Research and study methods have undergone tremendous change over the past few decades. After relying on resources like hard-copy encyclopedias and tools like notebooks, pencils, and typewriters, the advent of computers and the internet completely changed how students learn and work.
But, despite classrooms now being equipped with Smart Boards and most students learning to type in grade school, a recent study revealed that older learning methods actually have a larger impact on memory.
More specifically, a research team in Norway found that writing by hand instead of typing on a keyboard can actually boost both learning and memory.
The study involved 36 university students who were tasked with either handwriting or typing words shown on a screen. Then, the researchers used 256 sensors to monitor brain activity and found that handwriting notably improved the connections between various brain regions, a phenomenon not observed during typing.
“We show that when writing by hand, brain connectivity patterns are far more elaborate than when typewriting on a keyboard,” said Audrey van der Meer, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
“Such widespread brain connectivity is known to be crucial for memory formation and for encoding new information and, therefore, is beneficial for learning.”
In the study, participants wrote in cursive on a touchscreen using a digital pen and typed using a single finger on a keyboard. The research team employed a high-density EEG, a specialized cap fitted with 256 sensors, to track the brain’s electrical activity.
This cap was worn by the participants, who had their brain activity recorded for five-second intervals each time they were instructed to write or type.
The researchers suggest that the process of meticulously crafting letters by hand offers more cognitive stimulation than the repetitive action of pressing keys with the same finger. Additionally, they pointed out that although digital pens were used for writing in the study, the outcomes would likely be comparable if the participants had used an ink pen and paper.