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The Neuroscience of Handwriting and Learning

In today’s tech-crazy world, most of us are more comfortable taking notes on an electronic device than jotting something down by hand, even if our typing skills leave something to be desired. I am very lucky that my mom insisted that I take a typing class, “as a backup.” This turned out to be the greatest career advice I ever received. My ability to “keyboard,” as we call it today, has made me much more productive and efficient in every single job I have held since High School.

However, there are places where I don’t want to see anyone typing. As a learning consultant, I often attend business meetings where nearly everyone is typing away and looking at their screens. When I give one of my talks on the science of learning, I also know that I’m competing with attendee screens for attention. In my opinion, staring at a screen when a live human being is right in front of you is just plain rude, even if you are in some way “engaging” with that person via the screen. It is also way too tempting to just take a quick peak at Instagram or post a little tweet while you are supposed to be in a conversation, learning from your professor or solving world hunger. As I catch myself saying these things, I sometimes wonder if I sound a bit like a little old lady, complaining about “these kids today.”

Thankfully, the science of learning is on my side in this debate. There is a growing body of evidence that taking notes by hand enhances learning because it engages more of the brain. This handy infographic from pens.com collects multiple studies and presents the case for cursive in visual form. The company sells pens, so they obviously have a vested interest in putting this information out to the world. They have researched their position well though, and the way they have presented it is a great example of a well-designed Infographic.

So, if you want to remember something, don’t throw out that beautiful pen your aunt gave you for graduating High School. You can use it the rest of your life. It’s one of the most effective pieces of learning technology ever invented.

Margie Meacham

4 Comments

  1. H. Tailor on June 12, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    So do people write by pen without looking at their paper? And if the ink runs out, will they replenish it without looking at it?

    • lkirk2015 on June 14, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      I guess being rude isn’t limited to screen time.

  2. lkirk2015 on June 14, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for the great article Margie. I have been saying this for years based on my own observation of human nature. We color as children, it both stimulates and soothes us. We can see just how soothing it is with the recent surge in “adult’ coloring books. Of course, we all learn differently but it’s nice to know the science backs up my hunch after all these years of educating others.

  3. DavidTheEntertainer on September 2, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    This is really interesting!

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