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What Does Writing Look Like in the Digital Age?

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What Does Writing Look Like in the Digital Age?

Stacy Rosenblum

The tools of writing have been in a constant state of transformation throughout human history. Writing implements and paper, which were once available only to the very wealthy, became widely available to most people during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Literacy instruction matched pace with the availability of writing tools until the majority of the world’s population was able to read and write. Communication technology (messenger, postal system, telegram, satellite, digital) also evolved as the demands for sharing our written words with the world increased.

In the 20th century, we experienced another revolution in writing technology: the digital age. Like Henry Ford’s Model T, by the latter part of the 20th century, the personal computer had become widely available and affordable to the masses. By the time we reached the 21st century, our society became wireless. We can now, quite literally, communicate with anyone, anywhere.

Most recently, student access to personal computers and tablets in schools has begun to transform the writing experience once more. Handwriting, particularly cursive penmanship, has been deemed obsolete. New priorities for students include keyboarding and coding.

As Dr. Barbara McKeon, Head of School at Broome Street Academy in New York City explains in the following excerpt from our recent webinar, this latest evolution has occurred so quickly that it is not yet possible for researchers to evaluate the cognitive impacts of digital writing on adolescent brain development.


There is no question that 21st century kids engage in written communication in entirely new contexts: text messages, emojis, social media postings, and Instagrams -- to name just a few. For educators and parents, the question that does remain is the impact upon the development of fine motor skills and writing instruction in schools and homes that are steeped in digital technology.  

What are your thoughts? Do you see evidence that technology supports or hinders writing development in your own child(ren) or students? Let us know in the comments section.