In what is sure to give educators some food for thought, survey last year by Microsoft found that students prefer to learn about technology rather than traditional subjects.
However, many experts remain divided as to how much technology should be permitted for classroom use, and some states banned the use of phones in government schools in 2019, citing their distracting influence.
Whatever warnings about technologies that studies might bring to light, school leaders across Australia are still tasked with keeping their students well-equipped with the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly digital workplace.
To ensure that students’ traditional skills don’t fall behind in this pursuit, Murdoch University researchers are urging educators to teach skills such as handwriting – a call that aligns with the Federal Government’s renewed focus on the basics to lift student outcomes.
A study conducted by the University, which looked into how fast and easily can pre-school to Year 1 children can write, found substantial evidence that students who write with pen and paper often produce better learning outcomes later on.
In an article published in The Conversation, Southern Cross University primary education lecturer Jenny Johnston wrote that six-year-olds – especially those who speak English – should be able to at least write more complex sentences which show cause and effect as well as sequencing of events.
Children’s handwriting at this stage can show how well they form upper and lower case letters and writing within the lines.
Dr Anabela Malpique, one of Murdoch’s researchers and lecturer in Literacy, said their study backs the theory that traditional handwriting is essential for writing development. Students who took the time to write traditionally also managed to memorise and copy letters faster.
This frees up more of their cognitive space to think more deeply instead of focussing on the act of writing, Malpique said.
Literatu’s teaching and learning director, Tom March, had previously said that to improve students’ writing skills, school leaders and even teachers have to become “active writers themselves” and promote their students’ output.
Ange Sassone, from Seven Steps, also wrote that consistency and repetition is key to help students become even better writers.