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Friday, September 28, 2012

Writing as cognitive tool

It is amazing how much has changed the technology applied to writing in 150 years, from writing with a goose feather dipped in ink which allowed ideas flowing on paper to typing ideas on a screen.

Technology of writing has not changed too much if we think about it, feathers were used so many years, and then during century XIX fountain pen began to be develop by several inventors who made few changes to the original designs and the ball point pen was issued at 1888.

During century XX most of us learned to use a pencil or a pen and when we had enough things to write down, we changed and began to try with a keyboard, pressing keys, wasting paper when we had a mistake at any part of the page, but not many years later, computers came with screens added to keyboards and now, here we are touching letters on a screen. It seems writing is easier, and there is no doubt taping on a screen and hand writing need different skills.

Typing on a screen made life fun to some persons, for example, it is very obvious when a left-handed child write by hand, because their body needs a particular position, if they can’t find it their writing is a disaster. On the keyboards or touch screens, position does not matter; they are designed to use both hands. 

In case we need to appreciate even more the computer tablets or smart phones, they are fun and attractive to children, it seems they have a kind of magnetic glue specially designed for children hand, maybe that’s the reason parents buy them to give more exposure than never before. In a study conducted in The United States, parents said that having kids give them extra justification to buy devices.

The article entitled the writing on screen shares a historical tour around the development of writing, and remains the value of handwriting as a personal characteristic, because things can be said based on the way we draw every idea, through our personal inspiration using words.

At this particular point, it’s important to highlight, while handwriting requires specific movement to outline each of the letters, which means the motor and visual recognition of every letter, this is not need in so sophisticated way with keyboards, but no matter, we must differentiated every letters and the space to write. Of course, typing only makes recognition of keys but it’s not necessary to pay attention to space into the sheet because applications do it automatically, and some persons actually don’t need to see the keyboard, even we know this can produce the common finger’s error.
However writing it’s much more, it’s a process that can be highly specialized, with basic needs like having an idea to share, conceptual thinking, the transfer of knowledge, judgment, critical analysis, sometimes induction, deduction, attention to details, troubleshooting and empathy to mention just a few needs.

We can’t deny devices make our writing easier since there are application to correct spelling (when the word is in the dictionary) and sometimes helps with the syntax, and this add to writing a complete new perspective; furthermore keyboards allow a speed of writing hardly reachable by the hand writing, (except in the case of doctors, whose writing is incomprehensible), and also allow the use either hands, or just a finger, unlike the handwriting.

But no matter if we write with a keyboard, a pen, or a pencil, the most important skill will be to have a clear idea about what to share, because writing is much more than just unites letters. I know most of us started our writing copying letters on a sheet, writing is a deeper cultural tool which needs to develop ideas and write them correctly having on mind a reader. Writing is trying to take attention of a person for a moment and at the end of our ideas leave something to think about.

Writing can be a knife on our neck or an award, persons judge us by the details of our writing; strictly speaking, the modeling of the letters on a surface could be a reflex of the character of a person and talking about learning, depending on how the brain processes the information, words can be a door to our inner world.

Now more than never before, authors require being very careful how they share their knowledge, especially with publication is online, since words can have different meanings at other contexts or cultures, and this determines the impact of a simple phrase.

I can’t avoid saying that technology has changed the way we say things. When we were students, our favorite teacher was who allowed us to write just few pages, and it was even better if he or she added the phrase: what matters are the ideas and not the number of words.

Now we hate Twitter by the restriction that involves, how is it possible to explain to someone the theory of multiple colors in black and white if you only have 140 characters?. 

Facebook?, how can we write a simple idea when there are 3 thousand people saying things at the same time? What I said is pushed to the bottom or pushed high if by any reason my comment opens a door to more than one meaning and begins a debate.

How can our words touch to readers? Or even more: how can we develop a joy for writing and share ideas on others?. I have two ideas around this topic:
            1)    Writing is a cultural tool, beyond the device we use, it’s much more than unite words   
                          2) As a tool, it must become a need, not an obligation.

Writing must be a used as communication tool, from simple task to complex, like a to do list, a text message to ask simple things, a letter to Santa Claus, a short story. Have you tried to say a story with 5 words?; children must learn to write, unless you want to read the complaints of teachers, and no desire to upset anyone, I think children never do it by themselves if we don’t invite them to do it, if writing is not seen as a cultural need, it will see as a school torture.

Let’s stop saying people don’t know to write, let’s find strategies to make them write, and every step counts, from text messages, twitter, facebook, that’s the beginning for a book, let’s stop saying: you don’t know, let’s say: that’s a cool phrase!.

Handwriting and the writing with the keyboard are complementary, following the rule more is better, so it does not reason to drop skills, but combine them. Children feel more attracted to screen than a pencil, that’s why every day there are new apps trying to emulate handwriting on the screen, and, we never know, some can feel pencil is interesting, at the end the device is just a tool.

Instead of saying that someone has bad spelling or that his or her writing is incomprehensible, and that person is not enough intelligent, we should spend a minute and appreciate even one logic sentence, make it fun, open other channels, for example for some few persons like how the ink smells,  some pens are more fun than others. Personally my hands have typed so much than using a pen is painful, but the most important is find a way to open of opportunities and discover a nice reason to share ideas, without forgetting, however, that there are more than one eloquent means of expression, whatever the way you decide, handwriting, typing or taping, are just a mean the goal is not drawing letter, but telling ideas.

I want to thank to the wonderful spanish artist  Antonio Alonso Lopera because his drawings are illustrating this post. He gave us a good example of creativity because he draws with a Pen Bic, sometimes words come in images. You can enjoy his art at his facebook page Antonio A L Arte or enjoy his blog:

Alma Dzib Goodin

If you want to know more about my writing, please visit:


Barragan, MA. (2012) Thinking in the internet age. Aeromexico Clase Premier. 3 (35) 78-80.

Bells, M. (W/D) A brief history of writing instruments. Available at:

Casanova  Cardiel, H. (2012) México, con mayor número de analfabetas que hace poco más de 10 años. Boletin UNAM-DGCS-550. Available at:

Dzib Goodin, A. (2011) Reading, and writing: more than just unite letters. Available at:

Dzib Goodin, A. (2011) The difficulties with the process of reading and writing. Available at:

Historic Connection (W/D) The history and development of writing. Available at:

Martina, E. (2012) The writing on the screen. Available at:

Moses, L. (2012) Data points: wired child preescolers have more exposure to electronics than ever. Available at:

 NHS Choices. (2011) Does typing make learning harder? Available at:

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