There’s a big underlying debate in education on the importance of handwriting. Some educators feel teaching handwriting, especially cursive, is passé, a skill only to be focused on in a student’s first years of elementary school and abandoned for keyboard learning in later years. Research suggests that would be a mistake, as there seems to be a strong connection between the act of physically writing by hand and the ability to transmit our thoughts into words on the page effectively—whether typing or writing. Physical writing has also been linked to better executive functioning skills, in particular the ability to plan ahead.
At Green Ivy, we work with students who have been diagnosed with dysgraphia, a learning disability that makes it difficult to write by hand and can also also affect a student’s ability coherently organize his or her thoughts. Sometimes students have simply used their keyboards far more than pens or pencils, and the underlying issue is one of motor skill development. In these cases, we’ve seen many students benefit greatly by practicing the act of writing, whether that be taking notes by hand or recording homework and activities in a paper planner consistently. (We should note that this is not always the case, and using a keyboard has been an effective intervention for many students with dysgraphia).
Overall, Green Ivy’s curriculum emphasizes taking notes by hand or annotating a text, along with creating physical flashcards for memorization. All of these methods have been shown to help students retain information more effectively and we’ve personally seen both comprehension and grades increase as a result of using them. There have also been studies that show learning how to write longhand benefits the brain and facilitates a rich and important type of learning.
As with many aspects of technology and education, often times the shiny and the new are so alluring we forget what has worked well in the past. Our work is all about creating individualized solutions for students, and empowering them to learn whatever way is best for them.