Does writing by hand matter in digital age?

Andrea Gissdal
Filed on November 8, 2020

Writing by hand makes kids smarter, according to a new study. Does that spell trouble for our Covid-19-triggered focus on digital tools and online learning?

It doesn’t have to, one could argue, as long as schools keep enforcing the writing-by-hand part of the learning process. Young children all love pushing buttons, from which it is just a small step to typing on a keyboard. But bypassing handwriting would have serious sideeffects.

Writing by hand creates much more activity in the sensorimotor parts of the brain, researchers found in a study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology published by Science Daily. This means writing by hand helps both children and adults learn more and remember better.

That is why writing things down makes it easier to remember, whether it is prepping for exams, or jotting things down for your shopping list.

“The use of pen and paper gives the brain more ‘hooks’ to hang your memories on. A lot of senses are activated by pressing the pen on paper, seeing the letters you write and hearing the sound you make while writing. These experiences create contact between different parts of the brain and open the brain up for learning,” said Professor Audrey Van der Meer, who is behind the study.

The science supports writing by hand, but there are other reasons to reach out for your pen. In face-to-face meetings, typing on a laptop creates a barrier between you and others. It gets in the way of a genuine connection.

And while we have more channels available to us than ever to reach people — from text messages and emails to Instagram and TikTok — nothing makes you feel as special and as connected to the sender as a handwritten letter.

When was the last time you received a letter? Not an email; a letter where someone has put pen to paper specifically with the intention to share something they thought you would like to know.

Now imagine if such a letter arrived for you today. How would it make you feel? Just the fact that it was written is special, without even considering the content. Imagine that feeling, and then imagine the face of a loved one opening a letter you have written to them. What would your letter say?

Recognising both the educational and the emotional value of letters and writing by hand, the Emirates Literature Foundation launched a new competition that is elevating penmanship to its rightful place as a treasured art form. Open to children and adults alike, the Montegrappa Letter Writing Competition aims to inspire great penmanship as well as well-crafted messages.

Our lives are more digital than ever before. As the UK heads into another lockdown, and cases spiking in many places around the world, many of us are either forced to or choose to limit social interaction to faces on a screen. Instead of clicking like on a social media post, consider putting pen to paper. Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a surge in baking, DIY home improvements, and gardening. Why not take this opportunity to work on dotting the i's and crossing the t's, and rediscovering the joys of writing by hand.

Gissdal heads communication at Emirates Airline Festival of Literature





 
 
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