Handwriting not being taught + students cheat with cell phones = technology is bad for education

The current issue of NCTE’s InBox has two articles (and slightly recycled) from different newspapers that are both presented (more or less) as examples of how technology is bad for schooling. First, there’s “The Handwriting Is On The Wane” from the Hartford Courant. I don’t exactly know what they mean by “THE Handwriting” (shouldn’t that just be “Handwriting is On the Wane”?), but given that the byline is “By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Write” (as opposed to “Writer“), perhaps the folks in Hartford have some sort of “master handwriting” in mind. Anyway, here’s a typical quote:

Relying more and more on e-mail, blogs, websites, instant messaging and other electronic forms of communication, students at all levels are forgetting the fine art of handwriting, educators say. Cursive script, the graceful looping style that connects one letter to another, might be going the way of the inkwell and the fountain pen.

When students do write by hand, many resort to printing, educators say.

“It’s true. Unfortunately, a lot of schools are not spending enough time on handwriting,” said Priscilla Mullins of Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers, an Ohio-based firm that produces classroom materials for handwriting, spelling, grammar and related subjects.

Of course, this is old news, and, interestingly enough, it’s old news where Zaner-Bloser has commented. She was making the same kind of argument in South Carolina back in January.

The second “sky is falling” piece is “High-Tech Cheating Comes to High Schools,” which appeared in the Detroit News but which was a reprint of an article from the Sacramento Bee. Basically, it’s about using cell phones to cheat:

“Some people text you during tests and ask if you know the answer to No. 3,” said Amy Pederson, a 17-year-old senior at Sacramento’s Folsom High School.

The number of high school students who admit cheating has steadily increased, said Don McCabe, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey and one of the nation’s top researchers of high school and college cheating. His most recent survey, published in June, found that 70 percent of students at public and private high schools admit to some form of cheating on tests.

Lance Chih has seen it.

“Last year in one of my classes we had a sub,” said the 18-year-old senior at Folsom, “and students were distracting the sub while they took pictures of the test.”

Once again, we have an article where the usual suspects– McCabe in this case– provide a reporter with a dramatic and dire warning about cheating. I don’t know how “recent” his survey his and I don’t know how he defines “cheating” exactly, but I blogged about McCabe a bit back in August 2003.

I will say this though: at least the reporter for this story was careful enough to follow-through and ask the teachers about what they “do” about these things:

“A lot of this stuff is just a matter of monitoring the classroom,” said Shannon Morgan, a math teacher at Folsom High School.

“You can tell just by their body language if they’ve got (a cell phone) out,” said Sean Rivera, who’s also a math teacher at Folsom. “You grow a third eye. … We can just tell. Those of us who’ve been in the business long enough can tell when they have a phone out.”

Some educators believe the problem is changing too rapidly to be quelled by conventional methods, and it’s time that teaching methods evolved with technology.

“The days of teachers just getting up and lecturing … those days are kind of over,” said Mark Hyatt, president of the Center for Academic Integrity. “Especially the younger generation — they want to be part of the action.”

See? Maybe the kids today aren’t going to hell in a handbasket….

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