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To write or type? That is the question.

Updated: Nov 23, 2018

Chrome books are great for a lot of kids: no doubt about it. For some, who have struggled with pencils, having a keyboard has simply opened up written language. It's great to see the motivation that tablets and laptops can provide for reluctant writers. So why am I still a bit cautious about them?

Well, it all comes down to learning in the end. What is at issue here? Two things spring to mind: fine motor skills and retention of learning.

One reason that all students need to be able to pick up a pencil and write (apart from as a post-apocalyptic back-up strategy) is that using a pencil encourages the development of fine motor skills which are essential for performing everyday tasks. By picking up a pencil a child is practising not only their hand-eye coordination, but hand division and object manipulation.

Another perhaps more important factor is that when we write by hand we tend to remember things better. How come? Writing is slower after all. Research with tertiary students found that those who wrote their notes manually were better able to remember the key points and themes of the lecture. Because writing by hand is slower you have to synthesise and summarise as you go. The result of all that is that there is significant improvement in the ability to recall. Even though people who type their notes generally write mor than those who write by hand.

Students who write by hand engage with their thinking and the content, and their reading skills and writing expression improve as a result of this practice.

Chrome books and their descendants are going to be with us in the future but there are still strong arguments for persisting with handwriting. Hang on to those pencils! 

Jeremy Bloomfield