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In a digital age, should your child be bothering about handwriting skills?

In a digital generation, the decision to allow your children go techy or not, apparently does not follow a democratic process; the Covid – 19 lockdown made sure of that by thrusting children worldwide and educational institutions into a virtual learning space. You either moved or your child got left behind.

Prior to Covid, the arguments were for or against letting children access screen time and to what extent. Fast forward to the new normal, we started getting comfortable having discussions about handwriting instructions; to be or not to be? Why should our children spend so much time going through the drills of copy and transcribing when in the real world they may never need that skill if we all go digital?

I recall in one of the PTF meetings at my children’s school, I and the other parents didn’t just understand why the school would require students to copy notes from the portal after classes. For a lot of parents, let them just read and listen in class – FULL STOP! I had my own opinion though from something I thought at that time to be peculiar to me; I am better able to commit to memory what I pen down through handwriting, its never worked with my digital notes! But atlas, it appears this outcome is not copyrighted to some "particular set of people" (LOL).

A recent research at the John Hopkins University reveals that when we learn a new skill through the process of writing it down, we master the skill faster and the learning is better retained. In the study, 42 participants who had no prior knowledge of Arabic letters, where trained through video presentations to write the Arabic alphabets. The groups were split into 3 groups; writers, typers and watchers. All participants were shown a video of the letters being written, heard the sound and name of each alphabet. The watchers were required to look at the letter and identify it from a set of letters in another presentation, the typers were required to type the letter on a keyboard while the writers were to copy the alphabet with pen on paper. At the end, all participants learnt to identify and write the letters but, the writers were said to achieve mastery faster. Next, was for each participant to apply their new knowledge of the Arabic letters to writing words (knowledge transfer test). As with the first test, the writers had better proficiency in applying this learnt skill.

According to the researchers Brenda Rapp and Robert Wiley, handwriting reinforces the visual and aural learning pathways by providing a perceptual-motor experience that unifies what is being learned about the letters.


  • Beyond listening and participating in class discussions, it might be more helpful for children to copy parts of their notes using traditional methods of pen to paper rather than just downloading e-books and e-notes.

  • During personal study time, your child’s may learn faster and achieve better recall of what they study if they take down written notes as summaries of what they learnt. As the researchers mentioned, the perceptual-motor feedback to the brain provides stronger reinforcement which in my view may not be achieved when they simply highlight texts.

So, as we go through all our summer enhancement/enrichment programs, let technology (tabs, laptop and iPad) give good old traditional handwriting some intermittent hugs for a better learning experience. Let your child copy some notes as they study.


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