Unreal World

“But what is he going to do once he gets to the Real World?”

I had to smile at my fellow paraprofessional, thinking to myself that having been out in the big, bad Real World, I was doing my darndest to get back into academia.

One of our students has dysgraphia problems, and gets a scribe when there are a lot of answers to write down on assignments.

“Then he’ll do what other people do:  type things on the computer, talk to people, make recordings, or do what people used to do – dictate stuff for a secretary!”

This is a not uncommon reaction when a scribe is suggested for a student because of their tortuously slow handwriting speed, and/or because the penmanship is outright difficult to read.  People are afraid that giving a student a scribe to write down assignment answers is going to mollycoddle them.

But really, we have to ask ourselves just what is being assessed.  Is this a test for penmanship, or are we trying to help the student get information and concepts cemented into the brain, or checking their understanding of such?  Because if the handwriting process is so laborious, then our student of question will not progress far into the assignment.  They will also get very frustrated from the effort, and likely not finish the lesson, especially if this is a student with a prior history of academic difficulties.  Naturally, both of these factors do not improve the learning process.

To be clear, a scribe is someone who takes dictation, not someone who does the lesson for a student.  Giving a student a scribe is a good example of changing the environment to fit what a student needs, rather than forcing them into a mold they don’t well fit.  When done correctly, providing this kind of help does not enable them to be lazy, but rather enables them to be more productive.

When we have students who are not being compliant or on task, it’s good to ask ourselves what the actual task is that’s not getting done, and what the end result is that is actually needed in the educational process.


  1. 23 August 2006 at 6:38

    I meant what I typed, I make a distinction between the to, for it is the way the term has embedded upon my consciosness having been alas part of a school system in which the only way to write was with a pen, as for when I do make words with a pen then I “print” confusing isn’t it.

    “I don’t write” is indeed a phrase I use to people whenever confronted with a form to fill in or some other writing oriented task in a meeting or seminar wherein one is supposed to make marks on a notepad or whatever.

  2. qw88nb88 said,

    23 August 2006 at 5:51

    I think you mean, “I don’t hand-write” as indeed you do a lot of print communication!

  3. 23 August 2006 at 4:06

    I have a simple phrase for people

    “I don’t write”

    The last time I did it was to prove what a laborios and ineffecient process it is for me, and how much more efficient typing, which has been my natural mode of communication since the 1980’s.

    Well does that affect my ability to be on the board of the NAS, no writing is not about my mental acumen, and ability to review situations and make important decisions.

    Does that affect my ability to be an active citizen in the community, no I have always been more efficient on a keyboard, this has enabled me to lern computer skills erlier than most of my generation, which has been used to great effect in writing reports, publishing directories and newsletters all of which I have done.

    Does it affect my ability in higher education, well in the 1970’s when I was not allowed to take my typewriter into the examination room it did, but since then it has not stood in the way of my graduating in Media studies, or becoming a student at Birmingham University.

    Richard Branson, is dyslexic, and he is open about it, does it make him incapable of being a part of the real world? I am sure he must have been told all this crap many a time at school

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