“Does handwriting matter? Not very much according to educators. The Common Core standards, which we have adopted in most states, call for teaching legible handwriting, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.”
“What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades” – by Maria Konnikova
The article suggests evidence is emerging of a greater link between handwriting and learning. It appears children learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand.
A 2012 study by Karin James at the Indiana University supported the association between handwriting and learning. Children who had not learned to read were presented with index cards with a letter or shape they were to reproduce. They could either:
- Trace the image on a page with a dotted outline.
- Draw it on a blank sheet of paper.
- Type it on a computer.
A study of their brain waves as they reproduced the shape or letter showed an area of the brain, active when an adult reads and writes, was highly stimulated when the child drew the letter on a blank sheet of paper. The activation was significantly weaker through the other two processes.
Learning is a complicated process. When we reproduce letters, or anything else, by hand a plan is required before executing the action. The result is highly variable in that it will not exactly represent the original. Learning to identify variable representations is important to decoding letters when reading.
The research by Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at University of Washington, indicated that when a child who composed text by hand (either printing or cursive) “They not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on the keyboard, but expressed more ideas.”
There is also a suggestion of different neuropathways being developed in the brain when a child progresses on from printing to cursive writing.
Research at the University of California have reported laboratory and real-world studies of students learning better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard.
So, is it time to throw away the pen and paper and adopt the technology and the keyboard? Was it time to give up walking when we invented the car?