The Lost Art of Handwriting in a Digital Age

Go to any lecture theatre in any university across the country and you’ll be greeted to a cacophonous buzz similar to a chorus of cicadas on a summer evening. It is, in fact a chorus of keyboard-tapping students furiously taking notes.

All but gone are the days when one might ask for a pen to make handwritten notes, now that the Cloud stoically guards the memos and musings from lectures, seminars and tutorials. Which seems contradictory, given research shows that those who make handwritten notes more frequently out-perform their keyboard-tapping counterparts.

Handwriting is not so much an art as a skill that engages many of the structures and circuits of the brain. It is of cognitive importance in developing working memory and fine motor skills. Studies have found that handwriting speed has direct positive correlation on selective attention, and therefore the practice of handwriting has far greater implications for the developing brain than a sense of surprise at getting off a thank you letter in time.

The importance of handwriting in a digital cannot be underestimated. Both the act of, the style and skill of writing by hand is depleting in frequency as the interaction with technology in schools increases. The nature of Artificial Intelligence will undoubtedly have an impact on the way that children’s education is shaped but we must continue to be mindful of the development of fine-motor skills and visual-motor performance that are honed as the child learns to hold a pencil, and create meaningful symbols with these tools etc. This is incomparable to the padding of the index finger on a screen, which has already been found to rewire basic cognitive patterns.

Perhaps one of the most important relationships to stem from handwriting is between creativity and deep learning. One must hold information in working memory for seconds longer than when writing - these seconds allow the brain to recount the information and begin to process greater memories. The advent of autocorrect has developed a reflexive laziness in the arena of spelling; it is of no help to a child to learn spellings through click-corrections. Within the context of school entrance exams, I wonder how comfortable children really are when it comes to hand-written tests?

To conclude, handwriting is as important a functional tool and basic skill, as it is an imperative to the foundational development of the human brain. Writing by hand enhances individual creativity, strengthens memory and allows the development of our fine-motor skills essential to the development of our brain.

Olivia Buckland,

Oppidan Education Partnership & Schools Manager