Writing on the Wall?

One of the rights of passage for students was the seemingly endless practice of handwriting skills or cursive writing. All those loops, making j's, q's, z's over and over. Those who have seen my handwriting wonder if I skipped school on the days my class had cursive practice. Earlier this week my principal shared an email from a parent who expressed concern there was no focus cursive writing instruction and her daughter could not do a good job signing her name. This got me thinking, is cursive writing one of time-honored skills that is about to be pushed aside by technology or other forces in education today?

More and more, students complete assignments requiring keyboarding skills. Essays are now written using word processing, presentations are completed using PowerPoint instead of poster board. Even if poster boards are used, information is typed on paper using a word processor then glued on the board. Many students are all thumbs with their writing as they use mobile devices to text, share snippets of their lives on Facebook, or compose a rare email. As more and more computer devices get in the hands of students, it will be keyboards that will rule as text input.

What about pens as in penmanship? Pens are getting smarter too. Smartpens are slowly making their way into classrooms and offices. Livescribe, a leading manufacture of smartpens, just released the Echo to go along with the Pulse. Smartpens can record information written down then transfer it to a computer. After syncing the information, you can use MyScript for Livescribe to turn what you write into editable text you can copy and paste into many other applications such as Word or blogs. While MyScript did convert a sample of cursive writing I did as a test but the results were not as good as when I print. 

Finally, is there just not enough time to teach the art of cursive writing anymore? Teachers are squeezed by the pressures of high stakes testing mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind laws. The main focus is for teachers to devote as much attention to reading and math as they possibly can. Only so much can be done in a school year so instruction like cursive writing instruction is cut back if not eliminated altogether.

Should more emphasis be placed on teaching cursive writing or is it a skill that is no longer necessary in a rapidly changing world? I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject.