Let’s hear it for handwriting. If yours is as difficult to decipher as mine this is not a cheer you’ll take up. However, various studies show that substituting a pen in hand for the computer keyboard is good for our brains. Wendy Bounds, Wall Street Journal, citing research done at Indiana University, reports that “Writing by hand engages the brain in learning.” And the benefits may extend well past the years when children are just learning to make letter shapes. Bounds says that some physicians are suggesting that Baby Boomers, who wish to keep their brains sharp, should consider slipping away from the computer from time to time and reverting to pen and paper.
Bounds also reports that an educational psychologist from the University of Washington learned from her study that “in grades two, four and six children wrote more words, faster and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.”
For adults, it’s not to late to return to the old-fashioned way of writing. Another scientist at Duke University said, “As more people lose writing skills and migrate to the computer, retraining people in handwriting skills could be a useful cognitive exercise.”
I took these reports to heart today and drafted this blog by hand. I enjoyed writing this way, but later when I tried to read my notes I realized that when I go back to add something, I insert tiny words into tiny margins that look like smudges several hours later.
One scientist quoted suggested several “apps” appropriate for different age groups that could help handwriting, though improving mine may be an impossible task since note-taking in college turned it from mildly unrecognizable to indistinguishable from alphabet soup. I decided, however, to give the WritePad app a try, since it allows you to “take notes in your own handwriting” and “improves overall handwriting recognition quality.” I hope this doesn’t mean that instead of improving handwriting, my iPad learns to recognize the unintelligible scrawl it’s seeing on the screen.