The results of new brain research show that writing by hand helps children learn more and remember better. At the same time, the study revealed that schools are increasingly digital and that Norwegian children are the ones who spend the most time online in 19 European countries.
According to Professor Audrey van der Meer from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, national guidelines are needed to ensure that children receive at least minimum handwriting instruction.
The results of different studies have already shown that both children and adults learn and remember much better when they write by hand. Now, a new study has confirmed that those who prefer to write by hand instead of using a keyboard have increased learning and memory efficiency. Van der Meer says:
If you write your shopping list or notes by hand, you will be able to remember what you wrote much better later.
The Contribution of Paper and Pen to the Brain!
Van der Meer and his colleagues conducted two studies, the first in 2017 and the last in 2020. In 2017, he examined the brain activity of 20 students. Now they have published their research in which they examined the brains of 12 children and 12 teenagers. This is the first time that children are included in such a study.
Both studies used EEG to monitor and follow the wave activity of the brain. Participants used a cap made of more than 250 electrodes.
When the brain is active, it creates electrical stimulation effects. Since the sensors in the electrodes are very sensitive, they can directly detect the electrical activity in the brain.
Examining each participant took 45 minutes, and the researchers captured 500 pieces of data every second. According to the results of the research, the brains of both teenagers and children are much more active when writing by hand than when typing on a keyboard. Van der Meer says:
Using paper and pencil helps us remember our memories. Writing by hand activates the sensory motor part of the brain more. Hearing the sounds we make while writing, seeing what we write, and the pressure of the pen on the paper activate many senses in our brain. These sensory experiences cause our brain to interact with different regions and our brain becomes open to learning.
Kids Nowadays are Digital!
Van der Meer thinks his work and others highlight the importance of encouraging children to draw and write at an early age. Typing on the keyboard, spending time in front of the screen and surfing the internet, which are today’s digital realities, take up a large place in the daily lives of children and young people.
As seen in a study conducted with the participation of 19 European countries, Norwegian children and teenagers spend the most time online. Their smartphones are always with them, and computers and tablets are right behind smartphones in the rankings.
The research shows that Norwegian children aged 9-16 spend almost 4 hours a day on the internet, twice as much as in 2010. The fact that children spend their entertainment time in front of the screen is now further reinforced by the increasing emphasis of schools on digital learning.
Van der Meer thinks there are many positive aspects to digital learning, apart from the fact that handwriting is not encouraged.
National Guidelines Are Needed!
About increasing digital activities, van der Meer says:
Based on the development we have seen in the last few years, we are at risk of one or more generations losing the ability to write by hand. Our study and other studies suggest that this would be a very unfortunate outcome.
He believes there is a need for national guidance to ensure that children receive at least minimum handwriting instruction. van der Meer says:
Some schools in Norway have gone completely digital and do not teach handwriting. Finnish schools have become more digitalized and only a few schools offer handwriting instruction.
In the debate over whether to use a keyboard or teach handwriting, some teachers say using a keyboard makes children less frustrated. According to teachers, children’s ability to write longer texts in a short time motivates them more because they feel that they have mastered the use of the keyboard.
We must be open to every situation and gain experience!
Van der Meer says:
Learning to write by hand can be a slower process; But it is important for children to go through this tiring phase. The complex hand gestures and shape of the letters are useful in several ways. If you are using a keyboard, you make the same movement for each letter. To write by hand, you need fine motor skills and control of your senses. It is very important to put the brain in learning mode as much as possible. Although I use the keyboard when writing essays, I prefer to write by hand when taking notes during class.
Writing by hand activates our brain, like many other activities. Van der Meer concludes:
The brain has evolved over thousands of years, making it capable of directing and activating appropriate behavior. In order to develop our brain in the best possible way, we must use it in the area where it is best. We need to live authentic lives. We need to use all our senses, be outside, be open to all experiences and meet new people. If we don’t challenge our brain, we won’t be able to achieve its potential. This may affect our school performance.