Why is the University Still Here?

Danny Crichton at Techcrunch makes some good points on the difficulty of getting people to engage in online education due to lack of time, motivation, and work-related payoffs:

What the world is discovering is that humans are going to be humans (a discovery we seem to make a lot in startup-landia). We failed to ensure that motivation and primacy were built-in to these new products, and in the process, failed to get adults to engage with education in the way that universities traditionally can.

A Primer on Fountain Pens

Brett and Kate McKay write A Primer on Fountain Pens. They write about the history and anatomy of fountain pens, as well as giving tips on how to use them in writing and taking care of them. They also list reasons to use a fountain pen for writing:

  • It feels better.
  • It’s better for the environment.
  • More economical in the long run.
  • It makes cursive handwriting look better.
  • It makes you look like a sir.

These reasons aren’t particularly  persuasive. However, Melanie Pinola writes on Why You Learn More Effectively by Writing than Typing. She cites different people and research. Not all of hers are that persuasive, either. I’m still influenced by Haas’s (1989) research showing that writers who use only word processing, in comparison with those who use only pen and paper, plan less conceptually, during prewriting, and overall, but they do more local and sequential planning—whether expert writer or novice. Whether or not these findings are true today with people brought up on electronic media, it’s clear that the physical nature of the writing tool shapes writing processes. And it makes sense that using a pen slows down one’s writing more than a word processor, thus providing more time for thinking.

Thus, I can see writing by hand as more conducive to the beginning stages of writing, of forming ideas, and perhaps also of structuring one’s ideas—then moving to a word processor for editing purposes. However, I doubt that I’ll change my own writing habits. I don’t want to write things down once and then transfer them to the computer.