Clive Thompson, the Globe and Mail:
More subtle yet – but equally powerful – is the fluency with which they compose. Students not only write more, they write more quickly. It’s hard for us to imagine now, but in 1917, the act of writing was arduous. Fountain pens spilled ink and shredded paper if you tried to write quickly. They were such a nightmare that when the ballpoint pen emerged in the 1940s, businesspeople happily spent the equivalent of $90 in today’s money for a single pen.
And when it comes to writing and thinking, speed matters. It’s what’s called transcription fluency: “If you can’t write fast enough, you can lose an idea or a way of phrasing something, and it never comes back,” Steven Graham, a literacy scholar at Arizona State University, told me. In contrast, when you can write and edit more swiftly, you can include more ideas and flesh them out more deeply. The emergence of the cheap ballpoint pen, the typewriter – and now the computer and smartphones and tablets – precisely match the cognitive curve of our students’ performance.