Let’s Talk About Text

L London

London is a single Mom of two. Advocate for natural alternatives, with a focus on general wellness. She's also a consultant, care coordinator, and part-time provider of direct care for families and individuals with developmentally disabilities and senior citizens. Her passion is working with the terminally ill through their end of life stage. You can finder her on Twitter @llondonjournals

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23 Responses

  1. Jaybird
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    says:

    A million years ago, they still graded “penmanship”.

    A few years back, we went over to Mom’s and she was cleaning out her filing cabinets and she asked us to come over and look at some stuff to take it home or just look at it one last time before she shredded it.

    In the old files was my report card from 3th Grade that was all A’s and a D in penmanship.

    Out of all of my report cards throughout grades 1-12, I couldn’t tell you a thing about my grades beyond “As and Bs, mostly… the occasional C” EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE. THAT REPORT CARD IS FOREVER IN MY MIND.

    I got a strange mix of praise and punishment for it. I remember overhearing my parents discuss it with some vague amount of concern. “It’s great that… it’s silly that… but he should put more effort in… you know typewriters…” and so on and so forth. (Dad was a teacher at one of the high schools in the region. He coached and taught a handful of classes including “business”. Mom remembers him talking incessantly about the new IBM Selectric typewriters the school picked up.)

    When it comes to text, I’d make a major distinction:
    A: Text that is written with fingertips
    B: Text that is written with thumbs

    When it comes to A, text does an excellent job of giving a refined version of thoughts. You’ve got what you want to say, you’ve got backspace, you’ve got spellcheck, and you’ve got the Google for everything from a handy dandy thesaurus to a handy dandy encyclopedic reference tool.

    When it comes to B, lol wtf.

    A is probably superior to the spoken word.
    B? Ugh. B sucks. Lol. Wtf.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I got dinged on cursive penmanship, but only a little, because I refused to slant the text appropriately. Through college it degenerated somewhat, leading my wife to remark now and then, “Mike’s handwriting gives the appearance of great neatness.” Precise, vertical, and I could write straight lines on unlined paper. Generally unintelligible to anyone except to me. As I’ve become an oldster, it’s actually getting rather sloppy. I make more mistakes typing. And I’m far too old to ever learn to thumb-type.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I went to Catholic school early in my life and can’t tell you a single grade I got on a report card EXCEPT for the “NI – NEEDS IMPROVEMENT!” I got for penmanship sometime around 1st grade. The bizarre ridicule I got from my family seared it into my mind.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Family tradition, at least, is that when my mother went to parent/teacher conference after the report card where I was dinged on penmanship, and the teacher explained that I had refused to change my style to match what she wanted, my mother’s response was, “Yes, he has a problem with authority requiring things he thinks are arbitrary. And since he doesn’t care about the grade, he will do it his way and politely out-stubborn you. Just a warning.”Report

    • L London in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I definitely see A vs B as a valid argument. I still think it has far more to do with the user of the thumbs. 😉Report

    • Merrie Soltis in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I got a C for handwriting in Third grade. My mother was convinced I was doomed to failure in life.Report

  2. Michael Cain
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    says:

    Vaguely related, perhaps, whenever I’m teaching first-semester calculus I eventually get around to spending a little time on the history of the notation. There are two stories I usually tell. First is that whether Leibniz borrowed some fundamental calculus concepts from Newton’s letters to him or not, we all owe Leibniz for his notation. For something over a century, British mathematicians doing work in analysis became increasingly marginalized because they insisted on using Newton’s very limited notation. Eventually they abandoned it — except in economics — and got back to doing mainstream work. Second is Donald Knuth, one of the computer science demigods, who spent a significant part of his life building TeX and Metafont because he couldn’t stand how the (manual) typesetters were butchering his math notation. Math is a field where handwriting will likely always be superior for casual communication.Report

    • L London in reply to Michael Cain
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      says:

      Teachers have molded and shaped me into a “bigger picture” person. Growing up, I had a horrible school experience. I barely graduated. In college, one of my professors referred me to an educational psychologist. I was tested and diagnosed with dyslexia. I was then set up with a tutor and an OT.
      This was the first of two college experiences that really changed my life.
      The other was my college algebra professor. She, all 4’8″ of this extraordinary mind, told me something I’ll never forget.
      She said “memorize your formulas!” “That’s it!” She offered- unless any of us plan to become mathematicians, or something that requires a solid grasp of all advanced math subjects- “Stop trying to understand it. You don’t need to. Just use your formulas and solve your problems.”
      I had a 4.0 and made the President’s list every single semester. Even in the intimidating sciences that would come later.

      This doesn’t much address your particular reference to math, but reminded me of this experience and decided to share.

      I can’t even begin to describe how Ben’s teachers have changed our lives, and Ben’s educational experience.Report

      • JS in reply to L London
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        says:

        My problem with math education was two-fold.

        First, and I’ll be honest, I was a lazy student in the years it would have best suited me to pay better attention (when first being introduced to algebra and trig).

        Second, I’ve found that to grasp math concepts I can’t simply work in the abstract. Hats off to those crazy folks who can grok it on a totally abstract level, but I absolutely need some real world problem I understand to apply the theory to or the theory won’t stick.

        My go-to example is Laplace transforms. We covered those in…I want to say Cal 3? (it’s been more than 20 years, things have gotten fuzzy. Maybe differential equations?). I memorized, I regurgitated on a test, never understood them at all. It was just monkey see, monkey do, with enough flexibility to cover a problem as long as I was TOLD to use a Laplace transform. It was not otherwise something in my math toolkit, no matter how obvious it’s use was.

        Until about two years later, in a circuits class. You do the usual stuff – -work out voltages and resistances at various points in the circuit you’re shown, and then they tossed in something fun — stuff like inductors or capacitors. Suddenly those numbers we’re static values, but varied depending on time (where you were in the discharge cycle of the capacitor)..

        So the resistance at a given spot would be a time-dependent function, and solving for that was a mess.

        Unless you used a Laplace transform, temporarily removed the time element, solved the resulting much simpler problem, and then transformed back — slapping that time element back into place.

        And so, two years after I learned and promptly forgot them, I finally understand why they existed, why this tool was invented and how it was supposed to be used.

        Not that I could use them now. I can barely do basic algebra these days, and some minor statistics. It’s just not what I use day to day. (Now Boolean logic, recursion, farkin’ race conditions, debugging effing memory leaks that of COURSE only show up in release mode….that I’m good at!)Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to JS
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          says:

          For me, it was an automatic controls class (Laplace and Z transforms). Haven’t used them since, but that was the class that showed me why it was important to understand them.

          The one thing I never did get, even though I absolutely understood their importance, was infinite series. Give me one, and I could solve it. But I could never grok how someone decided a specific problem should be treated with an infinite series.Report

          • JS in reply to Oscar Gordon
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            says:

            What really killed me, math wise — and this is in my own field of expertise — was relational algebra and calculus for databases.

            Oh, not the practical bit — I can construct queries and design simple databases — but doing the fun math to do things like prove one database design is equivalent to another, so that in transforming from one design to a different one you’re not losing explicit or implicit data.

            Freaking Greek to me, even to this day. Pity, good DB folks are in high demand — but then, perhaps that’s part of the reason why.

            Still vexes me that a whole chunk of CS is basically an opaque black box of “here be dragons” to me. Best I can do with databases is to point out the basic stuff to, you know, people whose idea of databases is “It’s just a spreadsheet, right?”Report

            • L London in reply to JS
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              says:

              Ha! Now, y’all are diving into a language I don’t speak well.
              Perhaps it applies to a much larger group than just mathematicians, to include engineers, electricians, programmers, etc.. but, still. Not everyone follows a path where advanced math is needed. We all follow a path where a basic communicative language is necessary.Report

  3. Kazzy
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    says:

    Some scattered thoughts…

    If you aren’t familiar with the notion of “100 Languages of Children” as explored in Loris Malaguzzi”s poem, it may be of interest to you. Link here: https://www.reggiochildren.it/en/reggio-emilia-approach/100-linguaggi-en/
    It is also a core tenet of the Reggio Emilia approach to education, namely that children have multiple ways of communicating and we tend to funnel them towards the few that are most accessible/acceptable to adults.

    As a teacher, I’ve gone back and forth on the amount of time we tend to devote to handwriting — cursive in particular — but am (currently) solidly in favor of spending good time on it with young people because of all the learnings it offers growing minds and bodies. As adults, we tend to take for granted that putting ideas onto paper is a fairly easy, straightforward process because most of us have automated most of the steps. But learning to do so is really, really valuable, and not JUST for writing.

    As a parent, my older child was speech delayed. When he was about 2 and he was still largely non-verbal, we were walking outside when he suddenly stopped. He started gesturing at the ground at the ground and at the sky alternately. After a few minutes, I figured out what he was telling me: he could see the moon in the daytime sky and the rock he was pointing at on the ground looked just like it. It was such a powerful experience, the first time he really communicated such a complex thought about his understanding of the world beyond himself. After we moved, I went back to that house and “borrowed” the rock, carrying it with me with every subsequent move… which is no small feat since the damn thing weighs probably 20 pounds! We call it his “moon rock” and he loves to hear the story of why we have it. He’s 7 now and most folks have no idea about his struggles with language, though I still see it pop up from time to time. “Words are hard,” we say. He has many other ways of communication — he’s a naturally kinesthetic learner and can convey so much through movement — and when appropriate we lean into these, though I know he won’t always be offered such opportunities elsewhere.Report

    • L London in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I still have the first device (an old Kindle) that Ben typed his first words on. I’ll keep it forever. Not a 20 pounder lol but just as sentimental. Thanks for sharingReport

  4. LeeEsq
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    says:

    I don’t think we should ditch teaching hand-writing because people aren’t always going to be able to type something down on a screen. Sometimes they will need to use old-fashioned pen, pencil, and paper to leave a quick note or something else. That means we should at least make sure that people’s handwriting is legible even if not as pretty as cursive was during the time before computers.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      I have spent the last 25 years of my life pleading with everyone I know in R&D at giant tech companies to give me a decent approximation of a pen and pad of paper, but with all the advantages that come with having software be able to access it. One of my user cases is that I can sketch the graph and write the math then tap my tablet to your tablet or phone and you get a copy to walk away with.

      My no-longer-new cheap digital phone at least as a stylus and a digitizer. But there’s not really enough screen space to do more than a shopping list.Report

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