Bye bye handwriting

scrittura_manualeRecent news, spread by the web: Students in Finnish primary schools, from autumn 2016, will no longer learn cursive handwriting, instead they will learn to use keyboards, during the entire course of study.
It is one of those reports that many of us, who were students in the twentieth century, find shocking.
We have always known that Finland, the nation promoting this initiative, is a commendable example,  along with its “nordic cousins” Sweden and Norway, of social assistance policies, culture and education.
But what is the context that is driving this change? Let’s analyze this conversion to digital and try to understand what is behind this “social and cultural change”.
It is clear that the advent of email, certified mail, and institutional services on line is rapidly reducing the use of paper in our daily lives. Official communications are increasingly “virtual“.
Some leading international companies appear to have effectively prohibited from bringing any paper document outside the building business. A small number of companies, anticipating the change, have prohibited printing any type of document. If you violate this rule you will be fired.
This type of decision, which affects our daily lives, accelerates the process of virtualization / digitization of our work places making handwriting, for those of us who were students in the twentieth century and are now active workers, not only optional but “not welcome” from a business perspective.
Even public institutions are renewing, we hear more about and use more tools such as electronic certificates, electronic documents, electronic money, digital signatures, …
In our daily lives tools such as smartphones and tablets, that enable us to communicate via a virtual keyboard, allow us to instantly share our content and our personal opinions. At the same time tablets and e-readers are progressively encouraging the increase in the number of “digital readers” of online newspapers, magazines and books.
From the technological point of view also the cloud, understood as a group  of virtual services and virtual spaces always available to the user, encourages the transposition of our personal material, documents, images, video, into the digital world (there is no paper equivalent for the “cloud” !!!).
A confirmation of the topicality of the phenomenon we are talking about: the shift from handwriting (and paper) to digital media, the text in one of the latest hits of the Italian singer Giusy Ferreri reads: “I wanted to write you a letter though by now we do so rarely” (“Avrei voluto scriverti una lettera anche se ormai si usa poco” ).
Despite these obvious facts the news about handwriting has upset us a lot.

Our handwriting is not only a communication tool, it is also an expression of personal creativity, a demonstration of our anthropological path, our operating manual, the evidence of our personal sensitivity, an instrument of transmission of traditions and cultural values, …
Taking our cue from the news again and collect initial reflection of Susanna Huhta, who is a member of the “Association of Native Language Teachers”. She states that handwriting helps children develop fine motor skills and brain function, and therefore, the writing lessons should be replaced with alternative activities which develop the same skills such as handicrafting and drawings.
What we can say? The digital revolution is underway. It is an irreversible global phenomenon that engages in an increasingly complex, interconnected and stressed social system. Many of us have already abandoned bicycles for exercise bikes, racing outdoors for the treadmill, encyclopedias for search engines, pigeons for mobile phones, …
The next “digital” generation will be interconnected. It will have a network of virtual instruments and digital content always available, tools that undoubtedly facilitate its life and its way of communicating, but at the same time, its individuals will not experience the intimate and unique pleasure of writing a love letter or crafting poem with their own hands.
This is why we are a little concerned and, at the same time, we feel a little regret for the new generation …


Internet is changing our children’s method of study

Among   many questions I’ve been asked during my work as a computer’s designer and technical SEO, the most frequent one concerns the relationship that young people, adolescents and children, have with  internet and with the new web 2.0 tools. I can deal with such a delicate subject exclusively from my own experience as a designer of portals, taking account of my analysis based on the actual use of the portals, to which I add some personal conclusions. From these different experiences derive some simple tips.
I read for the first time the definition of “digital native” in the book “Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives” wrote by J.Palfrey and U. Gasser, book that contains many interesting ideas to think about. In brief, in this category of digital natives, we find all those who are born having already available tools and electronic services such as video games, personal computers, mobile phones, etc. ..
The use of these tools had a first obvious effect, very evident, on us parents, and I refer to their rapidity of using these tools. The natives have another noticeable feature and that is the familiarity with which they manage their own universe 2.0. What we can infer in particular from the two behaviors is the easiness with which they expose themselves on  network along with the true belief in the virtual friendships as being on the same level with the real ones.
Young people, even children, demonstrate great rapidity in the digital devices and services use, besides the remarkable capacity for self-learning. The natives are often able to move quickly into a new portal, configure a computer, a digital decoder or copy photos (or videos) from one device to another, etc,  just observing the provision of services or the icons..
The difference between people who gather from digital tools and the ones that cannot make full use or even understand at all digital tools, is called “digital divide“, a term  very much in vogue and like all fashionable terms, it implies many different meanings and interpretations.
Beware digital natives have a dexterity that is not always guided by a rational ability to select contents or by good analytical skills or even by the patience needed to build that personal castle of knowledge” essential to judge the information found on Internet.
The act of cultural mediation that teachers, librarians, parents, also grandparents have to implement, is to look beyond the results proposed on the search engine’s first page.  We all have to teach the new generations a meditated analysis that can overtake the very convenient method of “cut and paste” from the huge amount of contents on network, a very commune students temptation from time immemorial.
It wasn’t better before and it is not better now, but what I’m sure of is that we need to create educational web 2.0 tools able to explain to young people how to use the 2.0. Certainly there are lots of intelligent young people on the net who will see the network as a great opportunity for their future.
The teaching method must be suitable for the social dimension, it must be efficiently fast and immediate, we cannot expect that a sixteen read  12 pages of instructions before using a network search or fill in 5 or 10 fields when he can find elsewhere with a mono-field and one click everything he needs.
The first step is the production of short instructional videos, each video must have a maximum duration of one or two minutes, easy to select, simple and immediate to display. The instructional videos, short and concise, must, of course, be posted on YouTube and not elsewhere, we should not reinvent the wheel.
The second step is to interact with social networks, teachers and mediators must be present on Twitter and Facebook, collect the needs and demands expressed by  students / users / readers and set the subsequent lessons / activities on that basis. The optimum would be to manage to interact in real time and to respond immediately to the questions proposed.
The third step is to allow students to “post” then to recommend other students or friends where to find the information and the method applied. Young people are  “network’s major users ”,  the best amplifiers of the network itself and therefore of the net culture . The network is collaborative and participatory and we must not forget that.
The fourth tip is to update frequently the content offered on the net in order to stimulate young people’s interest, to capture their attention with the support of tools capable of reporting any updates, such as RSS feeds.
We will win this challenge if our generation   will be able to transmit contents and cultural values ​​by presenting our own strategies of using the network: interactive didactic videos, social networks, RSS feeds, blogs, etc. … by standing beside the youngest and showing them the use of these tools and last but not least by collecting and responding to their needs in a smart fast way, as happens on the internet.