Isaac Grinsdale

The Importance of Writing by Hand in the Digital Age.

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The digital revolution is now in full swing.  Every aspect of modern life is dominated by our smart phones, laptops and other digital devices.  With them comes powerful software tools, such as Microsoft Office and Grammarly that can correct our spelling and grammar in an instant.  

Is it any surprise then, that the simple act of putting pen to paper, is becoming less and less common?  And, if we’re becoming more accustomed to simply typing away, is it doing us any good?

At TOAD® we’ve been doing a bit a research, and it turns out the skill (and act) of handwriting is still extremely important for our cognitive learning.

How so? Well...

  • Handwriting activates important parts of the brain to a greater extent than typing. 
  • Handwriting contributes to reading fluency.  
  • Writing by hand increases the likelihood of succeeding in other subjects.

 Is it really that important? Well, probably… yes.



Complex vs Liner Tasks.

The Socratic method is still yielding interesting results for us in the 21st century. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it’s basically the birth of the scientific method). And applying this to handwriting reveals some real insights for us today.

Studies have shown that writing something by hand and typing on a computer utilize different cognitive processes. 

Edouard Gentaz, a Professor of developmental psychology in Geneva states that...

‘Handwriting is a complex task which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement, and directing movement by thought’.

So while handwriting is a complex task, requiring a very precise motor exercise to take place, typing, on the other hand, is a linear one: It requires the exact same function to be made by the user for each and every letter.  

That’s the key point:  When you type you’re just repeating a single cognitive motor process over and over.

Claire Bustarret, from the Pairs Maurice Halbwachs research center, elaborates on the limiting aspects of the digital platform.

‘Word-processing is a normative, standardised tool. Obviously, you can change the page layout and switch fonts, but you cannot invent a form not foreseen by the software. Paper allows much greater graphic freedom: you can write on either side, keep to set margins or not, superimpose lines or distort them. There is nothing to make you follow a set pattern. It has three dimensions too, so it can be folded, cut out, stapled or glued.’



Writing by hand helps children develop their literacy and creative skills. 


A study conducted by Indiana University showed that handwriting activated 3 different areas of the brain.  These 3 areas (the inferior frontal gyrus, the left fusiform gyrus, posterior parietal cortex for you science geeks) are actually crucial for literacy.

In other words, handwriting will actually improve a child’s ability to gain their literacy skills.


Other studies that have compared performance by A/B testing 2 groups of children who were asked to write a composition, one group by hand, and the other using a computer. 

The results showed a greater level of creativity was demonstrated in the group writing by hand.  They used more original words and generally more creativity in their storytelling narratives. 


So let’s celebrate paper and get out our notebooks more often (no, not the digital type). 

Making notes by hand will help you learn faster, think more clearly and help you better prepare for your next exam.  

Isn't it a wonder we’ve let this precious skill dwindle in the digital age? 


So we’ve told you what we think.  Let us know what you think. 


Oh, Don't forget you can help keep your self organised with a TOAD academic diary here. below!




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