Hand-writing helps learning

Computers help many of us achieve things that could not have been imagined by earlier generations. The capacity to bore others witless with your every move and thought via social websites is just one of the more obvious computer based revolutions. As a writer the simple function of word processor makes writing so much easier than for generations past for whom an error in thought or pen meant discarding one or more pages of work. What new research has shown however, is that the move from the pen to the keyboard might be having some negative consequences.

In a new piece of research two groups of adults were assigned the task of having to learn to write an unknown alphabet that consisted of twenty letters. One group was taught to write using the alphabet by hand, the other was taught using a computer keyboard. After three and then six weeks the subjects capacity to remember the alphabet as well as their ability to recognise correct and reversed letters was tested.

Those who had learned by handwriting did better in all tests.

Additionally, brain scans indicated an activation of an area of the brain called the Broca’s area. In people who learned on computer keyboards the Broca’s area showed virtually no activity. Broca’s area is the area of the brain responsible for speech production, language processing, and language comprehension, as well as controlling facial neurons.

What this tells us is that writing by hand involves movements that leave a memory trace in the sensorimotor part of the brain. Typing on a computer keyboard does not appear to do this. In writing by hand your brain receives feedback from motor actions, together with the sensation of touching a pen and paper. These are significantly different feedbacks than those received by your brain when you type. Part of the benefit of handwriting may also be the extra time that it takes.

It all gets back to “haptic” processes. Haptic refers to the process of touching and the way that we not only communicate by touch but also use touch to interpret or surroundings.

Yet again we find ourselves reminded of the fact that the pen is mightier than the keyboard.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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