MEDICAL OUTLOOK: Study Finds Handwriting Helps Young People Learn | Characteristics


A recent study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology concludes that cursive handwriting and drawing are better for learning and memory than typing and keyboarding. This study involved a small number of seventh grade 12-year-old students as well as a similar number of young adults.

Each of the two groups of 12 participants was assessed by recording brain wave activity using EEG recordings. Each participant recorded brain EEG activity as they each received 15 words to handwrite, draw or type. A total of 45 words were scored for each person.

The results of the EEG measurements were interesting. Hand-drawing activated larger brain networks than typing. The same results were also noted with handwriting compared to typing. Each category activated different areas of the brain. In addition, keyboard hand movements do not activate the same brain networks as drawing and handwriting. The differences between handwriting and typing as well as drawing and typing were similar for children and adults.

When learning and memory were tested in this study, it was determined that handwriting and drawing were better than typing. The study concluded that children should be exposed to handwriting and drawing to help establish beneficial neural pathways for learning. Apparently, all of the senses used with controlled hand movements are important for optimal learning.

Digital devices have replaced handwriting in many schools in the United States and abroad. Handwriting was used as a learning tool. With distance learning, therefore, digital devices have become more necessary due to the pandemic. Handwriting has been shown to improve spelling accuracy, recall and memory. The fine coordinated hand movements of drawing and writing are believed to require and send more kinesthetic information to the brain than typing. This interaction may be more beneficial for learning.

Another study concluded that handwriting is the king of effective learning. The brain processes writing and typing differently. If you handwrite notes in class, you are more likely to remember them 24 hours later than typing out the same lesson notes verbatim. Learning therefore benefits from writing letters or drawing physically. Students who took notes on laptops did not respond to conceptual questions as well as handwritten note-takers.

For us older people, the more we use our neural pathways, the more likely we are to improve and maintain overall brain health. You’re more likely to remember a handwritten shopping list compared to one typed on your smartphone if either of these lists is inadvertently left at home when you head to the grocery store.

Typing is not detrimental to learning, but handwriting has advantages and handwriting and drawing should always be encouraged in the classroom as well as at home.

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