The Benefits of Handwriting vs. Typing
Typing notes instead of handwriting notes is becoming more and more common. This happens because typing is simpler, and allows us to increase the writing speed. In addition, taking notes digitally allows you to lose less and less concepts, also increasing the tolerability of many hours of lessons per day. However, the question we are asking today is: is speed really a fundamental value?
In fact, in the last decade, the digital world has changed our daily lives in many aspects, including education. Not only in universities but also in primary schools. At what price though?
Below we will explain what researchers think about it and why handwritten notes are better than typing. In addition, we will specify the many benefits that handwriting can give.
Handwriting vs. Typing: What Are the Benefits of Taking Notes by Hand
In a 2014 study conducted by a Princeton University professor, two groups of college students were compared. At a conference, the first took notes by hand, the second with a technological device (computer, tablet, notebook, etc.).
The result is clear: the students who used pen and paper responded better to the conceptual questions than the second group. In fact, it has been shown that those who take notes verbatim, rather than processing information by hand with their own words, damage learning.
In fact, in the publication by Karin H. James of the University of Indiana, children between 4 and 5 years old were examined. It turned out that those who handwrote the letters activated the brain circuit of reading.
Through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging, therefore, it has been seen that the brain process of reading is influenced by writing. This does not happen during the action of typing.
How Handwriting Improves Memory
As we can learn from the studies, writing by hand requires a greater cognitive commitment than typing. Although the latter may seem faster and more decisive, it does not include attention to what is noted.
Summarizing, paraphrasing, organizing the acquired concepts in real-time allows us to arrive at a deeper and more detailed understanding. Doing this work after class is less decisive.
Have you ever handwritten notes to consult the next day at school in a class test? Did it ever happen to you that you no longer needed it, as you had already inadvertently learned what you had written?
Well, this happens because pen writing activates many more areas of the brain, increasing learning. When you write wrong, for example, feedback is activated that allows us to correct ourselves. This does not happen by typing keys, since the grammar correction is automatic.
Why Handwritten Notes Are Better
Unfortunately, handwriting is becoming less and less frequent in schools. Apart from the early years, the use of keyboards and mice is overriding that of paper since primary school. Especially in America.
However, computer writers distance motor skills from visual skills. This is because your gaze towards the screen is not on the hand pressing the keys.
Therefore, the hand-eye divergence penalizes the memory. The more the senses converge, the more the recovery times of memories decrease, making them clearer.
In summary, it is not only what we write that matters but also how we do it. It influences learning and modifies the acquisition of skills, such as listening and memory. Studies on the brain speak for themselves.
To conclude, none of us has handwriting identical to another, in fact for this reason the written signature is still in use. Our handwriting expresses traits of our unconscious and our personality, which is why it should never be forgotten. Regardless of the benefits, it brings.
Mueller PA, Oppenheimer DM. The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science. 2014;25(6):1159-1168. doi:10.1177/0956797614524581
Konnikova Maria, What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades, The New York Times, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html
Karin H. James, Laura Engelhardt, The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children, Trends in Neuroscience and Education, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2012, Pages 32-42, ISSN 2211-9493, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tine.2012.08.001
Berninger VW, Abbott RD, Jones J, Wolf BJ, Gould L, Anderson-Youngstrom M, Shimada S, Apel K. Early development of language by hand: composing, reading, listening, and speaking connections; three letter-writing modes; and fast mapping in spelling. Dev Neuropsychol. 2006;29(1):61-92. doi: 10.1207/s15326942dn2901_5. PMID: 16390289. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16390289/