. Whichever country children are born in it will be an ‘absolute must’! Technology is a wonderful aid to modern life, not always easy to grasp, but even the old fuddy-duddy luddites are beginning to embrace the benefits of new life technology. But they are able to cleverly combining the traditional handwriting skills with new tech and so will our children. We are at the point in history where we all think we brilliant geniuses. We have gee-wizz computers and ‘tablets’ wonderful phones, amazingly reliable cars, fantastic airplanes to flirt us around the globe, an absolutely collosal choice of food. All brought about by technology! But we are really simple creatures from the wild days of the cave people, meaning we all still need the very basics of life. A secure roof over our heads, food and clean water and the processes to raise and ‘school’ a family in saftey and comfort. Technology is fantastic, but the basics of reading and writing go hand in glove and without doubt will not go away.

    • I can’t help it… I agree that reading and writing go hand in glove – but writing does not have to mean “handwriting”. The point of it all is to be able to communicate, and the best method of communication shuold and probably will win out. I mean, I still want my son to learn how to use a pencil, but I think in a couple of generations there won’t be pencils to learn with.

  7. beccawearsredwellies

    On a different note – ‘becca smells?!’. Rude.

  8. Fab post 🙂 But nobody wants to look at my handwriting – I write so tiny most people need a magnifying glass to read it hehe – typing for me thank you lol. Agree that Calligraphy needs preserving though 😀

    Of course the paper aeroplanes in classes would have become electronic animations 😉

    • Now, THAT is something worth preserving… little folded paper things and paper aeroplanes. I would be sad to see them go.

  9. When I was in year 7 I wrote a story set 100 years in the future and one of my important world aspects was the loss of handwriting as a skill. It remained an artform but no one was expected to know it. So, personally, I am a little biased. There’s a part of me that’s desperately hoping I predicted something true about the future!

  10. I really enjoyed reading your blog entry about the slate v ipad…and I would also be more inclined to give my children a piece of chalk and slate with an ipad not even being at the horizon;-)
    I think doing things with your hands remains an important tool for whatever we do in life, whether it’s writing, crafting, gesturing, or creating things. Re-skilling workshops are on the rise in the places that I go to, and manual workmanship is something that’s almost becoming “of the age” and hip.

    Then, again, I have just bought a book about “living off the grid” and am going to Wilderness Festival – both of those activities are an indication of just how much I love real, touch and play, back to basics things.

    I also just got an actual postcard from a dear friend in the US, that had travelled all the way across the west coast and the Atlantic to arrive in my letterbox. I loved the card and the handwriting. There is something very genuine, and authentic about it. Call me a romantic!;-)

  11. deathbooksandtea

    I love handwriting things- it’s freer and easier and flows better. It’s also more romantic and personal. Not so nice is re-reading things back-mine ends up illegible at some point. Hand-wrting and using machines both have advantages and disadvantages, but I hope that future generations will still be able to write things out by hand, even if they prefer to type.

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