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Writing to an Apple

Mike Lally

Handwriting is a skill very similar to playing tennis or Space Invaders. It is complex and strategies need to be learnt if you want to do it well. But for fun, learning handwriting the conventional way, with sitting-up-straight and copying-tasks, comes nowhere near a game of tennis or a dollar's worth of zapping electronic aliens. These games need the same skills of prediction, hand-eye co-ordination, and the working up of automatic responses
that a fluent handwriter needs: letter formation has to be under the unconscious control of (1) muscular feedback (the 'feel' of the hand, arm and fingers) and (2) internalised (learned) memory maps of individual shapes. Using a computer with a special flexible programme that paces the learner gives the teaching of handwriting some of the principles of skill acquisition which simple copying exercises cannot, particularly immediate reinforcement for good motor movement. In copying you have to watch your work, then compare what you have done with the model; it takes time to compare and decide what is wrong, the reinforcement comes late, the feedback is stale, motivation is crumbling, and so learning is inefficient, and for many, dull.

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