The Pen Is Mightier

It may seem time saving to be using a computer versus hand printing your notes, it may seem like you can get more done and can better multi-task. All of these things are true; however, are we losing something by saving time and saving ink and paper?

It appears that we are. “From Pencils to Pixels” reminded me of an article I found when trying to explain why I journal rather than blog my feelings.

In a Neuroscience article published by the Guardian in December of 2014, it appears that there is scientific evidence to suggest that cognitively, writing by hand is much more meaningful. So why then, is hand writing disappearing from the educational space and the work place?

Ease. Rather obviously, as soon as typing became somewhat popular (even back when the only other options were typewriters), penmanship flew out the window. Children in schools no longer learn how to write in cursive. Which is a shame, if I say so. I mentioned this to my roommate, and she just pulled a look of disbelief and said, “How are they going to sign anything?” Great question. I loved, and still love to, write in cursive. My penmanship is actually a crafty mix between print and cursive. It’s not just cursive that’s gone though. It’s regular print writing.

Unlike riding a bike, penmanship only maintains itself with practice and with the ease of the keyboard, we’re practicing our skills with a pencil less and less. The way we form our characters remains the same; that never changes. The legibility of those letters and words, though, is a real problem. Sure, we still write post-it notes, and to-do lists, but the amount of large-scale writing we do by hand has flown the coup and has resulted in some rather sloppy appearing notes and lists.

Getting back to the cognitive part, handwriting is a result of a singular motion of our human body. Typing is not. I would know. I’m typing this right now. It takes years to learn how to master writing with a pencil. Although it was a bit dodgy at first, my ability to type was mastered in much less time.

Writing on paper encourages free-form. You can write without having to worry about set margins, or copying and pasting. It comes down to this, though: Neuroscientist think that giving up handwriting will affect how we learn to read in the future. Drawing each letter rather than pressing in on a keyboard drastically improves recognition.

While the United States is pulling more towards this technological side, unafraid of the possible neurological changes caused when teaching children on computers rather than with pencils and paper, France has gone the opposite direction. France has resorted to requiring the teaching of cursive writing upon entry to primary school, at only age six.

Personally, I agree with France. As a writer, I love the ease of a keyboard, and the ability to type my thoughts almost as quickly as I think of them, or just before they fly away, but I still prefer keeping a pen and paper with me at all times. When traveling I keep a proper journal, and I even keep a daily journal, which helps relieve my stress better than if I typed my journal. I love technology. I just don’t always agree with it.


About Olivia Henley

Marine Sciences
This entry was posted in Week 3 blog post. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Pen Is Mightier

  1. Daniel White says:

    I like how you talk about what they’re teaching in schools these. Obviously college is very computer-centric, but what about elementary and middle schools where learning is so vital and impressionable at that young age?

    Two of my younger brothers are in middle school currently, and all the students received school-issued Chrome books this year to do all of their homework on and submit all of their assignments on. They rarely have assignments that need to be completed with pencil and paper, and it makes me happy to see that they are getting good with computers at such a young age, yet it also concerns me that they may not be developing the physical writing skills that they will certainly need in the future. It’s really interesting to compare my schooling experience with theirs, as theirs is so much more tech heavy than mine ever was.

    Also, I totally like how you said “I love technology. I just don’t always agree with it.” I feel the exact same way. Despite how computer savvy I am and how much I love tech and multimedia and the internet, I find myself often wanting to unplug from it all and simply enjoy a good book in my hand or a pencil and some paper.

  2. T.J. Alexander says:

    Hey Olivia,

    I agree to a large extent with what you said in your post. I see huge merits to both the widespread usage of technology and handwriting. The article you posted from the Atlantic validates what my mother always told me when I was a kid and trying to learn something. If I was going through notecards and kept missing one of them, she would say, “Write it a hundred times and you won’t forget it.” It took them a while to prove it empirically, but I’m glad scientists finally caught up to the intelligence of Kathy Alexander.

    With that said, I don’t think “ease” is the only reason that technology is being favored over handwriting. I think it comes down a lot more to productivity than anything else. The evolution of society is generally about efficiency. I can type dozens of words in the same span of time that it takes me to handwrite one. If I need to look something up, I don’t have to put down my pencil. I can tap a few keys and it’s there for me.

    The bottom line being I think both handwriting and technology are important. As a writer, all of my novels start on a yellow legal pad. I plan everything there before I go to writing on a computer. Pen and paper has always been best for forming ideas and solidifying them in my mind. Computers are better for efficiency and productivity. Both have value, so I think that it’s important both are used and taught to their fullest extent in schools, not favoring one over the other.

  3. Gabriella Bulgarelli says:

    Olivia- I love this exploration of “From Pencils to Pixels”! I’ve found that in my academic career (especially here at UNC), I often retain and understand information better when I write it by hand. This class is one of the first that I take notes electronically for (although it seems to be fitting). I think that it’s interesting that you’re able to appreciate the value and power in both forms–in their day, pencils were technology. Today, they’re nothing compared to tablets and smart watches. As an aspiring novelist myself, Ican appreciate your affinity for yellow legal pads. I had a phase where I would use Dragon voice recognition software–and would dictate my ideas/text into a microphone which would transcribe it to the computer for me. It was an interesting way to bridge the gap between my notebooks and my macbooks.
    As for the article you linked, I identified strongly with it. I loved my years of elementary school with cursive lessons–and I still write in cursive to this day. (I write often, but rarely truly “print” words, unless on forms). I think that handwriting is something that should not be sacrificed from common core because of how it represents the individual, stylistic capabilities of one’s personality. Handwriting is one of the ways you leave your mark on the world; and, without it, I fear that future generations will be leaving their mark on global networks–not the globe.

Leave a Reply to Gabriella Bulgarelli Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *