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Debate #3… It was heated… and awesome!

Last nights ed-tech debate did not disappoint!  Both groups did a tremendous job in preparing their arguments and rebuttals.  To begin with, I was one of the individuals (17.9%) who agreed that schools should no longer teach skills that can be easily transferable by technology.  Does that mean my opinion is correct?  Absolutely not, but based on my teaching experiences thus far in my career, and the grade level I am teaching, I feel as though I need to utilize the resources I have in order to get my students prepared for high school.  Although I do believe it is important know basic math skills to get by in one’s day to day lives, at what point does a calculator become a necessity?  As an eighth-grade teacher, I have students who are not at grade level in Math and do not know basic multiplication or division.  This can be traced back to numerous reasons, such as attendance issues, lack of internet access and technology during the pandemic, therefore being unable to “attend” school, and students with exceptionalities, which would make a calculator vital when it comes to Math.  As students get to high school, and in higher levels of Mathematics, a calculator is a necessity and a requirement to pass the class.  The point I am trying to make, is that if students do not know basic multiplication or division by the early stages of their education, a calculator becomes a useful tool in order for them to learn the outcomes at the grade level they are at. 

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After discussing this issue with coworkers, and the administrators at the school I teach at, cursive is no longer in the Saskatchewan Curriculum, and it has not been over a decade.  Besides writing my signature every now and then, Monday night was the first time I attempted to write in cursive since I was in elementary school.  Although I do think it is important to have your own signature, I cannot think of many cases as to when one would need to know or use it when almost everything is electronic.  In our breakout room, Nicole made an excellent point that nurses need to know how to read cursive in the nursing profession.  That is something I did not know, so in some cases I can understand how it can be useful.  My wife and I recently purchased a home, and we figured we would need to go into the lawyer/realtor’s office to sign and initial documentation.  All of it was electronic, and our “signature” was our name in cursive font.  Although I see the importance, from an onlooker’s perspective it feels like it is becoming a thing of the past.  I look at teaching cursive (even though it is supposedly no longer in the curriculum) the same way as teaching Roman numerals.  I remember learning this in the third or fourth grade, and maybe this is still in the curriculum (I am unfamiliar with the younger grades curriculum), but I cannot think of a use for knowing that besides the odd clock that has Roman numerals, or trying to figure out what Super Bowl is being played this year. 

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I am contradicting myself, but everyone needs to know how to write!  If we are reliant on technology for everything, there is no chance for success later in life.  What is currently happening with Regina Public Schools and lack of internet/technology, students need to know how to put pen to paper.  Arkin made a great point in the chat group that technology is great when it works, but what happens when it does not?  I will go one step further; if all classes go paperless, and students go from kindergarten to grade 12 using nothing but technology, what happens in university when finals are upcoming, and one needs to write an essay using pen and paper?  I have never heard of in person classes using technology for final exams, so how does one pass university if they do not have the basic skill of being able to write pen/pencil to paper? 

This is a tricky one, because I understand both sides of the argument.  However, I will once again admit that I agreed that schools should no longer teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology.  I know 81.9% of you disagree with me, and I completely understand that!  However, I am basing this on my own personal experiences as an educator, and everyone of us have different experiences!


9 responses to “Debate #3… It was heated… and awesome!”

  1. Oh no! I pressed comment too early. The earliest that cursive writing appears in the Saskatchewan English Language Arts Curriculum is in Grade 3. It appears 4 times throughout the outcomes/indicators through the CC (compose and create), under the assessment and evaluation section of the curriculum.


  2. ERG. Sorry. Now the first part of my post didn’t appear. Okay, let’s try this again.

    Great post with interesting ideas. Cursive writing though actually does appear in our Saskatchewan English Language Arts Curriculum. Because I am a Grade 6 teacher and have been for some time, I have found some references to where the curriculum addresses cursive writing. Check this out!

    CC6.1 Create various visual, multimedia, oral, and written texts that explore identity (e.g., Your Choices), social responsibility (e.g., Looking for Answers), and efficacy (e.g., Systems for Living).
    …formulates simple, compound, and complex sentences; applies the conventions of oral and written language, including very few spelling errors, correct punctuation (including use of colon, dash, and hyphen); uses syntactically complete and correct sentences (avoiding run-ons and fragments); uses legible cursive handwriting and other clear representations which are visually accurate and legibly and neatly presented.

    CC6.2 Select and use the appropriate strategies to communicate meaning before (e.g., identifying purpose and audience), during (e.g., acknowledging sources), and after (e.g., revising to enhance clarity) speaking, writing, and other representing activities.
    proofread for mechanics and appearance (e.g., write fluently and legibly in cursive handwriting with appropriate spacing)

    CC6.3 Use pragmatic (e.g., function and purpose), textual (e.g., paragraphs), syntactic (e.g., complete sentences with appropriate subordination and modification), semantic/ lexical/morphological (e.g., figurative words), graphophonic (e.g., spelling strategies), and other cues (e.g., appropriate volume and intonation) to construct and to communicate meaning.
    use printing (e.g., for labels on a map) and cursive writing (e.g., for writing a report) appropriate to purpose; write legibly with appropriate speed and control;

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to know! I will share this with my coworkers who said otherwise! Thanks for the comment!


  3. Thanks for the great post Reid. I too was one of the few who voted against the group during this debate. It is not that I don’t believe in having basic skills, but I am not a fan of rote memorization without context. Times tables are a tool we can use to explore topics in mathematics with depth, they are not a requirement, but they help. Teaching at the high school level I have similar experiences to you with students in my math classes. If I stopped class to make them do drill and practice with flash cards I would never be able to move beyond basics and work through higher order problems. The reality is that we have students with varying ability levels and we need to adapt to their individual circumstances. I am even less convinced about the neccessity of cursive writing. It is analgous to teaching blacksmithing to my students. In this day in age it is not a neccessity to shoe horses on a daily basis. By the same token how often do people send handwritten letters? I think our time would be better served working on other skills.


  4. Hi Reid,

    Great post. I agree with what you said that if we are reliant on technology for everything, there is no chance for success later in life. Like the Regina Public School example, technology has become an integral part of our lives. If we miss it, we will feel anxious, so we need those basic skills in case technology shut down one day. I half agree with the debate topic “Schools should no longer teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology.” I think schools should still teach these basic skills, but shift the focus on some skills that cannot be replaced by technology.



  5. I agree, Reid. Tricky debate. I still fall under the thought process of needing basic skills to be able to complete more difficult tasks… When teaching grade 7&8 math, it drives me a little crazy when I ask a simple, single-digit multiplication or addition question and students cannot answer quickly and/or need a calculator. My students do a majority of their assignments on their computers, but in high school, that will not always be an option. Some of my students’ writing is just impossible to read (and it is usually just printing, never mind cursive). I am sure that eventually, tech will take over the need for writing, but for the time being, it is still a crucial tool that students need!


  6. Hey Reid,
    Thanks for voting in our favor first of all. 😉
    I totally agree that if we are stuck on basics we cannot go ahead. And personalized learning is something that is a need for students with disabilities. Many schools around the world do not teach cursive writing, and many individuals do not even use it very often. Certainly, kids should know how to hold a pen and write, but is cursive the only type of handwriting that should be taught?


  7. Thanks for your very logical and practical arguments! They’ve definitely got me reflecting on my opinions on the topic. Great comparison with Roman numerals.


  8. Thanks for your post! I too see both sides. I think my biggest thought is that we can’t eliminate these tasks completely…but we shouldn’t dedicate the amount of time to perfecting them as we used to. Before the typewriter, it was a necessity to write, so it made sense to practice until it was perfect. Now, we don’t need to perfect our handwriting. We will use a computer for our final copy…and we’ll even be penalized by our teachers/profs if we try to hand in a non-typed copy. But…as a person who doesn’t print, because I find it painfully slow compared to cursive, I would appreciate it if every generation knew how to read my writing. I don’t care how well they form their own cursive (my handwriting isn’t that pretty), but I do think being able to read it is still relevant in today’s society since half of us still write that way.

    The debate did get me thinking though…why do we hold onto outdated forms of testing? Why do we insist that students have to use paper and pencil for assessments? I can appreciate the need to teach students the basics and show them how to THINK about what’s going on behind the math. But I cannot understand why we would insist on assessing students on a skill that really is completely irrelevant. I think that blending the skills with the tools makes the most sense.


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