Studies have found that the process of writing by hand significantly sharpens a person’s memory. For example, students who take handwritten notes in class earned better scores on exams than those who typed their notes on a computer. The act of writing gave them an advantage in storing the information and thinking of new, creative ideas. Psychologists explain that this is because writing demands more attention and thought than typing on a computer.
According to the standards accepted today in most states in the US, children learn how to write in kindergarten and in first grade, following which the educational system emphasizes acquiring skills using the computer keyboard. But psychologists and neuroscientists claim that it is too early to declare handwriting an outdated skill. New research shows that there are deep connections between handwriting and various aspects of education and development.
Children who learn writing skills first learn to read faster, and gain an advantage in terms of their ability to create ideas and retain information. “When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically stimulated,” says Stanislas Dehaene, a cognitive neuroscientist at the College de France in Paris. “It seems that the circuit plays a role that we were previously unaware of and the learning process becomes easier,” he adds. (NYT 2014)
The influence of handwriting does not only include improvement of letter identification. In a study involving children from second to fifth grade, Virginia Berninger, a psychologist from the University of Washington, found that when children write a text by hand, they produce many more words at a faster rate than when typing on a computer, and also express more ideas. Two psychologists, Pam Mueller of Princeton and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA, reported that in experiments held in labs and in classrooms, they found that students who took handwritten notes during lectures learned better than students who typed their notes. (NYT 2014)
Technology and computers have improved many of man’s capabilities: they have exposed us to much more information, taught us a thing or two about division of concentration and, to a great extent, have also altered our ability to read short texts quickly. But as the years go by, we are gradually discovering how they are causing us to lose other skills.
The British newspaper Daily Telegraph reported in 2014 that a study involving 2,000 teachers and students in Great Britain revealed that the decrease in the quality of the students’ handwriting, who had become accustomed to expressing their ideas by pushing keys on a keyboard, significantly harms their ability to express themselves and even to earn the grades they could potentially achieve.
According to the British newspaper, 61% of the teachers believe that over the past five years, the quality of the students’ handwriting has decreased, and 64% of the teachers admitted that problematic handwriting causes them to give students a lower grade than what they might actually deserve.