back to article Charity chief: Get with it, gov - kids shouldn't have to write by hand

The chief of a charity dedicated to helping Britons learn digital skills has claimed handwritten exams could be hampering boys' academic success. Graham Walker, CEO of tech skills charity Go ON UK, demanded that political parties drop their obsession with handwriting and set a date when all exams will be taken online. His …

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  1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    This is cobblers. Why can't we use pens any more? Online exams means a Vietnam/Indian/Myamar marking syndicate can mark a child's English paper allowing "large publishers" to make even more money on the back of the kids' education! Teach kids stuff, not how to fill in online multi-choice questions.

    We appear obsessed with everyone being 'digital aware' yet who on this forum has actually been taught to type at a reasonable speed? Basic reqirement number 1 which used to take two year's training ...

    By the way, the last time employers marked me on a piece on hand written work was when I applied for jobs ( "... must be handwritten ..." )!

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Write or rong?

      I have troubles physically using a pen.

      Bits of me just don't seem to work in the way they ought to and I had an awful time at school because of it.

      It took discussion groups at work 20 years later for me to realise I had 'language' simply because it was the first time I was in a position to be able to use words without going through the distracting struggle of the physicality of writing. I won't get past the two- finger typing' but at least I no longer have to believe the notion that I was 'Thick' simply because I had motor problems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Write or rong?

        I too have a 'Learning Difficulty' in that I have a form of dyslexia (I can read but have trouble writing - though not typing), and I am attention deficit. These labels are crazy, I always learned things I just couldn't write them down. I got bored because I am intelligent and understood things the first time they were explained to me, rather than the second or third like the rest of the class. Computerised exams would have been a huge boon to me too.

        I do think though that handwriting is equally important and should be tested, because a pencil doesn't need an electricity supply, but...

        I think there is not enough emphasis in school over correctness in language. It annoys me that people don't know the difference between "there", "their" and "they're". That people don't know that could've is short for "could have" not "could of". That it is the "number of people" not the "amount of people". When people use the word "myself" when they mean "me". When I fill in a form and I am asked for my gender - I don't have a gender, but my sex is male. These things are more important than how we are tested.

        I could go on for pages, but it won't change anything, so I'll shut up now.

        </RANT>

        P.S. This is a tech site. Many of you will be programmers. How does your computer react when you use the wrong word or syntax? Shouldn't people expect to be treated at least as well as a machine you are going to dump in 4 years time?

        1. wowfood

          Re: Write or rong?

          I had a similar problem, my eyesight is terrible which hampered my handwriting (doctor level handwriting) took me twice as long to write things as everybody else, hence why I did things on the computer.

          On the one hand I think that giving exams in pen and paper is a good thing, for those with good handwriting it's an optimal choice, but at the same time those who aren't good with forms and paperwork and writing should be given the option of using computers

          I'm actually terrible at filling in paperwork too, if it's on a piece of paper in front of me it's like it's gibberish, I have to read and re-read several times, moment it's on a computer screen though it's easy as pie. I actually took to scanning in forms I needed to fill out, and adding text areas so I could fill them in on the computer purely so I can delete and edit bits where I make mistakes. Used to be I had to ask for several copies of forms for when I made mistakes.

          Back to original point on this. I think it'd be nice having digital as an option for students, so they can do things in a way that suits their personal abilities rather than the status quo. Otherwise we'll wind up having the computer illiterate failing for the same reasons the handwrighting illiterate failed.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Write or rong?

          "When I fill in a form and I am asked for my gender - I don't have a gender, but my sex is male."

          Everybody has a gender. Sex is defined by what is between your legs, gender, by what's between your ears. When a form asks for your gender it's because they want to know how you live: it's possible for the two to be different. In the simplest case, consider somebody who is going to have a sex change operation.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Write or rong?

        My experience was similar, luckily my mum taught me to type, and by high school they'd at least diagnosed I had a real problem. And pretty soon after I started work computers arrived. All of which helped. So my conclusion is slightly different, in that I think the enabling technology should be provided if needed, but not universally. And it needs to extend into the workplace, e.g. not demanding handwriiten application forms.

    2. Bowmore

      I agree with your comments. Online exams are OK for testing people’s memory for things learned rote, but not so well at testing how well you understand what has been learnt and how good you are at communicating that knowledge to others. You are correct about the need to teach everyone how to use a keyboard correctly is one basic skill that should be taught at school. Being able to touch type would be a great boost to productivity in most offices. I'm surprised that very few organisations take the trouble to even offer training to touch type to their staff

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Online or typed

        I think there's a big gulf between actual online tests with electronic marking etc. and simply letting students type their answers instead of using a pen: Even if they have to be printed onto paper for the examiners.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You are correct about the need to teach everyone how to use a keyboard correctly is one basic skill that should be taught at school. Being able to touch type would be a great boost to productivity in most offices"

        In certain Central European countries renowned for their skilled and efficient workforce, kids *do* learn to touch type in school. However, exams (and they have lots of them!) are hand-written, and it better be readable or your answers won't be marked.

    3. Rampant Spaniel

      This may be unpopular but as an employer, even one that needs a decent level of technology skills, this give them ipads and don't worry if they can count or write attitude sneaking into education worries me.

      I use technology fairly extensively, down to using gps to keep track of where 2nd shooters, videogs and assistants are on a shoot, and I've never met anyone who couldn't get their heads round a different type of phone or desktop os etc within a few hours. Even people who have come from a film \ darkroom only background pickup the digital workflow with help. Training someone to write legibly has proven impossible. My handwriting is poor unless I take care, so I take care. I would far rather have someone who can write, count and think who needs teaching specific job related skills than the other way around. For sure teach the kids about technology, but teach them useful aspects and don't do it as the expense of important life skills. I do realise there are people who have genuine difficulty writing, that must blow, but I bet you, possibly more than anyone, appreciate what a useful skill it is.

      Rather than listening to someone whose job it is to advocate digitising every aspect of our lives, listen to experts on child development and employers.

  2. xyz
    Devil

    You sure this isn't an episode from The Thick Of It?

    Being cheeky, Liverpool digital skills..is that how to flog stolen laptops in a pub?

  3. pPPPP

    Really?

    Bring your own devices? Why don't they just fill in the answers?

    I've got shit handwriting. It's barely legible. I still managed to get through school and university though. Being able to stab your finger at a tablet is not a skill that any employer is going to value. In fact, if someone sent me a CV saying that they were able to use a tablet or laptop, I'd laugh.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Good grief!

    > Boys are not the most natural writers.

    Rubbish.

    It's apologists like this guy, who are willing to accept low standards that is the main cause of british kids' academic decline. Lowering the level of acceptable behaviour to include the worst performers (whether due to lack of natural talent, opportunities or parental/educational indifference is a separate problem that should be dealt with) does a huge disservice to those children who DO pay attention in school. Who DO do what they are told and who spend time on academic exercises rather than sitting (or being sat) in front of the TV all their waking hours.

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Good grief!

      This excuse is one of the reasons GENUINE standards will not rise quickly or easily, the system is packed with apologists who are always ready with an excuse for the systems failures - witness the BBC story about Kent school children in nappies, the School Health Visitor blamed it on the nappies being too good!!!!

      Of course these people will LOVE the BYOD suggestion, every child going into an exam with all the answers on their DDOP (Digital Device of Preference), means everyone should get at least an "C" (some are so dumb they will still get the answers wrong), even if they are unable to grasp a crayon*

      I can still remember being frisked for Casio watch calculators before going into the exam hall ("O" Level/CSE Maths exams 1981)

      *Note: I am not talking about genuine disabilities here, using a digital device under supervision is the best way for them.

      Windows User - I look out of them every day.

      1. Anonymous Coward 101

        Re: Good grief!

        "*Note: I am not talking about genuine disabilities here, using a digital device under supervision is the best way for them."

        The problem here is that a new 'genuine disability' will be created for everyone who is a bit 'fick.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good grief!

      Yes, by inference writing must be an activity only for girls.

      Though might explain why Bic brought out pens 'For Her'.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Good grief!

      Delete the word 'British' from you statement and it is still true.

      Yes when I was in school it was the girls who got most of the attention in writing class, but some of the best stuff was written by the boys. Granted, like a number of other posters I got better after I had a typewriter, but the writing bit was important.

      Ironically it was just this weekend that my dad was lamenting that actual writing with a pencil or pen was becoming a lost art because of the computerization of schools.

  5. Stu J

    In some regards, he has a point though

    At A-Level, I studied Double Maths, Physics, Chemistry, General Studies.

    My performance in General Studies (the exam I took involved 3 hours of solid essay-writing) suffered dramatically because I just couldn't write for that length of time. I was crippled with cramp for the last hour of the exam - I got to write only a fraction of what I wanted to, and my grade undoubtedly suffered as a result.

    The people who were studying English Lit, History etc, who were used to writing for that period of time, had a huge advantage over someone who was used to scrawling equations and formulae, and very little prose.

    Granted, there is an art to essay-planning when you are hand-writing an essay, but I don't see how that is actually a relevant skill these days. If you've got 3 hours to produce some content, it's the quality of the end result that matters, not how you got there. With a computer you could effectively spend 2 hours vomiting ideas all over a page, and an hour tidying it up, and without the constraints you have to set at the outset of a hand-written essay, you may arguably end up with a better outcome.

    Anyway, fast-forward 4 years to my University Finals, where, in an Objected Oriented Programming module, I found myself having to write about 20 sides of code on A4 using pen and paper. It turns out I got marked down for using ditto marks to speed the job up and avoid the cramp that had crippled me in the past. Bonkers. If I'd been on a computer, I'd have copy/pasted a bunch of lines and made the relevant changes. Instead of marking me based on what I knew and what I could produce in terms of working code, I was marked on the basis of being able to write it using pen and paper, which is a completely meaningless exercise.

    Similarly, when was the last time, at work, I was appraised on something handwritten? Never.

    I have to say, BYOD for exams is a bonkers concept though.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: In some regards, he has a point though

      Agreed about the time factor. I assume that those who set exams reckon that as long as they can write down the specimen answers from the marking scheme in the time available, the time is long enough and students who need longer to write their own answers deserve to be penalised. I wonder, though, if it wouldn't be a better test of academic achievement if students were given twice as long, so that everyone had enough to time write down their best answers.

      I'd also point out that I can produce a reasonable diagram or map with a pencil and paper in about a tenth of the time it takes to persuade some wretched drawing package to do it. In the sciences or humanities, that's quite important. In maths, too, I can scribble working far faster (and better laid out) than I can with the (otherwise beautiful) software methods. This proposal only works for exams that are just essay writing.

      Also agreed about BYOD. Great way to give an advantage to better off students who can bring their own devices rather than use the rubbish ones provided for free, Also, the "best" students can prepare their device the night before with lots of stuff that doesn't show up on a cursory scan but is magically enabled during the period of the exam itself as long as the right fingerprints are present.

      1. Stu J

        Re: In some regards, he has a point though

        Completely agree - diagrams and equations, hand-written all the way.

        Even now at work, I draw diagrams on whiteboards, and photographs of the whiteboard go into draft documents. I get someone lower paid who's not a thinker, but who's actually good with Visio or A.N.Other tool to actually turn them into digital diagrams.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In some regards, he has a point though

      > I found myself having to write about 20 sides of code on A4 using pen and paper.

      Assuming 30 lines of code per side that is 600 lines of code they are expecting you to write in a couple of hours. Either the examiner hasn't got a clue how to test students, you misunderstood the question and it only required a few lines of pseudo code, or you are making it up.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: In some regards, he has a point though

        Dijkstra would write 5 lines, then add the proof for another 20 lines....

      2. Stu J

        Re: In some regards, he has a point though

        The 20 sides was all of the questions in a 3 hour exam, and includes brackets, variable declarations, and so on.

        And given this is academia, I'd go with the first explanation - the examiners didn't have a clue. We were all equally disadvantaged, so I'm not whinging about it being explicitly fair/unfair, just that a hand-written exam where you're asking people to produce hundreds of lines of code is a ridiculous way of examining programming ability.

        And some of this was just repetition from one question to the next, to be honest; e.g. "Define a class that does X and Y". "Now define a class that does X slightly tweaked, Y slightly tweaked, and Z" - mindless repetition and copying that would have been a doddle if Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V had been available...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: In some regards, he has a point though

          You do realise you we're probably supposed to inherit from your earlier classes?

          The other problem with this is that these sort of questions were on finals? What sort of second rate university did you attend?

    3. westlake
      Pint

      Re: In some regards, he has a point though

      Stu J: "The people who were studying English Lit, History etc, who were used to writing for that period of time, had a huge advantage over someone who was used to scrawling equations and formulae, and very little prose."

      This tells me you had almost no general education whatsoever. That you couldn't think or express yourself clearly and concisely outside of an equation.

      1. Stu J
        Flame

        Re: In some regards, he has a point though

        Your reply tells me that you clearly missed my point, and are sufficiently foolish to jump to conclusions and bandy insults around based on your misinterpretations. I can think outside of an equation, could do then, and still can now. I got a high B grade in General Studies despite not being able to finish the paper properly.

        For two years of study at A-Level, I had not had the *need* to write anything other than equations, formulae, and the odd sentence, because that was the demand of those subjects. Two years of low-level usage of the muscles in my hand needed to write. I didn't spend my evenings at home practicing writing, beyond doing my A-Level homework - I was 16/17/18 - I was down the pub, chasing girls. But, all of a sudden, you are expected to spend 3 hour exams doing solid writing. It's not something you can just switch on...

        If you jog 3 miles a day, 5 days a week, for 2 years, and then I ask you to run for 3 hours solid, do you think your body could do it? Muscles are trained over time. The people who had been training their hands to be able to write for 3 hours at a time (generally arts students) produced 2-3x more output than the scientists in the General Studies exam. It's no co-incidence.

        1. heyrick Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: In some regards, he has a point though

          "But, all of a sudden, you are expected to spend 3 hour exams doing solid writing. It's not something you can just switch on..."

          See icon.

          The other day, spent forever and a day in a waiting room. I wanted to make a rough of an API so it would take form rather than being a jumble of conflicting ideas in my head. Now, I type all the time, this, emails, code. Pretty much the only handwriting I do is sign stuff or stick post-it notes on to things. I just couldn't face trying to write something complex using the draggy-swipey of a mobile phone. So I put 20p in the photocopier and copied two empty pages, borrowed a pen from the receptionist, and filled three sides of A4. There is something warm and inviting about an empty piece of paper; a sort of time where all the possibilities in the world lay before you. You can solve difficult equations, you can write a love letter, you can make a shopping list, or doodle a chick with manga eyes and a sword the side of a house fighting an army of rampaging mobile phones...

          In short, yes, I turned on the ability to write for hours and hours. Those who cannot were probably never able to in the first place. And I fear that half-assed comments such as that by Mr. Walker will rob people of the ability to do even that much.

          "If you jog 3 miles a day, 5 days a week, for 2 years, and then I ask you to run for 3 hours solid, do you think your body could do it? Muscles are trained over time."

          I presume by running you mean full-on being-chased-by-zombies style running, instead of a gentle jog? I wonder how many people here would truthfully be able to leg it for three hours solid. I know I couldn't.

          However, there is a world of difference between running (which requires muscle training to do well, but most of all shedloads of stamina and energy) and... writing. I can understand writing being tiring if you are the sort of person that presses so hard you leave tracks on the surface of the table, but that's because... "you're holding it wrongly" (boom!).

          1. Tom 13

            I resemble that remark

            you are the sort of person that presses so hard you leave tracks on the surface of the table, but that's because... "you're holding it wrongly" (boom!)."

            I usually write on stone, fiberboard, or hard plastic surface because I, um, er , ah,... hold a pencil like that.

            And well,... he's still full of rubbish.

    4. ByeLaw101
      FAIL

      Re: In some regards, he has a point though

      "If you've got 3 hours to produce some content, it's the quality of the end result that matters, not how you got there."

      Bollocks! It's very important to understand how you got there, if I am testing someone for their ability in my subject area I am more interested on their thought processes rather than the end result.

      " It turns out I got marked down for using ditto marks to speed the job up and avoid the cramp that had crippled me in the past. Bonkers. If I'd been on a computer, I'd have copy/pasted a bunch of lines and made the relevant changes."

      That kind of suggests you missed the point of OOP. If you find you having to duplicate lots of code (copy/paste/ditto) then you've got your model wrong, especially in an academic exam!

      BYOD to exams seems to be pandering to the minority here. I am sure there are exceptions to this, be it some sort of learning difficulty or other and they should be helped... but this should not be the norm otherwise in 20 years time we will start to lose the ability to write. We already have a generation of people that struggle more with basic maths without a calculator.

      1. Stu J
        Flame

        Re: In some regards, he has a point though

        "Bollocks! It's very important to understand how you got there, if I am testing someone for their ability in my subject area I am more interested on their thought processes rather than the end result."

        Agreed. And in all of my mathematical and scientific exams, proof of working was key, and was what got you most of the marks. But to an examiner marking an essay, they have no real proof of the thought process; essay plans and rough notes don't get handed in and marked. All they mark on is the end result, ergo for those exams, that's what actually counts.

        "That kind of suggests you missed the point of OOP. If you find you having to duplicate lots of code (copy/paste/ditto) then you've got your model wrong, especially in an academic exam!"

        As I've mentioned elsewhere, a lot of it was the structure of the questioning. I'm extremely capable of OOP, and I find it mildly amusing/insulting that ignorant commentards on here should start pointing the finger at me, rather than the insane format of the exam and the questioning. I wasn't the only one who came out of that exam swearing, and trying to hunt down the academic in question so we could throw him off the nearest tall building. The exam was so crap that the mark distribution from the 30th to 70th centiles was 5%, meaning that one mark cost you a degree class on that paper.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: In some regards, he has a point though

          > But to an examiner marking an essay, they have no real proof of the thought process; essay plans and rough notes don't get handed in and marked. All they mark on is the end result, ergo for those exams, that's what actually counts.

          When writing an essay in an exam you are usually expected to also provide any plans and/or notes you have made when writing that essay.

          > just that a hand-written exam where you're asking people to produce hundreds of lines of code is a ridiculous way of examining programming ability.

          Your answer simply does not ring true. Throughout a course like that you have lab work that counts towards your final mark. It is in the lab that you write actual code. The exam will test you on the theory, for example, it might ask how you would go about designing an airline ticketing system, but it would never ask you to write the code for one. Apart from anything else, an examiner has to read and understand what you have written and deciphering 600 lines of hand written code for correctness (and I'm including comments and even blank lines in that 600) is a near impossibility. You must also realise that any exam set in a University will have to be approved by that University’s own exam board and will be subject to a review by external examiners. It is therefore highly unlikely that any question requiring 600 lines of code would be approved.

          Perhaps to you could point me to the University, year and course the exam was from so I can retrieve the question and see for myself.

        2. McBeese
          Boffin

          Re: In some regards, he has a point though

          @Stu - correct. I grew up having to write everything by hand and as a result by handwriting was pretty good and I could write pretty quickly. That was a long time ago. Now when I try to write more than a few sentences at a time, it's a mess. The muscle memory (and conditioning) in my hand is gone. Now it's my typing I need to worry about. Voice dictation is good enough that I'm typing a lot less frequently these days.

        3. Tom 13

          @Stu J 17:29 GMT

          But to an examiner marking an essay, they have no real proof of the thought process;

          Complete bollocks. If it's a multiple choice exam yes, it's only the results that count. If you turn in an essay, any essay, after I've read it I've got a pretty good idea what your thought process is. In an essay, even a short one like a post on a blog, your line of reasoning, or lack thereof, becomes immediately apparent. In general arts sections I've always done better when I could write an essay than when I had a multiple choice exam for exactly that reason.

    5. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

      Re: In some regards, he has a point though

      I took a similar set. General studies - not a problem, I had been writing through O level and then both my physics and chemistry required a certain amount of clear, concise english.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In some regards, he has a point though

      "My performance in General Studies (the exam I took involved 3 hours of solid essay-writing) suffered dramatically because I just couldn't write for that length of time. I was crippled with cramp for the last hour of the exam"

      Ah, the hand cramps! :) Guess what, you're not the only one to have had them, even though I'd actually prepared myself by writing instead of typing my notes the weeks before, I still ended up getting those.

      It would have never occurred to me blaming my lack of performance on a wimpy hand cramp though.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In some regards, he has a point though

      "My performance in General Studies (the exam I took involved 3 hours of solid essay-writing) suffered dramatically because I just couldn't write for that length of time."

      Not sure what you are saying here. Did you not know beforehand that 3 hours of essay writing was required for the exam? Was it sprung on you out of the blue? If you are going to take an exam and be bothered about the outcome it usually behoves to do some preparation. Just my opinion.

    8. Alfred

      @StuJ : Judging people by having to understand what they're trying to express

      "Similarly, when was the last time, at work, I was appraised on something handwritten? Never."

      Don't fool yourself. Every time someone reads something you wrote by hand, they're getting an impression of you, even if neither of you realise it. If they struggle to understand what you're trying to express every time, it'll become part of their opinion of you, whether you/they realise it or not.

  6. Brent Longborough
    Thumb Down

    And so...

    The Dumbing-Down of Britain can be satisfactorily completed.

  7. Roger Stenning
    WTF?

    You gotta be bloody joking?!

    Yes, IT skills, even to a basic level, are important to possess, but the ability to write - for example, your signature, writing your address, or even noting down the registration of the vehicle that just rumped you up the backside in traffic - is even more important. Imagine what might happen if the battery goes down on your device, or there's a power cut, and all you have is a scribble stick and a bit of kitchen roll, and you need to make a quick note about something. Can't write? Then you're buggered - and that's being sodding polite about it.

    This charity chief is quite frankly the biggest waste of oxygen I've heard of in a long time.

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      The difference is deeper

      Graham Walker talks about what employers want. He apparently doesn't see education as a means to enable people to take part in society, he sees education only a means to make people employable. Such people generally want education stripped of all non-essential parts to create cheaply and efficiently programmed people only doing and knowing what they are supposed to do. This is one of those ideas which sound reasonable at first... until you'll notice that those people don't have any visions, creativity or even knowledge to do anything different. Companies employing those will end up loosing their capability to innovate.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: The difference is deeper

        I don't think "employers" want any of that since the industrial revolution came and went.

        Maybe people steeped in rank socialist lore think employers want that? The satanic mills of webdesign and all that stuff....

        Of course, one can always get a job at a gov. outfit, illiteracy, venality and total incompetence are not a stop to getting to work through people's tax returns...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You gotta be bloody joking?!

      You do realize that all that waffle is good for getting government money don't you? In fact I would go further and say the main object of it is to keep those at the top of the 'charity' in the manor to which they have become accustomed by using tax payers money and has little or nothing to do with raising the level of educational standards.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FFS

    It's not like if we switched over to a system based on computing devices the ability to write to a reasonable level would be eradicated. Walker has a point; having kids writing pages upon pages by hand, not just for exams but in the education system in general is backward.

    I'd propose that the critics commentating so far would be more sympathetic to the idea if their employers were to dictate they had to use paper and pen rather than the convenience of a computer, and realise just how antiquated a method it is.

    The objection to BYOD seems dated as well, I wonder how long it's been since some of you were at school. Exams aren't a serious of "when was the Battle of Hasting?"-esque questions anymore. They're mainly open book and require you to demonstrate a deeper knowledge of the subject than simply memorising facts.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: FFS

      "if their employers were to dictate they had to use paper and pen..."

      Oh, they do. I've spent the last 25 years in research and engineering and everywhere I've worked I've had to keep notebooks written in ink even though most of my work involves sitting infront of a computer, the premise being that dated and signed off ideas in a notebook are easier to use as evidence of precidence when it comes to IP disputes.

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: FFS

        Exactly, every lab I ever worked in and often every researcher in it has a physical log book, detailing all work for that day, methods, results and thinking cross signed each day. Sure you probably could actually make a more secure way using ipads or something like that, but honestly what do we gain by actively trying to eradicate any need to write. Writing is a very useful skill, one many people find a need for during their careers and life outside work.

        We seem to be on this ridiculous trip about making exams easier. Modular exams, byod, reducing the syllabus etc. Exams are supposed to be hard. If you want kids to do better, teach them better. Teach them coping methods for exams, teach them revision techniques. This is nothing more than fiddling the books to make the sales look better. Getting better results takes work, both from teachers (who need better support from the government and from some parents) and from the pupils. We need to stop kidding ourselves and taking the double glazing route, these kids will be paying our pensions, unless we really love baked beans on toast we should do a decent job of it!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FFS

      "a deeper knowledge of the subject than simply memorising facts."

      I thought brainless unquestioning fact-memorisation was exactly what Gove wanted from his trainee wageslaves. It may not be what the country in general needs, but it's what the 1% want.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FFS

        It's NOT what the 1% want, or at least not the 1% you're thinking of. The Capitalists you're thinking of need people to produce products. To work, to learn and grow and become more valuable to them.

        The ones who want mindless obedience are the Socialist and communist lot, forever pushing for greater state control over a brainless collective who are free from any driving force, and the useless rich- the leaders of government-backed monopolistic wastes like BT, BAE, increasingly the movie and film industries- and the rabble from the article.

        Also, can't forget the dumb fucks we have as a Tory party at the moment, brought up surrounded by this lot and with a corrupted worldview.

        A proper Capitalist would welcome a healthy supply of very clever, very healthy workers as it would drive down the cost for a certain level of employee, improve fault finding and general company efficiency, increase autonomy so they could save on tiers of managers, and give people an incentive to improve further.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: FFS

          "A proper Capitalist would welcome a healthy supply of very clever, very healthy workers as it would drive down the cost for a certain level of employee, improve fault finding and general company efficiency, increase autonomy so they could save on tiers of managers, and give people an incentive to improve further."

          Maybe so, that is after all very similar to the "continuous improvement" mantra where the employees are often said to be the company's most valuable asset, but the modern US and the UK are both largely corporatist not capitalist.

          If they were capitalist, the failed banks would have been allowed to go bust, and employees wouldn't frequently get treated like sh1t and get their jobs transferred to a lower cost provider (either via TUPE-like transfers or via offshoring or whatever). BT and BAe would also be rather different than they are today.

          Compliance with the masters is welcomed in a corporatist environment, whereas suggesting different (more effective) ways of doing things frequently leads to being branded "not a team player".

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: FFS

        It does seem as if that's the new direction of travel, and some of the objections here doseemto ocme from the same "back to the 50s" viewpoint.

        Using a pen for note taking is a different skill from using one to produce completed work and final drafts.

    3. OrsonX
      Headmaster

      Classroom control

      Teacher: "copy page 10 and shut the f**k up"

      20 min of peace (child reads text at least once)

      Future Teacher: "copy page 10 and..."

      10 seconds later (CMD-C/V)

      Child: "done"

      Child goes back throwing chairs etc.

    4. Tom 13
      FAIL

      Re: a deeper knowledge of the subject than simply memorising facts.

      I have found two things to be true:

      1. People who haven't memorized a considerably large number of facts generally can't make a cogent argument in broad terms.

      2. When my own broad arguments flounder, it is usually because I have insufficient memorized facts to support them.

  9. Christoph Silver badge
    Headmaster

    How are they going to stop cheat-sheets?

    Way back when I took exams, some students would go to great lengths to smuggle in cheat-sheets - a few sheets of paper with important snippets of information.

    It is now very easy to get micro-SD cards which will hold 32 Gigabytes of information. They are so small that they can be hidden trivially - strip-searching every student is unlikely to be practicable.

    If the students can bring their own devices, just how is it going to be possible to be reasonably confident that they don't have access to more text books than there are in the school library?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How are they going to stop cheat-sheets?

      Like I said, most exams these days are open book, so you're free to take in as many textbooks as you want anyway. The wording of your message suggests it's been some time so you've been in an exam, which I think is the case for most of the commentators here, explaining why they're so aghast at the idea of this.

      1. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: How are they going to stop cheat-sheets?

        I'd expect the details to vary with the subject and the exam level?

        But thinking about it they could be even sneakier, unless the examiners jam mobile phone signals.

        Photograph the exam paper and send it to a friend (or group of friends). Paste in the answers that they send back.

        Trivial with the kind of kit that is currently available. Even more so in a very few years time.

    2. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: How are they going to stop cheat-sheets?

      I agree here, open book exams and a viva, irrespective of how we approach writing vs typing in exams we should definitely switch to all open book exams and a viva for every student. I have never been in a meeting for work that anywhere neared the intensity of a viva at uni.

  10. P. Lee Silver badge

    Publicity stunt

    F: Did not attempt to answer the question set,

  11. RonWheeler
    Windows

    MCSEs

    Bringing in computerized exams will very quickly lead down the path of least resistance.towards multiple-choice. Our education system is bad enough without academic success and understanding of the subject being measured in the same ridiculous manner as MCSEs.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: MCSEs

      Worse than that - CSCS card exams.

      I kid you not, one of the questions in that mulyiple-guess test has these two as possible answers:

      X) Try to kill it.

      Y) Everybody needs to bring a cat onto site.

      These are tests it is almost impossible to fail, yet anybody needing to enter a building site is required to waste an afternoon doing a "test" that takes anybody vaguely computer literate and not utterly insane around ten minutes.

      On the other hand, he does have a point when it comes to "wordy" essay-based exams. I couldn't physically write a legible multi-page essay, but could easily type one.

      However, if you're going to offer this then it absolutely cannot be BYOD. It can only be "use school computer", because that is the only way it is possible for the invigilators to offer a level playing field to the candidates, giving all of them access to the same information abd software.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boys are not natural writers...

    Well, my son isn't a natural writer-down-of-words but a good reader (reading age about 150% of his actual age) and has a good imagination. Truth be told he probably only writes at school with the exception of puzzles in comics. But is that because he can't or because he won't.

    I am prepared to take part of the blame for not encouraging him to write, eg to practice his penmanship when he practices his spelling homework. I know he can write good letters when he chooses to, because I have seen it. I'm also prepared to take responsibility for Mrs A.C. not getting him practicing at times when I'm not there (between 3 and 6 of an afternoon). But I'm not happy with a guy saying that he should give up trying because "computers are the answer to everything".

    PS if anyone knows of an Android App for handwriting practice suitable for 7 to 9 year olds with a user defineable word set, I'm in the market...)

    PPS Working in an 17035 accredited testing laboratory, I can say there is still a lot of very important stuff written down because it's quicker, more efficient, cheaper and as such more effective than using a computer for the same job. (And I know where the quality of my handwriting lets me down on there)

  13. graeme leggett Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Graham Walker - who he?

    Well the Go On UK website tells us bugger all.

    Fortunately he has a LinkedIn entry from which I reproduce his "skills and expertise".

    "Public Sector Public Policy Program Management Change Management Strategic Planning

    Social Media Policy Business Strategy Marketing Strategy Government Marketing Communications

    Research Project Management Team Leadership Stakeholder Engagement Management Consulting

    Public Speaking Governance Stakeholder Management Product Development"

    Do I see anything related to actual education, or technology, or such?. Do I bollocks. What I see is someone who has a been a quasi- civil servant/ advisor for the best part of the last fifteen years. (His viewable profile is blank between his MSc in "Social Policy and Planning" in 1995 and joining the cabinet office in 1999.

    I leave you to draw your own conclusions.....

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Graham Walker - who he?

      So never had a real job in his life and is now trying to screw up kids education and the countries future. People like this need to be sent to do something productive with their lives, like landmine clearing.

      So many things could fill that gap. Burger flipping, unemployment, looking for someone to marry who had a relative in the civil service. Seriously, how are any of the things listed actually jobs? Especially his current job given we are cutting nurses, police and firefighters? Yet this chump has a job?

  14. nuked
    Thumb Up

    Whoever said online exams had to be multiple choice, or, that they would mean kids wouldn't be taught how to write?

    Some serious overreaction ITT. Sounds like a sensible and progressive idea to me...

  15. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Of course the importance of handwriting is shifting

    In 2003 or so I worked in the archive of an old hospital. There I've seen their old books from the 1920s wher they carefully noted down everyone who came to them in beautiful handwriting. It had to be well written as many people had to be able to read it quickly. We usually don't need that kind of handwriting any more. We communicate less and less often via handwriting.

    Today handwriting is mostly an extension to your brain. The best examples for this can be found in maths and engineering. You write down intermediate results which otherwise wouldn't fit into your consciousness. You only have something like 150 Shannons of capacity there. Handwriting is not limited to text, but can also other kinds of data, like relations or geometrical forms. That's the beauty of it. And that's a tool that's still useful... for people who deal with more than 150 Shannons of information.

  16. Jason Hindle

    BYOD? Perhaps when Hell Freezes over

    I struggled through school, further education and then university exams with terrible writing, so I'd not object to being able to type answers to the essay type questions. However, I think BYOD is insane. One way or another, people will find a way to BYOMOC (Bring Your Own Method Of Cheating).

    1. mmeier

      Re: BYOD? Perhaps when Hell Freezes over

      As an old professor offered us" You can even go over to the library and fetch the book you need to look stuff up." Because if you could name the book / find the facts fast enough to pass the exam you had a solid understanding of the stuff and just needed some details.

      So let the teachers earn their pay and write tests that check understanding instead of memory. For example no one needs to memorize the implementation details for all sorting algorithms, just that they exist and their limits. The rest is a quick lockup away.

  17. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Boys are not the most natural writers?

    Shakespeare, W.

    Dostoyevsky, F.

    Aldiss, B.

    Asimov, A.

    Banks, I A.

    Stephenson, N.

    Dickens, C.

    Zelazny, R...

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Boys are not the most natural writers?

      Ha! You beat me to it. Might I add:

      Gilbert, W.S.

      Clark, A.C.

      Wells, H.G.

      Doyle, A.I.C.

      Porter, W.S. (O.Henry)

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Boys are not the most natural writers?

      Meh, all dead white men. They're irrelevant to modern society anyway.

      /end sarcasm dripping with venom

  18. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    waapuro-baka

    There's a phrase in Japanese (see title) that literally means "word-processor idiot". It refers to a problem that people are becoming less and less proficient at actually writing Kanji. The way this works on computer, people type in the words phonetically and then it gives them a choice of possible kanji. So while you still need to be able to recognise what the correct kanji is/are, it's actually deleterious to your ability to write those kanji from memory.

    Although it's not as extreme a problem in English, I think this push to downgrade the importance of (hand-)written language in favour of typing things on a computer does have similar consequences. It's not exactly that handwriting itself is that big a deal, but I think that things like auto-completion and automatic spell-checking tend to make people lazy when it comes to learning how to spell things correctly and how to distinguish between homonyms like "their" and "they're". A spell-checker alone can't help you learn these things, and most grammar checkers aren't really up to snuff.

    Den dares de problum wiv ppl using "is a computa" as an excuse not to even bovver wid writing "propurly"...

    Maybe this guy's argument is more nuanced than I'm giving him credit for, but overall I'd have to say I'm against it. I'm all for increasing tech literacy, but if the price is to sacrifice literacy in general, it's not worth it.

  19. Anomalous Cowshed

    Dumbing down

    I like the way they always claim that this kind of thing is "necessary to increase computer and digital literacy". You might believe from these boastful claims that they are planning to teach people how computers work so they can repair them / program them / administer them / use them to create amazing stuff. But no, rather than increase teachers' salaries, or improve the sports facilities of schools, or reduce class sizes, they are investing in electronic blackboards, digital examinations and methods of learning akin to media consumer activities. None of this is bound to improve people's abilities and knowledge. There's no evidence that cutting out or skimping on the basics improves people's abilities. But if creating a generation of idiots is the aim, then this is spot on. A generation of idiots don't need to know how to write, to read, to do algebra and arithmetic. They need to be able to use a TV and the Internet and answer clever multiple choice questionnaires about the social relevance of Rihanna or the teachings to be derived from TV documentaries.

  20. heyrick Silver badge

    When was the last time your employers judged you on a piece of handwritten work?

    They do basic analysis here in France. At my job interview the woman was getting flustered until I pointed out to her that not only did I teach myself to write [*], I am also not French so my style of writing would be quite different to anything she would be used to. It surprised me that such methods are being used to examine candidates, I guess nowadays the question would be "show me how much of a prat you are on your Facebook account".

    * - American schools learn writing late, English schools learn early, I fell in the middle and as a dyspraxic left hander, the teachers just couldn't be bothered with a catcher-upper. For that I am eternally glad, as I seem to be one of the few lefties that writes "normally". My hand is rotated slightly anti-clockwise so I can write without dragging my hand through the ink. It seems almost everybody else turns their paper 90 degrees clockwise and their hand even further to write towards themselves which is insane and can only have been devised by the sort of person that would spout crap like "left handed people are in league with the devil", there's surely no solid justification for taking a person with difficulties writing and making it even harder...

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: When was the last time your employers judged you on a piece of handwritten work?

      Not meaning to contradict you, just curious, but my 4 yr old can write (American education) whereas I was a couple of years behind that (a decent UK state education). Perhaps it varies largely state to state?

      Congratulations of teaching yourself however, I know the effort it takes from working with my kids, it must be more so for a lefty.

  21. Mitoo Bobsworth
    Happy

    Double-edged sword

    Digital literacy is important today & for the future. However, IMHO, a grounding in traditional literacy/numeracy is equally as important & valuable in those formative years of learning - after all, the digital age originally emerged on the back of that system when you think about it. This article is well worth a read & makes some interesting observations for utilising both -

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704631504575531932754922518.html?mod=WSJ_LifeStyle_LeadStoryNA

  22. John Tserkezis

    I am not going to be held to randsom on my handwriting (or lack thereof).

    My handwriting has always been awful - not through lack of trying, my early schooling promoted it and actively tried improving it, but then again, super-expensive typewriters were all the rage in those days.

    Today, my handwriting is even worse than it used to be - and I don't miss it. Everybody has a PC and printer (or has access to them) and school/college/university reports are expected in printed form, and explicitely state IF they are handwritten, they must be neat. So in my case, I either print the thing out, or I fail. I am being actively penalised for writing it out.

    That part is fine with me, I can type faster than I can write, and "my" printed word is a million times more readable and clear than my handwriting, so why not print?

    It stopped becoming a case of should or shouldn't about handwriting a long time ago - society has moved in the direction of printed material, and so should the few scragglers. So there.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a load of old tosh

    The brigade who took those easy degrees (Media Studies etc) are a blot on our landscape.

    They really have no concept what it takes to study and perform well in the hard subjects like Chemistry (if you can find a Uni that offers it these days), Engineering and pretty well all the proper sciences.

    I am Dyslexic but back in the day, being diagnosed was as rare as Hen's teeth. I'm also a PHD, MSc, BSc and a published Author (three books). Did I get any help with my disability when I needed it? Nope but there again no one ever told me that I was 'disabled'. I just got on with it and did my best and didn't go crying to teacher. If I did, I'd probably be beaten into a morass by the school bullies.

    Thankfully, I retire in less than 20 months. Then I'll cease having to deal with these 'do-gooders' on an almost daily basis. I shall spend my time tinkering in my workshop and building Steam Engines until such time as a 'do-gooder' from the council decides that my tinkering is a crime against humanity (or at least Council Gold Plated regulations).

    yours, a very grumpy old man.

    P.S. Her indoors is off out on her Bike for the day. She really looks hot in her one piece leathers. She's a retired Vet.

  24. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Shall we just stop making kids do anything thats hard?

    I know some people will have problems with writing but we can take care of that. The manual dexterity learned from writing has many application - even in the bedroom.

    We already miss-use IT by taking the path least resistance all the time rather than solving the problem. Your company will only certainly have as many documents as people could possibly write because your boss cant fire you when he cant possibly read and absorb more that a fraction of your output.

    Shakespeare wrote good stuff not because his PC could translate all of his utterings to utter tosh on paper* but because the effort of writing and dipping his quill and cleaning it gave him the time to think about what he wrote and, due to the effort of not being able to cut and paste, meant it wasn't just the throw away task it is today.

    *I'm old enough to remember secretaries. These were people who were trained in the art of shorthand and the good ones were phenomenal at converting boss speak to something nearer reality on the page. They didn't just write down 'and we will bugger up project x with a pack of condoms' they filtered it and came up with practical solutions and dispersed the knowledge through the secretarial whisper network where it was tested and polished. We have used IT to replace the one part of industry that could have really benefited from it.

    1. mmeier

      Re: Shall we just stop making kids do anything thats hard?

      OTOH quite a few well known authors make heavy use of computers and consider it a boost to their productivity. Jerry Pournelle wrote a lot about that in his old "Chaos Manor" column back when Byte was in print.

      And the writing is a two part process anyway at least in engineering and science. Generate notes and a rough outline and then polish and clean up. The latter part benefits A LOT from computers compared to pen and death, maimed trees. The former can if the right tools are used.

      I still remember university when the professor went "oh, we have to add something", went three to ten pages back on his overhead projector sheets, added something and back. Basically one had to write the whole stuff "into the clean" later. The same situation today would be "scroll back, insert a space, insert the writing" using MS Journal on a penable.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shall we just stop making kids do anything thats hard?

      "I'm old enough to remember secretaries"

      In the late 1970s we were required to write our trouble-shooting reports longhand and give them to a secretary or the typing pool. You then had to correct their misreading of your handwriting. The latter wasn't always so bad - it was just that "modern" was a more common word then "modem". Other technical terms also suffered this fate.

      An earlier system used dictation to the typing pool - with no training on how to dictate. Unfortunately the system assumed you would correct yourself instantly - and what you received back was often a real-time verbatim transcript.

      I started to use an online text editor, not a word processor, to type up my notes and reports. My technical support department boss decided that was a waste of Company resources and forbade the practice. Within a couple of years - using a word processor became the standard. One IT department boss in the 1990s had his secretary print out his incoming emails twice a day. He wrote his emails and replies longhand - and gave them to his secretary to turn into emails.

      My handwriting at school was always bad - I scribbled as fast as I spoke and read. Basically I thought too fast for my hands. One of my peers was taught, by his French mother, to write in a very uniform style. It was so beautiful that it was almost unreadable.

      Doing design for anything I scrawl over many notebook pages to distil the critical ideas and algorithms. Those sketches then form the basis for generating the result, comments, and documentation. The useful thing about unerased hand-written notes is that you can review whether you are losing the plot. The creative path is sometimes circular - requiring several sheets to be visible at a time.

      A colleague said he was glad he had had the foresight to take an evening typing course - in which he was the only male. I tried self-learning the skill a few times. However the bad habits of many years were always a lot faster - and I never made the breakthrough to a potentially higher speed.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Breath of sanity

    I couldn't agree more with this - long overdue. For whatever reason, my handwriting has always been abysmal, to the point that it's usually illegible to me anything over two or three months after its written; to anyone else, the effect is immediate. One theory as to why is that my early education straddled two education systems with entirely different ideas of 'correct' handwriting and how to teach it. Whatever the reason, I was mercilessly hounded throughout my time at school, with my work continually marked down for being scruffy irrespective of quality of content. Fair cop to a point, but the net effect was that I hated the lot from end to end and pretty much gave up trying, even though I actually like a lot of the science subjects. Being the early 70's, learning to type at a boys grammar wasn't going to happen, so I had to wait till computers came along to finally get to properly express myself in writing, something I have always since, although I have hated the physical act of pen and ink writing since day one.

    I note a few posts here throwing the old standard Dacreism of 'dumbing down' about; seriously, get a fucking grip. A 13th century scholar might well consider an education wasted if you came out of it unable to knock out an illuminated manuscript or quote scripture while having your fingernails pulled, but I doubt there'd be many takers among fellow commentards for that in this day and age. Dumbing down is teaching sanitised history or basic arithmetic in a higher mathematics class; suggesting handwriting should be included is pure Daily Mail snobbery. Everyone should learn handwriting, but no one should be marked out as a drooling idiot by the education system of they just can't cut it - after all, we don't slam knuckles in drawers for dyslexia these days.

    Handwriting is rapidly slipping into obsolescence, and I would love to think the next generation will learn it as no more than a curiosity in the same way we were taught hieroglyphics. The time can be better spent learning something useful and rewarding than upholding educational standards far past their sell by date.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    I see two major issues:

    (1) Who pays for this?

    When schools sit exams the whole school (or significant portion there or) tends to be in exams. We go from a system needing a hundred machines in a computer lab, to 600-1000 machines.

    Where do you put these machines? Laptops are possible - but not the most cost effective, and likely to give half the kids bad backs, so you're gonna need small machines with LCD panels at least. Assuming you have 120 kids in an exam hall each running a machine drawing a few hundred watts peak power then suddenly all of your exam halls need a big old power feed and some means to get power to the desks. So you also need to rewire all of the schools in the UK.

    Then what happens when these machines fail mid-exam?

    (2) What "computer" skills would be actually gain? All of these machines would be heavily locked down to one application with spaces to type in if the exam security guys have any sense. The only skill you gain for all of this expensive messing about is typing.

    If you want typing skills then how about actually teaching typing skills? Most kids are not and will therefore use the one or two finger prod. Which is probably slower than hand writing unless you have a "known issue" like dyslexia (in which case you get a compute already under special dispensation rules).

    I work in tech, and most days I have to write by hand (log book / meeting minutes, etc) - it is not an obsolete skill.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Raspberry Pis?

      1W per machine, plus 50W for a standard monitor.

      That king of machine has the advantage of being dead easy to mass-wipe as well.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And how would this actually be possible?

    Having worked in a college where 500+ people can be taking hand written exams at once the whole idea of this is complete madness.

    How do they think we can provide 500+ devices for the students to take the exams on? How would schools afford theses devices or even power them in a hall at the required density. What about WiFi capable of supporting those devices in one room with 100% reliability?

    BYOD ... How would you secure them enough that they couldn't cheat?

    The logistics are impossible in any large school.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: And how would this actually be possible?

      The noise from 500 keyboards would be off putting to say the least!

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: And how would this actually be possible?

        ... to say nothing of the mass swearing when the network goes down.

  28. Zog The Undeniable
    Devil

    We're all going to hell in a handcart

    Give them leaky Osmiroid fountain pens and tell them to MTFU. You can't make ink pellets with an iPad.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: We're all going to hell in a handcart

      {sigh}

      You just reminded me of my first ever fountain pen and the first lesson I learned with it. There is a reason for 'fountain', as you discover if you lift the little filling lever while there is actually some ink in the pen.

  29. Ted Treen
    FAIL

    What?

    "I think the most impactful thing you could in education is to be clear"

    Well, that sure as hell isn't.

    And this guy's recommending ideas in education?

    That's a bit like Dr Shipman advising The Samaritans...

  30. Neoc

    I think the man has no idea...

    Yes, I am old enough to remember when PCs at my school were TRS-80s or equivalent. So yes, I am probably one of the "old farts" (I paraphrase) Mr Walker is talking about. I also think he has no idea what he is talking about.

    The first rule of any rule is that you must fully understand it before you should be allowed to break it. And it applies to the previous sentence as well.

    I used calculators at school. But we weren't allowed to use them until later in the academic cycle, *after* we had proved we understood arithmetic and could do calculations by hand if required.

    I use Google and their ilk, with their computerised matching and searching, to do research on-line. But this is after having learnt to do it manually through publications, periodicals and encyclopaedias - learning to recognise and separate the dross from the nuggets.

    I use spell-checkers on documents I generate on my computer - but they rarely find anything (I am not perfect) because I spent time actually learning to write (in fact, English is *not* my native tongue, so I had to do this twice). And spell-checkers aren't perfect - it annoys me when I see a sign or poster generated by a computer that *still* has errors of grammar (e.g. "site" instead of "sight", or vice versa, which your checker is unlikely to have picked up).

    Automation is fantastic and a phenomenal time-saver. Don't confuse "ease of use" for "capability". When reading your job application I am less worried about your handwriting (although I still should be able to read it) than I am about this demonstration of your basic ability to put a sentence together without outside help.

    Learn the rules. *Then* learn when to ignore them. But you cannot do the second properly without the first.

  31. Winkypop Silver badge
    Headmaster

    When I were a lad.....

    Handwriting ability was a testable part of the school curriculum. This was in the days of nib and inkwells too. We had special books with faint lines for us to follow. If the serifs on the end of each letter didn't reach the correct lines, it often resulted in a telling off by an ICBM* wielding teach.

    But then I'm old.

    * ICBM: Intra-Classroom-Ballistic-Missile (aka: chalk duster).

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are 16 million people...

    who can't spell, write, or read. We have a solution - BYOD!

  33. hoola
    Mushroom

    Technology to hide poor education

    This charity and its director clearly have a vested interest somewhere here, either in an infrastructure to run it on or selling some application/service. You cannot use technology to hide the fact that there is now a generation of children that are unable to grasp basic maths, writing and reading skills. There are two views apportioning the blame:

    1, It is the teacher's fault bleat the parents. “My darlings are gifted and the school will not support them.” This is not the case; years of political interference has drowned schools in targets, red tape and constantly changing goals. Were schools rubbish before OFSTED? A few where but in general they were successful. Along comes OFSTED and endless targets culminating in the most recent regarding. Perfectly good schools are now in “Failing” or “Need Improvement” categories to force more and more into Academies. This is yet another black hole that has run out of money and is privatising the education system.

    2, Far too many parents believe that it is the school’s sole responsibility to educate the children. There is no support at home, no reading or anything. Children just sit in front of entertainment, TV, Xbox etc. and there is little stimulation of the brain to develop the thought processes that are needed to actually become educated. Often complete lessons are disrupted for the class by one or two persistently disruptive children. The schools are next to powerless to do anything about it and any attempt to involve the parents ends up with the school going down a legal CYA. Parents appear to know all their rights but none of their responsibilities. Couple that with the ridiculous media coverage and legal eagles out to make a name for themselves suing the LEA, it is no surprise we are where we are.

    There has to be a seismic shift in the culture of education that removes political interference and stops the commercialisation of education. The Government’s 50% going to University has created its own problems with young adults entering the job market with completely unrealistic expectations.

    At the end of the day not everyone can be academic and society needs a skilled, vocational workforce as well as graduates.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Technology to hide poor education

      Sorry, you are making far too much sense. This will not be tolerated!

  34. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Junior Grades Don't Need Calculators or Computers

    The reason many junior schools don't permit even simple calculators is because they want children to learn the 'mechanics' of doing mathematics. Pushing buttons teaches little whereas lining numbers up and 'carrying' a surplus to the next column means so much more.

    Likewise with writing. The WHOLE of VietNam has an almost unified handwriting style, it is a delight to watch children writing AND adding diacrytical marks on the fly. Children in the far south have the very same style as children almost 3,000 kilometres away.

    And what of Chinese, Laotian and Thai children and their character-based languages?

    But technology can be used for evil by children. I teach, volunteerily, in big Ho Chi Minh City as well as rural Buon Ma Thuot up in the Central Highlands. I noted the children in BMT never slacked off, they were their usual studious selves.

    About a month ago, I noticed a slackening in the pace of my students in SaiGon/HCMC. As if they hadn't a care in the world.

    Then I found about their use of technology. For $30 they could have an App added to either their computer or Smartphone and on the day of the TOEFL tests students could use their individual passwords to activate the App and the anwers to the TOEFL examination would be revealed!

    The organisers were smart, not all answers were correct and the incorrect answers were randomised so it would be hard to detect any patterns in the answers. This week the certificates were issued. Interestingly my workaholics in BMT achieved higher marks than their Big City counterparts.

    So much for computers 'helping'.

  35. Lost in Cyberspace

    Ignoring any benefits of online exams

    Pens and paper are cheap and reliable, and not prone to technical issues (nothing stops a bit of paper or a pen being swapped over quickly).

    Online exams are relatively expensive and prone to problems where time-critical examination is required.

    I do understand that some people would benefit from a change but that's why we have special allowances.

  36. This post has been deleted by its author

  37. ecofeco Silver badge
    WTF?

    Learn to hand write

    Unless you have a verified medical condition, there is no excuse for not learning how to hand write.

    Some of the excuses here are unbelievable.

    No, nothing comes naturally to anybody but the rarest individual in school. That's the whole damn point of having schools.

    Sheesh.

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