Results from several studies have shown that both children and adults learn more and remember better when writing by hand.
Now another study from Norwegian University of Science and Technology confirms the same — choosing handwriting over keyboard use yields the best learning and memory.
“The use of pen and paper gives the brain more ‘hooks’ to hang your memories on. Writing by hand creates much more activity in the sensorimotor parts of the brain,” said Professor Audrey van der Meer at NTNU.
A lot of senses are activated by pressing the pen on paper, seeing the letters you write and hearing the sound you make while writing.
“These sense experiences create contact between different parts of the brain and open the brain up for learning. We both learn better and remember better,” she said in a paper published in Frontiers in Psychology.
Van der Meer and her colleagues have investigated this several times, first in 2017 and now in 2020.
In 2017, she examined the brain activity of 20 students. She has now published a new study in which she examined brain activity in 12 young adults and 12 children. This is the first time that children have participated in such a study.
The participants wore a hood with over 250 electrodes attached. The brain produces electrical impulses when it is active. The sensors in the electrodes are very sensitive and pick up the electrical activity that takes place in the brain.
The results showed that the brain in both young adults and children is much more active when writing by hand than when typing on a keyboard.
She believed that her own and others’ studies emphasize the importance of children being challenged to draw and write at an early age, especially at school.
Today’s digital reality is that typing, tapping and screen time are a big part of children’s and adolescents’ everyday lives.
“Given the development of the last several years, we risk having one or more generations lose the ability to write by hand. Our research and that of others show that this would be a very unfortunate consequence” of increased digital activity,” Meer said.
Learning to write by hand is a bit slower process, but it’s important for children to go through the tiring phase of learning to write by hand.
The intricate hand movements and the shaping of letters are beneficial in several ways.
“If you use a keyboard, you use the same movement for each letter. Writing by hand requires control of your fine motor skills and senses. It’s important to put the brain in a learning state as often as possible,” Meer emphasised.
“If we don’t challenge our brain, it can’t reach its full potential. And that can impact school performance”.