ISO an indexing expert to answer questions for a radio story.
I am a reporter for BYU-Idaho Radio in Rexburg Idaho. I am working on an audio story about how cursive handwriting is not being taught as seriously in schools. I wanted to get the input of an indexing expert about how lack of cursive knowledge will impact family history work, namely indexing. I am hoping to speak with someone over the phone since this is for the radio. If you are an expert indexer and educator, I'd love to speak with you. Please contact me at 208-496-2027 on weekdays.
Hi Ashley. I am an experienced indexer with mixed emotions about cursive being taught in schools. I lean more to the side of it being a waste of time. I'm old and hardly use cursive at this point in my life. With current technology, there is little need for the ancient art of cursive or even printing. More important things need to be taught in today's curriculum - like keyboarding and coding.
After seeing how well the software worked on deciphering cursive on the 1950 census, my observation has been that it has been better than the work of humans. The biggest problem seemed to be that no one taught AI to read the words Not Home or Vacant. I worked in college radio too. The old reporter in me wants to ask Ancestry and FamilySearch personnel what the OCR accuracy rate is for the 1950 census and compare it to the accuracy of the 1940 census results. It will be a while before they will be able to judge time efficiency. But, I think both are important questions in any discussion of whether the lack of cursive curriculum will have an adverse effect on indexing.1
John Empoliti ✭✭✭✭✭
Melissa is an expert in Indexing; is knowledgeable and curious about history, has a broad background with records in a research environment - and I’m sure others skills and interests I’m not aware of. She would do a great interview. I too am stunned with how good a job Ancestry’s AI has done on the 1950 US census. I imagine that the AI software engineers responsible for that great work can understand cursive. Or do they treat it as a collection of “objects?” I don’t know.
I am even older than Melissa and strongly lean the other way on the issue of teaching cursive in school, at least for the next couple of decades, even though my own handwriting is not great. Instead of emulating the teachers (or my mom - who got awards for hers), I seem to have inherited or imitated my dad’s handwriting. But to me it’s sad when grandma needs to read her note in a birthday card to grandson. Is a boss expected to refrain from writing notes to his employees, or from having them go through and organize or research old hard copy records? Knowing how to read and write cursive may be a marketable skill before long.- especially for AI software engineers.
I do agree with Melissa on teaching “keyboarding” - I had a year of typing class in high school that has served me well over the years. I still do two spaces after a period. I also agree on teaching “coding” or programming as we used to call it, on a “baby” level perhaps as a part of general math education, and of course at all levels to those with the appropriate aptitude. With the powerful languages available today I imagine that more capability can be provided/taught at lower educational levels. But the basics are always useful to understand.
I’m not a software engineer, just a former math teacher. I learned and then taught college students basic Fortran and the Basic programming language many decades ago. I used that basic knowledge recently to teach myself enough Python for some indexing related work (creating Sharpening filters for A Viewer For Windows). I use that basic knowledge of programming all the time and have for several years when exploiting the Autohotkey scripting language and Elgato Stream Deck programmable keyboards and associated scripts that I use for more efficient indexing.
I’m also in favor of teaching the times tables, mental arithmetic and estimation in these days of universal access to computers. What about the computer in ones head?1