Technology: Brilliant Invention or Laziness Enabler

Technology: Brilliant Invention or Laziness Enabler

By: Katy Ryan Schamberger
November 13, 2012

is technology making us lazyHave you ever come across a blog post or news story that instantly inspires you to write your own content based on the subject matter? That very thing happened to me yesterday afternoon—I was scrolling through Facebook (shocking, I know) and, when I stumbled across a story about the latest decision awaiting the Kansas State Board of Education, I was not only compelled to immediately comment—I knew I had to write something, too.

During a meeting today, the board will discuss whether or not cursive handwriting should remain a part of the educational curriculum. The story opens like this: “Should children born into a world of computers, iPads, smartphones and e-cards have to learn old-fashioned cursive handwriting?”

As someone who still writes in cursive, my immediate inclination is, “Of course!” But as I thought more about this issue (and composed my comment on the Kansas City Star’s Facebook page), I realized there’s a much bigger issue at stake. Is technology making us lazy?

Case in point: “Today’s children type, text and e-mail more frequently than they write longhand,” writes Suzanne Perez Tobias for The Wichita Eagle. And because of this shift in skills, more parents are concerned about their kids being properly prepped to use technology, rather than focusing on longtime curriculum components like penmanship.

Technology most certainly shouldn’t be ignored—and in fact, I’m a big fan of students learning computer and other related skills so that they’re poised for success in an increasingly digital world.

That being said, I think eliminating areas of study like cursive handwriting creates a slippery slope. If, for example, cursive handwriting is removed from schools because the thought is that kids use technological devices more frequently than they do handwritten forms of correspondence, does that mean that we’ll eventually reach a time when handwriting will cease to be taught all together? Becoming overly reliant on one form of communication, or even one way of doing things, seems dangerous. After all, technology certainly isn’t foolproof—and putting all of our eggs in the technology basket seems unnecessarily risky.

I turned 30 in August and I still lament the over-reliance on calculators experienced during my math classes. Even though I struggled mightily with subjects like math and science, my numerical skills (or lack thereof) weren’t helped by the fact that we could turn to our cutting-edge TI-82 calculators to not only solve basic problems, but more complex equations, too. Would it have been so horrible to focus on how to solve these problems without a machine?

I’m not in a position to influence school board decisions, but as curriculums continue to evolve, I’d hope that stakeholders keep one key term in mind: balance. Sure, it’s smart to look to the future and prepare students for what’s ahead. But that doesn’t mean that we have to completely abandon the skills of yesterday, either.

Now that I’ve spouted off, I’d love for you to weigh in. Do you think the Kansas State Board of Education should vote to keep cursive handwriting as part of the statewide curriculum? And do you worry that technology is making us lazy, or do you think the prevalence of digital devices and communication is unveiling a whole new set of skills and intelligence?

Image by 3dpete via Creative Commons

  • Auriberta Alves

    Sim, concordo que a tecnologia alem do nos deixar preguiçõsos, limita o cérebro que passa a ser condicionado a este tipo de evolução.

    Por um lado temos os avanços médicos e científicos, por outro, temos uma geração, inerte, vivendo o dia de hoje, com um minimo de raciocínio, e um máximo de internet.

    Poucos são os que pesquisam. A maioria, procuram jogos lazer e até o ócio os estimulam a praticar crimes.

    Claro que o lado bom existe, mais se formos pesar, A tecnologia é muito importante par pesquisas e desenvolvimentos.

    Porém nós temos hoje uma geração de jogos de vídeo, irresponsávelis na sua mauioria, e sem nenhum ideial de vida, sem sequer apreciar uma vida, longe do virtual.

  • radiojaja

    I always wonder what people thought when all we taught was cursive handwriting? Did we consider ourselves to be horrible limited with only the one option?
    Great well reasoned piece, I really enjoyed it!

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  • mbevivino

    Katy I think that’s a great question but I think maybe not the right reason why it’s important. There is a similar debate occurring in my field of Architecture about whether students should still learn to draw by hand when the profusion is ruled by the computer. The reason why I think that it is important to still learn to draw by hand isn’t about laziness but about the difference between physically creating a mark vs clicking a key. You have a connection, a thoughtfulness, and a deliberateness to that mark when you make it by hand. The computer might breed laziness but it more importantly creates a detachment from the ideas we are trying to record. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  • Beautifully said! And I certainly agree, especially with your comment about “a connection, a thoughtfulness, and a deliberateness to making that mark by hand” — in fact, I think it’s why I still start big projects (or even blog posts) by handwriting notes and making outlines in my beloved Moleskine notebooks, rather than turning straight to my computer. Which way do you think the architecture field is headed? Will drafting by hand remain part of the curriculum for the foreseeable future? Always fascinated to know what’s happening in other industries. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your thoughtful comment!

  • Interesting point! At the time, no one would have thought they were limited – but now, variety is the spice of life – for better or for worse! Appreciate your comment – glad you enjoyed the post!

  • No I don’t, I agree with you.

    (and inspiration from other blogs is how I used to get ALL my blogging done, LOL)

    Cursive may be quaint but it teaches more than handwriting skills… I also think it’s important that potential love affairs with the use of paper should remain alive.

    However I don’t think of the advance of technology as necessarily enabling laziness across the board, nor does it have to be zero-sum or a “negative gain” if those of us who are aware remain vigilant. For example, you were inspired to action through use of technology, which brought me the gift of awareness.

    What we need is balance.

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  • ShellyKramer

    Balance. Such sage advice, Tinu. And I absolutely agree!

  • gpkc

    Ask yourself, if cursive were gone tomorrow, would we miss it? Could society go on without those squiggly little lines? Other than a signature, when is the last time the average person used cursive?

    I’m not sure I’m quite ready for cursive to go the way of the buggy-whip, but as a photojournalist I don’t miss standing in wet darkrooms making prints when I can use a computer to achieve similar and often more exciting results.

    I guess in that vain, why make a student stumble through having perfect letters when you’re trying to make him or her come up with a brilliant story or essay?

    Computers and other digital devices are the way of the world, and one might argue that they expand the palette of our students and not thwart their creativity.

    Perhaps we can create museums and fill them with … cursive.

  • A great question! I, personally, would miss it, because I write in cursive. But I also know a lot of people who don’t. Still, my hope is that it would remain an elective so that students could have the option to learn it, if they were interested, while still having time to learn computer and other technical skills, too. Oh, and by the way? I’d TOTALLY go to a cursive museum 🙂 Thanks for your comment!