Role and efficacy of hand "scribing" in learning
May 20, 2012 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Is there any research either supporting or negating the importance of manual symbol making in learning? I'm thinking that manual symbol making, going back to diagrams in the earth, must be a well evolved capability, and that when we write something down all sorts of neural pathways are employed, and that those pathways and associations facilitate learning.

The ruled notebook filled with lecture notes and textbook summaries have long been a staple of high school and college. Somehow, copying stuff down helped make it stick. And, even if the keyboard is ok for taking notes, it's hard to imagine learning math or physics without working through problems with pencil and paper.

Is it possible that the transition to computer based learning will be self defeating, unless such methods are specifically designed to replicate hand based symbol making? I am hoping that my curmudgeonly predisposition on this matter is incorrect.

Does anyone know of any objective research that specifically addresses this question, preferably with outcome based controlled experiments?

posted by Kevin S to Education (2 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How Handwriting Trains the Brain
Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.
Handwriting is Beneficial to Children's Cognitive Development
There have been very few studies that address the various modalities of writing, such as the difference between writing with a pen on paper and a keyboard and a mouse. This review attempted to differentiate between handwriting and keyboard writing and their different implications on children’s learning; in addition the researchers looked at adult reading and writing behavior and experiences. Results from analysis of previous literature on various writing methods and their implications showed that there is a significant difference between handwriting and the use of a mechanized device. Neuroscientists have noted that the shift from handwriting to mechanized or technical writing has serious implications on cognition and skill development.
posted by alms at 2:20 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: alms, thanks - those are helpful links, providing a good starting point for further google searching. Prof James in the wsj article has lots of hits.
posted by Kevin S at 5:09 PM on May 20, 2012

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