How Writing by Hand Helps You Learn

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The time students spend writing by hand has decreased significantly as learning activities are increasingly relying upon digital devices. Reading and writing are becoming more and more digitized, even beyond the scope of remote learning as a result of the pandemic. Typing on a keyboard has replaced handwriting at many levels of education, from elementary school to high school. Most adults write using a keyboard and computer too, suggesting that we are approaching a decline of handwriting in both education and culture. 

The benefits of handwriting

Keyboards lack the instantly accessible, creative, and artistic opportunities that pens and pencils can give us. And, beyond creativity, researchers have noted the connection between handwriting and useful skills in the classroom like information retention and cognitive development. In a recent study, scientists took a look at brain activation during letter writing and found that different parts of the brain were stimulated with handwriting compared to typing or tracing the letters. 

The neuronal oscillation patterns that are beneficial for learning are activated when people write and draw by hand. There is also a sensory-motor integration that involves more senses in addition to the controlled hand movements when writing and drawing. The precise hand movements and complex brain activation results in the improvement of spelling accuracy, memory recall, and letter recognition when writing by hand.

Taking notes by hand

Most educators agree that taking notes is important for learning in the classroom, and many prefer to use computers because students can produce larger forms of work and receive immediate feedback with internet connectivity. Devices like computers and tablets also improve a students ability to take notes, but what they may gain in productivity, they also might miss out on other cognitive functions. 

Note-taking by hand requires processing that typing does not. Often, when students type notes, they’re more inclined to simply record as much as possible verbatim. When students write notes by hand, they must be more selective as they write slower than they type. This forces the student to more effectively understand and remember what they heard. When writing notes by hand, students must make a distinction about what information is worth writing down. Studies have found that even in the absence of a review, there are clear learning benefits from note-taking by hand.

It’s said that Nike CEO Mark Parker always attends meetings with a notebook, in which he draws, brainstorms, and records his thoughts. In terms of information retention, the experience of learning, and developing good classroom habits, handwriting is a proven valuable tool. Try picking up a pen and a piece of paper today and see for yourself what difference it makes!