Monday, April 20, 2009

Old Schooling

It may not be on the order of the Hatfields vs. McCoys (or even "paper vs. plastic") but sometimes I'll overhear a debate about the merits of writing longhand (on actual paper, with an actual pen or pencil) versus using the computer. For me, it's been a natural (and often painful) evolution.

When I was in elementary school and junior high, there was no choice. All my assignments were done on paper, in longhand (or more accurately in my case, chicken scratch--I was always getting a "needs improvement" grade in penmanship). My fingers ached from strangling the pencil in a deathgrip, and the teachers frequently called me up to their desks to explain the meaning of the "Sanskrit" on my papers (They're words, Mrs. Porter. In English. I swear!). At least I think they were; half the time, I couldn't tell myself.

When I reached high school, however, some of the teachers preferred typed papers. Not wanting to be left behind, I took a typing class* as one of my electives, with visions of improving my five words-per-minute hunt-and-peck to a speed in the three digit vicinity. Unfortunately, typing "Zeke, the lazy yet quizzical brown fox jumped over the stupid white fence" two hundred times a day wasn't very motivating, so I settled for being a slow (albeit well-rested) typist.

In college, the typing gods got their payback. Most of my papers and lab reports needed to by typed, and I always seemed to take much longer than my peeps (if only I had applied myself to the typing arts in high school! D'oh).

In grad school, technology had finally arrived and I began to compose my papers on the computer. And what a difference! I could rearrange my thoughts with the wonderful cut-and-paste function (thank you, Mr. Gates), I could avail myself of spellchecker (thanks again, Mr. Gates), and I stopped getting headaches from toxic Wite-Out spills. (At one point in my life, I had Wite-Out delivered to my door by the five-gallon jug, like bottled water from the Culligan Man.) Not only was using the computer faster and more efficient, I felt the quality of my writing improved.

Now, of course, I use the computer for just about all my writing. I can't imagine doing it any other way. Sure, I still scrawl a few things on real paper--grocery lists, my To-Do lists**, phone messages, notes to my children to clean up after themselves (although I think I'd get better results if I texted them).

One other thing I've discovered about my typing. I type much (much) faster when I'm on deadline. Weird, huh?

How many of you still are Old Schooling it with paper and pencil?

*Admission #1: I took this course Pass/Fail, and the instructor was kind enough to post the exact speed you needed to get a "D - Pass." Using this bit of information, along with the time allotted for each assignment, I cleverly calculated exactly how many words I needed to type in order to pass (I was much better in math than I was in typing). After achieving my goal (yes, I frequently stopped typing to count every single word), I'd put my head down on my desk and catch a few zzz's. What can I say? I was in eleventh grade.

**Admission #2: Once in a while, after I've completed a chore not on my To-Do list, I'll write it down on the list, just to have the tactile satisfaction of crossing it off with a loud scritch. So maybe there's some old school still in me.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Paper? Pencil? Do those items come with WiFi?

Fred Thomas said...

Al -- I think I was in that typing class with you and Lou....

Here is what I work on now... a place for you to store all your words.

Alan Orloff said...

Sue Ann - Yes, I know, antiques. Maybe Inventor Fred can whip up some kind of WiFi adapter for all our old pencils and pens.

Fred - If I want to fill up one of those servers, I'd better get busy writing!