By Ella Gentz
I enjoy technology as much as the next millennial.
Technology serves its purpose, and can be very useful. As students, we use computers all the time--especially at school.
That’s why I was so surprised to find out that I’d have to hand-write all of my in-class essays for English 101.
What is this nonsense, I ask? I was told in high school that all of my classes would be done on computers.
Do the professors enjoy reading these hand-written essays to get the sense our personalities? Or would they rather have an electronic submission so they would be grading the content, and not the legibility, of our various hands?
Because I do get it. There is a romanticism that goes into writing on the page. The subtleties of penmanship can add character and charisma. It can also have an adverse effect when content is lost because what is written is totally illegible.
This leaves me to wonder: What are the benefits of handwriting something versus using a computer?
It’s true that handwriting is linked to greater memory recall.
Writing is better for when you’re taking notes, but it’s not when you’re scrambling to finish an in-class essay. That’s when the worst of the worst handwriting comes out.
Just think of all the unnecessary wasted paper. All of this can be done on the computers we already have. No extra waste.
In my English class I usually use eight pieces of paper for an essay. Multiply that number by 20 students, and then multiply that by the number of essays in a semester, and then multiply that by the 46 ‘English 101’ classes that are happening this semester alone and... Poof! All of that unnecessary paper wasted.
That’s just a lot of clutter too. I want to keep my essays for reference, but who has that kind of space?
But maybe I am being too closed-minded by obsessing about the waste. Writing on paper can have many mental benefits.
For example, one study has found that using paper is linked to seeing the big picture and think more critically about an idea.
And consider brainstorming. I prefer writing for brainstorming because I am not limited to a blinking cursor.
But once that brainstorming is done, it’s all about getting the information out and into the essay.
And for that, I’ll use a computer.
Handwritten work is good for building a foundation for the English language, but as a college student working on a final essay, it’s really frustrating to have to work through drafts and revisions of handwriting my thoughts.
Writing on paper is like dancing. There is a personality to what you are writing. But should we be graded on that?
If avoiding computers for these essays is matter of plagiarism, then use the writing labs. These rooms are already equipped with monitoring software to prevent this type of cheating.
Typing is faster and easier and avoids the pitfalls of illegible handwriting and the judgment that comes with sloppy penmanship.
Typing and handwriting are both part of our culture. They both have their purposes in life, and each have their strengths and weaknesses.
We should acknowledge that typing is the more useful, convenient one in the classroom.
I am suggesting that the English department change its rules on the final essay and let us use computers to type it out.