Monday, June 16, 2014

Tech Meets Handwriting

lernstift
The Lernstift pen - Source
The Lernstift pen corrects your spelling, grammar and penmanship

Last week, I wrote a post on the declining skill of handwriting that is affecting all our students from daily classwork to exams. It has been a growing problem over the years as technology has extended its reach and hold on teenagers who often rely too much on their use.

Improving students' handwriting is something that I have always been conscientious of while teaching. I want my students to improve, while at the same time understanding the transition period involved in practicing one's writing form. It cannot be done over night and yet students have notes to write on a daily basis and tests to complete every week. I've suggested before that they could work on their handwriting over the winter and summer breaks, but enforcing that is difficult. Parents would be as much a part of that process as the students.

So what could help them improve their handwriting in a positive, supportive and useful way on a daily basis? This weekend I came across a Time article from last year that featured the Lernstift pen - which promises to "bring handwriting into the current century." It's function seems simple enough: It has motion sensors that analyze your strokes as you write, either on paper or in mid-air; if it detects any errors then it will buzz via a vibrating motor built inside the pen itself - letting you know that you need to make a correction.

It has two modes: Calligraphy and Orthography. One to detect any words that you have written wrong or illegibly. The other mode vibrates once if you misspelled a word, and twice for any grammatical errors in the sentences you form. There is still an element of challenge for the user as the pen will not indicate exactly which word was incorrectly written or misspelled - simply that a mistake was made and you must find out which one. An interesting feature.

Even though the German company that designed the pen is still in the process of raising enough money to mass produce it, they hope that they will be able to launch limited quantities of the pen's first version this summer.

I find the concept really interesting, and the potential is certainly there. However, I can also envision many frustrated students having immense difficulties coping with the amount of error-induced vibrations that will tingle their hands as they practice, at least in the early stages. I guess the old adage "no pain no gain" seems appropriate here. At the very least, it is a positive attempt to link technology with the old tradition of transferring ink/charcoal to paper, and will one day hopefully improve the handwriting (and grammar/spelling) of all students.

Vital links:

Time article - Lernstift Pen

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