What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

NY Times:

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

Does handwriting matter?Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.

But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.
Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.
A 2012 study led by Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University, lent support to that view. Children who had not yet learned to read and write were presented with a letter or a shape on an index card and asked to reproduce it in one of three ways: trace the image on a page with a dotted outline, draw it on a blank white sheet, or type it on a computer. They were then placed in a brain scanner and shown the image again.

The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex.
By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. The activation was significantly weaker.

The article goes on to say that students remember their lessons better when they write notes in a notebook as opposed to a laptop or other device.
Stick to proven technology, folks!

Not to mentions,if one cannot write in cursive,they won’t be able to read cursive either!
Our Constitution,Declaration of Independence are both written in cursive.
If our children are unable to read these documents in their original format,how easily they can be misled by online versions,textbook versions that have be revised.
Part of the plan,me thinks!

Yes, a great deal of our common heritage is written in cursive, all the way from Chaucer to Shakespeare to our founding documents.

This also reminded me of my early experience with typing reports and essays in college instead of writing them. I found that when I wrote something longhand, the thoughts and words flowed to me as I wrote. My fingers didn’t have to think about the letters. Just the opposite when I typed. My mind and fingers were keyed on the letters first, the words and thoughts second. The worst thing an English prof ever said about an essay was “This reads like it was composed on the typewriter!”

It’s also a means to contact and connect It’s personal.
The personal note is becoming a thing of the past. When we do not value our friends or loved ones enough to put our thoughts down “in our own hand” and prefer the internet cards, the store bought sentiments, and the witticisms of others over impassioned communication, we lose the ability to express ourselves in a sincere, and personal manner.
I think about the posts here that lack basic grammar skills, and those who eschew the use of capital letters or punctuation.
It’s sad. Self expression is part and parcel of our humanity. To be able to write is priceless and must be taught. Think of the many letter of St. Paul.
We’ll always have computers and voice activated expression. Also valuable, but in another realm. Not so much in the realm of relationships.
Some of my most prized possessions are letters from my mother, my father, my friends, my mentors. I don’t save emails. But I save beautifully expressed sentiments in letters and cards.
Just my 2 cents.

I believe that technology is literally changing the cognitive processing of younger generations not only with regard to speed, accuracy, and style, but also content. This is a topic for cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists to investigate further.

Needless to say, some of my fellow denizens of the Fountain Pen Network are having a field day with this article :smiley:


I’m neither but I get the inkling that the so-called cognitive benefits from handwriting seem more to do with the fact that cursive isn’t actually all that distinct from garbled handwriting. Who wouldn’t grow sharper after reading words so barely recognizable? :shrug:

I completely disagree. It takes so long to write compared to typing, I frequently have forgotten what I was trying to say by midway through the sentence. Typed words, on the other hand, are much nearer to the speed of thought. Now if I don’t have a clear direction for what I’m going to say, I do find that it’s easier to outline ideas on paper first, mainly because the formatting needed to make some words bigger or indented or whatever is tedious on a computer.

[quote=Jeanne S]If our children are unable to read these documents in their original format,how easily they can be misled by online versions,textbook versions that have be revised.
Part of the plan,me thinks!

Yes, I’m sure that the rise of computers and the resulting irrelevance of handwriting has been orchestrated by a group trying to substitute fraudulent versions of our founding documents into the school curricula. Which group? Well, we don’t know that yet, that’s why we need to keep handwriting!! :rolleyes:

I can’t speak for the results of the study, but I know that the moment I switched from taking notes by hand to taking notes through a laptop my grades became significantly better. The difference in learning between handwriting and typing is a function of depth of processing. The best way to memorize it isn’t to merely repeat it; rather, we need to engage with the content in as deeply a level as possible. It’s possible that handwriting may do this; however, there are ways of engaging with content in a deeper fashion while typing. I, for example, would make jokes and my notes and try and make connections between other content and other courses. There are many ways to skin a cat, and handwriting is just one of them.

I am the opposite. I took my notes by hand in law school amid the sea of clickity-clacks on the laptops around me. When finals time came around, I took my notes and would read over them and pull the important information out, about 5 pages hand written (and I have relatively large print), where my peers would spend weeks and many overnights in the library, making 30-50 pages typed outlines of the class material (mostly copied and pasted from the notes they had taken). I got better grades than most of them. In class, I took the time to figure out what was important and wrote down what was important, where my classmates merely transcribed most of the lecture into a word document. It is also difficult to format notes on the computer. When professors would present graphs or charts to help us understand, most people struggled, to get the information in their notes in a meaningful way. :shrug:

While taking tests, if a topic came up, I could mentally “see” where that information occurred in my notes, and that would help trigger the content that was on the page. (This also works when I read texts books, I can tell you which side of the page (left, right, up down) the information occurred on, a usually which part of the paragraph), but this does not happen as well when I type something out (as evidenced at my poor editing skills while writing papers).

I’m inclined to agree. Unfortunately, it will probably only be with hindsight that we are able to understand the ramifications. I’m sure it will make for some interesting doctoral dissertations. :slight_smile:

I’m the same way. Even now, years later, when I am reminded of a fact from certain subjects I had in college, I can visually picture where on the page the notes are on (even if I cannot recall all the details). It makes it easy for me to find things, though. :slight_smile: When stuff is typed out, it’s all just one, long, homogenous white space. :stuck_out_tongue:

I like that writing things by hand slows me down. I write better that way as my mind is editing and re-drafting my thoughts as I compose each sentence. My thoughts come out much more clearly the first time around.

Roll your eyes if you feel the need.It is a fact that for some time history school textbooks have been revised to reflect the popular mindset ,by rewriting or omitting certain facts:rolleyes:

You bring up an interesting point. Handwriting has been studied by psychologists to determine some personal physical traits, such as openness, etc. (Graphoanalysis.) That’s difficult to do when analyzing typewritten material.

One would also think that English grammar and rhetoric would improve. Yet quite the opposite has happened, in spite of all the grammar alerts and spell-checkers around. Maybe modern technology provides a false sense of security?

That said, I do feel my typing class taken in high school was probably the best investment I ever made, although at the time those who took it were laughed at.

My memory is aided by visual context. I think I learn(ed) better via hand-writing than typing, and I’ve had both.


We need to keep both! It should not have to be a choice, one or the other.

Nobody thought to banish cursive from schools until the numbers of Hispanics became large. They don’t teach cursive south of the border, and haven’t for a long time. So, Hispanics of recent origin are all “printers”.

I’m guessing that’s why cursive is being thrown out. It’s now politically incorrect inasmuch as only the native born of any substantial group in this country know how to read or write it.

I’m very adept at computer use but I write all my notes in school.

Like someone else said, while almost all my classmates bang away at the keyboard, I have maybe 5 or 6 pages of notes for a major test, while they have 50. Then I condense my notes down into a 1 or 2 page summary containing ONLY the information I don’t recognize in my main notes after re-reading them. That way I have a very short study guide. My philosophy is that it is an utter waste of time to read and re-read notes over and over again because a large part of notes is (I hope) information that you already know.

Study what you don’t know and only what you don’t know.

Furthermore, I do read but maybe only 10-20% of assigned texts if it’s textbook stuff; I skim and read what looks difficult and ignore the rest.

You either think faster than I do or lucky enough that your teachers didn’t have you on a frenzied scribbling spree. That’s another elementary school experience I’d rather not repeat. Even before I became a crazy fast typist, I’ve been scratching, crossing, and correcting my notes. It’s why I doubt this was a habit introduced by typing technology. My God if you saw my poor notebooks, you’d wonder why I didn’t grow up to be a doctor. :stuck_out_tongue:

I also preferred reading text compared to taking down notes (handwritten or type). If you asked me to do either, I’d actually sum it all up and count on the handouts to fill in the gaps. Give me a book on the other hand and I tend to brainswallow the whole thing. :stuck_out_tongue:


From personal experience, writing on type has indirectly made me more hygienic because my skill is hampered easily by long fingernails. :stuck_out_tongue:

It makes me bite my fingernails… :stuck_out_tongue:

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