There’s a glimmer of hope if you’re looking for last-ditch strategies to save your child from the halls of stupidity. A study published this week in the journal Frontiers of Psychology found that good ol’ cursive handwriting seems better at promoting learning than typing, and if we want to pump smarter kids out of our classrooms, we should probably be shoving pencils and pens into their hands.
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The study, first spotted by the Register, measured 36 students’ brains as they wrote words by hand and typed them out on a keyboard. When the students wrote by hand, the patterns of electrical connectivity were far more complex in areas of the brain that are crucial for forming memories and encoding new information. To put that in simpler terms—in case you haven’t held a pen in a while—handwriting seems better for learning.
“As increased connectivity in the brain was observed only when writing by hand and not when simply pressing keys on the keyboard, our findings can be taken as evidence that handwriting promotes learning,” the researchers wrote in the study. “We urge that children, from an early age, must be exposed to handwriting activities in school to establish the neuronal connectivity patterns that provide the brain with optimal conditions for learning.”
That’s good news for students in California, where a new law will force reinstate the torture of mandatory cursive lessons for kids in grades one to six starting this year. Penmanship is a dying art, but according to the study, it’s the very process of moving your delicate fingers across the page to write in cursive that gives you the brain boost.
“Interestingly, the increased connectivity between the various brain regions seems to be linked to the specific sensorimotor processes that are so typical in handwriting,” the study reads.
The scientists stuck a bunch of sensors on students’ heads to measure electrical activity in their brains over the course of 30 trials. Words appeared at random, and the participants were told to either write the words in cursive using a special pen on a digital screen, or type them out using the index finger on their right hands. To limit the effects of head and eye movements, the words didn’t show up on the screen as they typed. The results were conclusive: brain connectivity patterns were more elaborate when students wielded the pen.
Like so much psychology research, this study used college students rather than children, but the scientists said their findings have major implications for young kids, dumb or otherwise.
Before all the keyboard warriors jump into the comments to defend our beloved phones and computers, the researchers were careful to note it’s still important to keep kids up to date with the latest tech.
“Although it is vital to maintain handwriting practice at school, it is also important to keep up with continuously developing technological advances,” the researchers said. “Therefore, both teachers and students should be aware of which practice has the best learning effect in what context, for example, when taking lecture notes or when writing an essay.”