Handwriting vs typing: prons and cons
Since ancient times people have had the need of writing to leave a trace of their history, to communicate and record information. This need firstly was born in Mesopotamia and then spread all over the world. Writing might have independently developed in at least four ancient civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and some areas of Southern Mexico and Guatemala. Writing has evolved together with man and has gained more and more uses since then. However, writing has lost its importante with the development of technology and the production of digital devices. Teenagers are known today as “Digital Natives”, for their close relationship with technology. In fact, they are used to communicate and learn via computers. This term was coined by Mark Prensky in 2001 and is today used to describe the generation of people who grows up in the era of technology, including computers and the internet. The opposite of digital natives is digital immigrants, people who have had to adapt to the new language of technology.
A new research suggests that handwriting and drawing engages the brain more than typing on a keyboard, after having measured the brain activity of children and young adults performing these tasks. The research, published last summer in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, looked at a small sample size of twelve children and twelve young adults. The authors had been studying the topic before in 2017 by looking at our brain activity of 20 students, but this new study is the first to include children. The 12 children were all in Grade 7 at a school in Trondheim, where they were used to cursive writing and drawing. The young adults who participated in the study were recruited from the NTNU campus, with the average age of roughly 24. Each person was studied individually for around 45 minutes. To measure participant’s brain activity, researchers used an EEG Geodesic Sensor Net. Although at a glance, it looks like a pebbly hood pulled over the head, it ‘s actually 256 metal sensors, or electrodes, which are placed across the skull to record changes in electrical activity within the brain as it is stimulated by tasks. While participants were hooked up to the electrodes, they performed the tasks of handwriting, typewriting and drawing.
After analyzing the brain activity taken from the experiment, researchers found that the areas of the brain correlated with working memory and encoding new information were more active during handwriting. The physical act of forming handwritten letters aided with the activation of more complex neural connections, according to researchers, but although typing requires physical movement, it didn’t spur the same on-task level of brain activity in that experiment. Researchers noted that the differences between brain activity while handwriting and typewriting were more pronounced for the adults than for the children, but they said the findings still “provide support for handwriting practice, providing beneficial neuronal activation patterns for learning.”
In a presentation Clive Thompson, freelance journalist for the New York Times Magazine and columnist for Wired, reported on a scientific experiment whose object of investigation was precisely this effect: during a speech half of the audience had to take notes by hand, while the other half had to type them through the keyboard. The result was unequivocal. Those who wrote by hand not only understood the presentation better, but also took more precise notes. At this point, however, we can understand that the great advantage of the people who wrote on the keyboard in the classroom was only the time: the director says in fact that those who wrote by hand needed more time to write than the others.
This survey points out that even in places where handwriting seemed essential until recently, such as school or university, over time it has been almost totally replaced.
«A handwritten text contains a reflection. A text written on a computer or a mobile phone, most of the time, fulfils the function of transmitting a message”, says Franco Frabboni, who teaches at the Faculty of Education at the University of Bologna. His conclusions coincide with the studies that Steve Graham, a professor at Vanderbilt University in the United States, has been conducting for years on elementary school children. Last year he hired a group of six-year-old schoolchildren who could only trace a dozen letters a minute by hand and advised them to follow a special program, with a quarter of an hour a day of exercises three times per week. After nine weeks, not only the babies had become much faster. They had also learned to compose much more complex syntactic structures than their peers.
“Today we consider handwriting as a waste of time” underlines Frabboni. «The keyboard is faster and more effective, impossible to deny. But unknowingly it drags our writing towards a more sloppy and mundane form of expression. The best solution for the Italian school would be a double desk: pen and paper on one side, the computer on the other ».
IV sezione B classico