Recently I heard a story from one of our teachers of EAL (English as an Additional Language) about a student in his class who was refusing to participate in a handwriting exercise. This young lady had decided that there was no need for her to bother with writing by hand as ‘using Siri’ had removed that burden from her busy lifestyle. (She’s 10 😏)
This did make me reflect on how this option is so easily available for students and whether this type of thinking by students requires a new look at teaching English -especially writing skills.
I am old enough to remember the introduction of pocket calculators into the classroom and the joy of the class as they realised that they no longer needed to know how to work out a square root or remember what ‘sin’ ‘cos’ and ‘tan’ meant as it was all there at the press of button on your Texas TI-30!
There was also the added excitement of being able to write HELLO and BOOBS in red text if you held your calculator upside down! (07734 and 58008 if you are interested 😎)
The usage of calculators was limited at that time. Thirty years later and now they have a key part to play in most math examinations.
There are generations of ESL students who had never touched a keyboard before they were well into their careers- they were focussed on clear beautiful handwriting- and then suddenly discovered almost overnight that knowing QWERTY was now no longer an option but a requisite for continuing to progress in their chosen profession.
We live in a 21st century world where we can dictate English to a computer, a phone or an iPad and it will transcribe our dialogue with ever increasing accuracy before translating it on request into a huge selection of available languages.
Perhaps this young student was closer to the truth than many of us would like to believe.
Will Siri and other similar listening devices really lead to the slow disappearance of a good old fashioned handwritten English language essay?