Writing or typing: How do children learn the alphabet better?

Staedtler logoA preliminary study, which is part of a comprehensive, scientific study from ZNL, the Transfer Center for Neurosciences and Learning, has shown that learning the alphabet by hand writing leads to better writing and reading abilities than typing on a computer keyboard.

The full study, supported by STAEDTLER, examines the influence of writing mediums on cognitive performance and neuronal activity patterns.  The research team has recently presented their study proposal and the findings of their preliminary study.

Digital instead of analog: even when learning to write, children are not instantly reaching for pen and paper anymore, but are typing letters into digital devices. Laptops and tablets are moving into more and more primary schools in more and more countries. But what consequences does this trend have? Do children even need to write by hand anymore to learn their ABCs? What effect does learning to write by typing on a computer have on a child’s brain development?

Preliminary study: better writing and reading abilities via writing by hand

The ZNL Transfer Center for Neurosciences and Learning Ulm (ZNL for short) and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Ulm examined, for the first time in a large-scale study and with support of the writing utensil manufacturer STAEDTLER, how writing by hand and typing on a keyboard affect the reading and writing abilities of children. In this way, STAEDTLER is supporting the scientific examination of the discussion about the development of hand writing. Prof. Dr. Markus Kiefer from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Ulm reported the preliminary results of a study at a press conference held recently in the Schulmuseum [Musuem of Education] of the Industriekultur Museum [Museum of Industrial Heritage] in Nuremburg. It was shown that learning the ABCs by hand writing leads to better writing and reading abilities than typing on a computer keyboard. “This new large-scale study should provide social and political decision-makers with trusted findings in regards to this subject” said Kiefer.

Measuring brain activity

The new study will be carried out over three years. The children’s electical brain activity is measured before and after learning the ABCs in order to determine the influence of the writing medium on the brain’s development. “In order to get valid results, a sufficient number of children must be examined under real conditions. It is not enough if we let a few of the children examined learn shapes similar to letters while in a laboratory setting”, says study leader Dr. Katrin Hille from the ZNL Transfer Center for Neurosciences and Learning. The first meaningful results of the study are expected after about 25 months.

“Digitalization has already arrived in schools and children’s rooms. As a manufacturer of writing instruments, it is naturally very interesting to us how writing with an writing instrument compared to typing with a device affects the writing and reading abilities of children. Through the ZNL, we hope to achieve meaningful results that can provide a basis for future business decisions,” says Axel Marx, managing director of STAEDLER.

Posted on 20th November 2015 by Vanessa Fortnam