April 20, 2015
April 20, 2015 Robert Brindley


Finland, a noted vanguard in the field of education, is dispensing with paper and ink in favor of the keyboard; by next year cursive handwriting will no longer be taught in Finnish elementary schools and typewriting skills will take ascendancy. Learning joined-up, cursive writing, in the early days with a scratch-pen and ink-well, then the fountain pen, was a rite of passage for elementary school students and a headache for those who had to clean ink-stained shirts, skirts and ties. The Common Core in the U.S. no longer requires handwriting to be part of the curriculum, although many states are fighting a rearguard action to keep cursive writing in their schools. The move from pen to keyboard is more than just underway, it has arrived. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but now it seems that the keyboard has replaced the pen. However, the number of tablets and ‘apps’ that focus on handwriting on your devices indicates that the world of technology is keeping its options open. A smart move, I would suggest, as recent research is suggesting that if you want your child to do better at Mathematics or in reading, get them to write cursively.

Research is now showing that handwriting is a foundational skill that influences student’s reading, writing, language use, and critical thinking (Saperstein Associates 2012). When practicing handwriting, neural activity is far more enhanced (Bounds 2010) and a study funded by the Children’s Trust (Dinehart and Manfra, 2013) found that fine motor writing skills are quickly becoming recognized as an important skill associated with later academic success. More strikingly, research cited in Scientific American, stated that students at university who used longhand to take notes remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the material taught than their peers who used a laptop. To quote from this article:

In each study, however, those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who took notes with their laptops… Writing by hand is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture.  Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.  Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention.


So at AISB, like in the technology industry, we are keeping our options open. Handwriting will be taught in Elementary School along with keyboard skills, but, students will also be taught to understand that handwriting is an art form needing patience and attention to detail. It must be legible, organized and fluent, and, perish the thought, neat! So, to encourage a more disciplined approach, teachers will be placing more emphasis, for both elementary and secondary school students, on handwriting and organizational skills to ensure a more thorough and consistent approach to note-taking, to improve the quality of the learning process.

Comments (5)

  1. Anca radu

    As long as the IB exams are still on paper, handwriting is very important for our school. At the biginning of school year we buy a lot of notebooks, but unfortunately, during the year, these notebooks are not used. So, in my opinion, please verify how much our children use these notebooks and then, if you consider that is necessary, change the way our theachers and children approach this issue. Thank you for sharing your opinion. Please, tell us also your opinion about textbooks and if our children will have textbooks for the next year.

  2. Meda Calina

    I am worried because teachers in middle school are assigning more and more homework that has to be typed and not handwritten.Moreover the majority of Math homework is on Khan academy online. So it means that not even in Math the kids are writing on the notebook. This is a dangerous approach because all the IB exams are handwritten and kids will have big difficulties accomplishing these exams without being used to write. i had this experience with my son that graduated 2 years ago and the most difficult exam for him was Economics where he had to write with his hands more than 10 pages. This was absolutely unusual for him and he struggled with this.Please take a minute to analyse this and please try to assign more work written by hand to better prepare the kids for the IB.

    • AISB Admin

      We have been undertaking a complete review, whole school, on hand-writing and our expectations as to what is being completed by students in their notebooks – there, again, will be changes next year. More to follow
      Robert Brindley

    • Alex Calcan

      I full agree with you Meda. I, as an AISB alumni, strongly believe that AISB has fallen short in regards to handwriting. It is the duty of teachers, at an early age, to push for neat handwriting. This never happened in my 13 years at AISB and when real life came, I found myself in a situation where I would prefer asking someone else to fill in a form rather that doing it myself then explaining my superb handwriting!

  3. As a lover of calligraphy which I do for relaxation, the beauty and art of handwriting helps creativity; and as you mention, discipline. As a teacher, I also recognize the value of a keyboard. Achieving balance in the tension is what I strive for.

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