When we took our daughter to law school last summer, we made a pilgrimmage to an Apple Store to purchase a new Macbook to replace her five-year old Powerbook. Surely many of you have made similar pilgrimmages on behalf of your own children.
During one of our conversations last fall I asked our daughter if she were using the laptop to take notes in class. No, she was not. She preferred to take notes by hand and transcribe them to the computer later. Perhaps she was also being somewhat smug by not joining all the students who used their computers during lectures to checkout Facebook pages, read e-mail, or tweet their opinion on the latest trends. A recent Doonesbury touched on this aspect of life in the contemporary college lecture hall.
When the fall semester was ending, I asked our daughter if she could use her computer for her final exams. Yes, she could. You had to install software from the college that blocked access to the Internet and did not allow the student to write outside the alloted time. However, our daughter chose to handwrite her exams. Only two students chose to handwrite, and they met in a room of their own. Our daughter acknowledged that handwriting was slower than typing, but thought it gave her time to better formulate her ideas. With only two students in the room, it was a quiet location for thinking.
Today, I read a news item about a paper in the Advances of Haptics: "Digitizing literacy: reflections on the haptics of writing". The authors, Anne Mangen and Jean-Luc Velay, look at the relationship between how we write with cognitive development. They are primarily interested in handwriting versus word processing. The study draws on evolutionary biology, biopsychology, and neuroscience to explore how handwriting – the manual formation of letters in the process of writing – affects our reading which thereby influences our whole process of learning.
My simplified synopsis of the two modalities is that handwriting is a unimanual activity with a focus on a single physical point - where the pen or pencils meets the paper. Word processing is a bimanual activity that has two separated spaces: the keyboard and the display. Plus the writer does not form the letters in word processing, but does in handwriting.
Even if you do not have a child leaving their newest laptop at home during lectures and exams, you might enjoy reading this article.
0 comments - Posted by Steve Rauch at 11:50 AM - Categories: