Engage - Claremont Lincoln University

Handwriting: Why the Old Fashioned May Be the New Fashion

This student post was written by M.A. Ethical Leadership alumna, Jessica Mize.
Please see author bio at the end of post.


Do you remember learning cursive and having proper penmanship? How about learning where to place your fingers on a keyboard?

If you do, you are part of the early technology integration generation.

See, I remember those lined sheets of paper used for accurate location of every letter stroke. I also recall learning to use the key board to navigate the Oregon Trail. I will never forget my computer teacher deducting points for using the wrong finger to backspace. And I will always celebrate having one of the highest WPM averages in my sophomore typing class.

I thought it was so neat to receive my own laptop as a freshman at Seton Hall University in 2003. My WPM average skyrocketed as I used the infamous AOL instant messenger to chat away.

Yet, I never caught on to taking notes via personal device. I feel that now even, traditional typing is being replaced by “thumb typing.”

As an educator I see students struggle to type in a proper way, but defer to typing with one finger.

Keyboard typing and thumb typing may both be “a thing of the past.”

A new study reveals traditional, handwritten note taking is best.

The paradigm is that traditional note taking is old fashioned. There are pro’s and con’s when it comes to either.

One argument for typing is that it is much easier and more efficient.

Yet, this study proves that, even though typing can allow the copying of more information, it does not replace the level of comprehension and application gained through handwriting notes.

Following are a few key points from the study:

  • When using a personal devices to take notes, a greater possibility of distraction, such as clicking over to Facebook, exists.
  • People tend to want to type verbatim versus having to be selective when handwriting. The extra time and selection it takes to handwrite provides more processing time.
  • Students from the study that typed took significantly more notes than those that wrote by hand. When tested for information recall, both the hand writers and the typers remembered facts equally well.
  • The key point of difference came when students were asked “conceptual-application” questions. Students that hand-wrote their notes did considerably better than those that typed.
  • Later studies confirmed that people that take notes by hand process and apply information better.
  • Reviewing handwritten notes, even though they contain less words than typed notes, is more beneficial than reading over typed notes.

So, what should we as leaders do with this information?

My favorite way to help shape others is through modeling.

I take it a step further and explain what I am modeling. I find that the students I work with are always fascinated to hear about information that directly affects them.

I have always taken notes by hand, but now I have begun to speak to why this is important and helpful.

Do I think that personal devices will fall to the wayside because of this research?

No, but I do think we could use tablet technology to encourage hand scribed notes.

Now, over to you.

What about you? How can you use these findings to help spread the word?

What are other ways you think this information can be applied?  Will this research change the way you take notes?

Tell us in the comments!


About the Author

Jessica MizeJessica Mize is a recent graduate of Claremont Lincoln University’s Ethical Leadership Program. She works as the Director of the Academic Center for Excellence at the Brook Hill School. Brook Hill is a Christian, college prep, international boarding school with both day and boarding students representing over 20 countries. As the Director of the Academic Center for Excellence, Jessica uses and applies many elements of her Ethical Leadership degree. Jessica dialogues and collaborates with students and co-workers to meet the changing needs of students as well as creating proactive learning opportunities that allow students to lead in their learning. 

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We invite featured student contributors to write a submission for Engage. Learn about the featured student contributor at the end of each individual blog post.

Want to be a student contributor for Engage? We and our readers would love to read your submissions on driving positive social change. Contact us at info@claremontlincoln.edu.

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