Thumyat Noe ’23
Handwriting has always been an important mode of writing, but recently type-writing on digital devices is becoming more common than handwriting. Nowadays, children are able to write for the first time by typing on a digital device before they learn how to handwrite. Some elementary schools have implemented initial literacy training using digital devices to facilitate literacy skills in students. As literacy training based on typewriting eliminates the need for developed sensory-motor skills, schools believe that this method benefits children with sensory-motor deficits who are unable to learn how to write through handwriting. Several studies have supported this belief; for example, in one study, intellectually disabled teenage males developed more accurate writing after learning with typing than after handwriting training. However, some studies are unable to replicate these results. Furthermore, it is important to note that handwriting may be more beneficial for a child’s development, as it provides a meaningful sensory-motor experience that could potentially facilitate better learning. The current study by researchers from Ulm University in Germany examines the influence of the writing tool on the acquisition of literacy skills at the letter and word level in a large sample of kindergarten children.
After informed consent from parents was obtained, 147 kindergarten children were divided into three groups: pencil, stylus, and keyboard. There were a total of 28 training sessions in which the children learned how to write, read, and recognize words with their assigned writing tools. The children’s literacy and visuo-spatial skills were also assessed before and after the training sessions to compare any measurable improvements between the groups. Researchers hypothesized that since handwriting requires close attention to configuration of letters, children in the pencil group would show higher improvements in the post-assessments. The results demonstrated that children in the pencil group showed superior performance in letter recognition compared to children in the keyboard and stylus groups . However, children in the keyboard group showed higher improvements in writing and reading than children in the pencil and stylus groups. Handwriting training with pencil and handwriting training with stylus on a touchscreen did not yield significant differences in reading and writing performances. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that both handwriting with pencil and typing have specific advantages.
Researchers have recommended schools to avoid using a stylus with a tablet in literacy training as writing on the slippery surface of a tablet with a stylus imposes high demand on motor skills which could produce poorly written letters and lead to a decline in motor and visual memory traces. However, future studies could observe the effects of these writing tools on general cognitive development for an extended period of time. As learning tools become more technologically advanced, their efficiency should be examined closely to ensure optimal learning experience for all students.
 Source(s):C. Mayer et al., Literacy Training of Kindergarten Children With Pencil, Keyboard or Tablet Stylus: The Influence of the Writing Tool on Reading and Writing Performance at the Letter and Word Level. Frontiers in Psychology 10, 1-17 (2020). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03054.
 Image retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/photos/computer-laptop-technology-keyboard-768608/