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Teach kids to type, not write?

Most of you that know me personally or follow me online know that I am pretty much neck deep in preschool hell.  With my three boys at the ages of 4 1/2 yrs, 3 yrs, and 4 months, it isn’t going to end anytime soon either.  Between making sure they have their backpack full of supplies for kiddie activities, packing their lunches that are required to have all 5 food groups or else we get a “you’re a terrible parent” nastygram sent home, and managing a ridiculously preventive doctor and dentist appointment schedule… you would swear I had four full time jobs (and if you saw my pre-school bill you would assume I would need 4 full time jobs to pay for it!).

Lately, my 4 1/2 year old is really getting into drawing, writing, and reading, and I wouldn’t be the proud Dad that I am unless I told you that he’s pretty darn good at it!  But, more importantly than being good at it, he seems to really have a passion for it.

“Monster Truck Minivan” complete with Santa Claus and a front door on-board

All he wants to do at school is draw pictures, write his name, and practice letters.  His teachers, mom, and grandparents are glad to see his growth and passion in this area, but I can’t help but wonder if it is really useful or not?

I know that the brain develops and learns fastest by the actual performance of work (e.g. practice) and that the visualization of that work after you’ve completed it aids in the  internalizing of this learning, which is stored in your brain as knowledge.  Hence, as he gets better at drawing a letter, his brain gets better at recognizing it.

But ask yourself this… when is the last time you wrote anything on paper by hand that was much more than a list of words for the grocery or a to-do list?  I’m talking about a complete sentence or dare I say entire paragraph written on a piece of paper by a pen in your hand?  And if you actually have done this lately, I bet you at some point you took that handwritten script and convert it to digital by scanning or typing it so you could email to others, post it on a blog, or have access to it on your phone, right?

Not my kids

Obviously my kids are going to learn to write by hand, but I would like someone in education to actually acknowledge that the only reason that my kid is learning to write by hand is because that’s what they were taught to do when they were little… and it’s just what schools do… they teach kids reading, writing, and arithmetic… enough said.  But, how long until this changes?

We have already deemed writing by hand as a society virtually useless.  Word, blogs, websites, email… all of it is digital and only useful by means of typing.  Even my reference before regarding handwriting short notes or lists has been taken over by mobile apps like Remember the Milk, iPhone reminders, and text messaging.

So how long until schools, even preschools are teaching toddlers to type and not write?

Home row instead of how to hold a pencil?

Drawing a pictures using Microsoft Paint and a mouse click instead of crayons on construction paper?

Big changes, especially in education are hard, but at what point do we give up the past and move forward?

If all almost of our kids are going to make a living by typing (show me a profession no matter what the industry that doesn’t rely on email and word docs as the primary means of communication and documentation), aren’t we teaching our kids an outdated, useless skill just because that’s what we were taught and not because it’s the right thing for their future?


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More Stories By Ryan Hughes

Ryan Hughes, blogging at, is the Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) of Skygone (, a Cloud Computing solution provider to SI's, ISV's, Commercial, and Government. Education: MBA in Project Management from Penn State University; BS in GIS from Bowling Green State University Ryan currently has 10 years in Enterprise-level IT Program Management and Operations Management, as well as vast experience in Enterprise System Design and Cloud implementation methodology.

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