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When the pencil is mightier than the touch screen

March 7, 2018
when the pencil is mightier than the touch screen

When the pencil is mightier than the touch screen

A few years ago I attended an IT literacy conference organised by one of our school associations and watched a film clip with some amusement tinged with horror: a one-year-old child had been given a colour magazine and was spending her time trying to make the pictures bigger by extending her fingers over them. When this didn’t work she tried to flick them off the page! As the caption for the film said, ‘A magazine is an iPad which doesn’t work’. Check it out!

Struggling to use pencils?

In the past week there were a series of articles in the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times, and The Sun in which experts have warned that excessive use of touchscreen devices means children are struggling to use pencils. Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, said youngsters are starting school without fundamental movement skills. “To be able to grip and move a pencil, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills,” she added. Separately, a Sun investigation has found that 60% of parents are worried about the impact of smartphones, with some concerned devices had “negatively impacted” their children’s ability to hold a conversation, manage schoolwork, spell, read and speak properly.

Writing at Ballard

Writing at Ballard

Creating a balanced environment

I know I have written around this theme before and I’m sure I will again. Clearly we want a balance where digital devices and more traditional forms of communication (including writing) are concerned). My particular concern here is that with a potential loss of fine motor skills at a young age, we could see a loss of skills in other areas. Some of my colleagues who look after the youngest of our pupils have said that some children today not only struggle with pencils, crayons and paint brushes but they also have difficulty with hand / eye coordination. I am no expert in this area, merely an observer, but I suspect that if we focus on touchscreens at a young age and fail to give due emphasis to more traditional modes of writing and expression we are in danger of seeing a generation grow up skills-poor. As for the concern about children over-using devices so that they can no longer look you in the eye, speak clearly and hold a sensible conversation…that’s for another time!

So, let’s sharpen our pencils, wet our paint brushes and remove the caps from our coloured crayons, and set to writing, drawing and painting our own creative masterpieces.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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