Fewer and fewer children are using cursive writing. But writing is an art that can be learned
by Giuseppe Lavenia
Writing by hand requires stronger brain connectivity than typing on a keyboard. Therefore, it is necessary to expose students to more activities that use handwriting. This was the result of a study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. published in Frontiers in Psychology.
As digital devices gradually replace pen and paper, manual note-taking is becoming increasingly rare in schools and universities. Using the keyboard is preferred as it is faster than writing by hand. However, the latter has been found to improve spelling accuracy and memory.
by Giuseppe Lavenia
To find out whether the process of forming letters by hand results in increased brain connectivity, Norwegian researchers examined the underlying neural networks involved in both writing modalities. “We’ve shown that your brain’s connectivity patterns are much more sophisticated when you write by hand than when you type on a keyboard,” he said Audrey van der MeerBrain researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and co-author of the study.
“This widespread brain connectivity is known to be crucial for memory formation and the encoding of new information and therefore beneficial for learning,” van der Meer continued. Researchers collected EEG data from 36 college students who were repeatedly asked to write or type a word that appeared on a screen. When writing, they used a digital pen to write in cursive directly on a touchscreen.
They only used one finger to press the keys. For each query, five seconds of high-density EEG were recorded, measuring the brain’s electrical activity using 256 small sensors sewn into a mesh and attached to the head. Connectivity in multiple brain regions increased when participants wrote by hand, but not when they used the keyboard.
“Our results suggest that visual and motion information obtained through precisely controlled hand movements when using a pen contribute significantly to the brain connectivity patterns that promote learning,” emphasized van der Meer.
Although the participants used digital pens to write by hand, the researchers say the results should be the same with a real pen on paper. “We showed that differences in brain activity are linked to the careful formation of letters when writing by hand and greater use of the senses,” explained van der Meer. Since it is the movement of fingers during letter formation that promotes brain connectivity, handwriting is expected to have similar benefits to cursive writing in learning. In contrast, the simple motion of pressing a key repeatedly with the same finger is less stimulating to the brain.
by Anna Lisa Bonfranceschi
“This also explains why children who have learned to write and read on a tablet may have difficulty distinguishing mirror-image letters like “b” and “d” from one another: they literally haven’t tried what they’re saying with their bodies “I would like to produce these letters,” explained van der Meer. “The results,” say the authors, “show the need to give students the opportunity to use pens instead of having them type during class.”
Policies that ensure students receive at least minimal instruction in handwriting could be an appropriate step. For example, cursive writing instruction was reintroduced in many areas of the United States earlier this year. At the same time, it is important to keep up with constantly evolving technological advances. This also includes knowing which spelling offers the most advantages under which circumstances. “It has been proven that students learn more and remember better when they take handwritten notes, while using a computer with a keyboard can be more practical when writing a text or a long essay,” van der Meer concluded.
by Fiammetta Cupellaro