Did you know that cursive has been dropped from the Common Core Curriculum Standards shared by all U.S. states? Yet handwriting is still the fastest way to write in this digital – or should I say mobile computing – age. And, despite being the most efficient way to capture data in long or short form, cursive has been replaced by typing – at least in mandatory school lessons. Sure, kids still have to be able to print. But for those of us old enough to remember the hours spent in front of lined paper perfecting our up and down strokes, there’s a reason cursive was etched in our brains and pens were glued to our hands for our most important assignments. Even for those tedious, data-heavy 10+ page reports.
So it’s both a little shocking and disappointing to me that our future workforce isn’t being encouraged to master such a valuable skill, especially considering that today’s mobile computing technology hasn’t actually made handwriting skills obsolete. In fact, I’d argue that the advanced touch capabilities, active digitizer pens and often paper-sized screens of today’s tablet PCs have made handwriting even more relevant for the “walking while working” crowd of today’s top global industries.
In short, today’s mobile PCs can indeed read handwriting. So the more than 96.2 million Americans that consider themselves mobile workers shouldn’t be quick to omit this lifelong skill from their resumes quite yet. Neither should the 1.3 billion global mobile workers that IDC figures have ditched their desk by now.
Think about it: Workers in industrial sectors or field service jobs don’t have a choice but to create content, in real-time, while on their feet for hours at a time. They have to find a way to quickly and accurately write down critical info, complete checklists and respond to emails while battling rain, snow, dust and other environmental elements that aren’t conducive to traditional paper documentation. Sure, some may think that attaching a keyboard to their mobile device of choice is the answer. After all, it’s clear that many of today’s workers spent more hours in front of a school PC maxing out their words-per-minute than they did making sure their joined letters were legible. So typing is always faster, right?
Most workers in the utility, manufacturing, public safety and natural resource sectors don’t have the luxury of a desk. Neither do any first responders or military members on the front lines. Using a removable keyboard is just impractical if the only place to set it down is on the hands you need for typing. And, no, typing more than a few sentences on the built-in keypads of today’s mobile devices is not convenient or quick when you need to note a lot of data in a short period of time.
Now, some will argue that it’s just easier to wait until these mobile workers get back to their home base (i.e. a typing-friendly environment) to do a brain dump of their day… share their inspection findings, add notes to maintenance records, close out reports. But be honest: Unless you have a photogenic memory, are you really going to remember every last detail you need to document 8+ tiring, distracted hours later? Especially when you’re just eager to go home?
At the end of the day, data has proven that even mobile data is best captured via good old handwriting methods – and a rugged tablet can be one of the best platforms for real-time handwritten documentation when you’re far away from your desk. And to prove I’m not just putting today’s tough tablets on a pedestal, I’ll share some concrete study findings to this extent in a couple days. So make a note in your calendar for us to reconnect then on why handwriting has always made it easier to do real work while walking, especially in this mobile PC period and even in extreme work environments.