Paper vs. screens: handwriting

Briefly noted.

In the latest NewScientist (for11/1/14), a piece by Tiffany O’Callaghan, “Goodbye, paper: What we miss when we read on screen”, subtitled “Digital technology is transforming the way we read and write. Is it changing our minds too – and if so, for better or worse?”. A report on reading and writing on paper vs. on-screen. O’Callaghan observes that, for the most part, there’s been plenty of speculation, but very little conclusive research. We don’t really know much. One notable exception, in a box on the work of neuroscientist Karin James of Indiana Univ.:

Writing freehand, then, seems to be an important part of learning to read – but does the type of handwriting make a difference? Some schools have stopped teaching cursive or joined-up writing. In the US, for instance, it is not part of the national curriculum adopted by 46 states, though it has been reinstated by some states in response to a public outcry. When it comes to learning to read, though, James has found that writing in cursive doesn’t seem to add anything to the mix. “It seems like it’s any kind of creation of a letter by hand that makes the difference,” she says.

That is, the physical action of writing, in whatever style, facilitates learning to read.

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