As we've shifted from writing by hand to typing, so has our nation's education curriculum. A new report points out that Common Core only requires the teaching of handwriting in kindergarten and first grade, then the focus shifts to the keyboard.

But evidence suggests a link between handwriting and broader educational development. Research shows that children who write freehand exhibit increased activities in areas of the brain associated with reading and writing.


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Indiana University psychologist Karin James led a study in 2012 on handwriting. Read background via the New York Times:

Children who had not yet learned to read and write were presented with a letter or a shape on an index card and asked to reproduce it in one of three ways: trace the image on a page with a dotted outline, draw it on a blank white sheet, or type it on a computer. They were then placed in a brain scanner and shown the image again.

The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex.

By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. The activation was significantly weaker.

James talked to Jenna Lee this morning about the study.

"We found early on, kind of surprisingly, that parts of the brain that we weren't necessarily expecting were being recruited when very young children that couldn't read yet were looking at letters. And this led up to the hypothesis that perhaps handwriting has a significant impact on how children learn to look at letters and recognize letters of the alphabet," she explained. 

Jenna then asked how increased use of iPads and computers is affecting the way kids learn.

James said she does not believe the increased use of technology is doing damage, but thinks handwriting is important for early cognitive development.

Find out more about this in the video above, and let us know what you think: should more emphasis be placed on handwriting?


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