Journal Entry

photo credit: JoelMontes

How Handwriting Trains the Brain

Forming Letters Is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas
Handwriting is a building block to learning.

Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.

Studies suggest there’s real value in learning and maintaining this ancient skill, even as we increasingly communicate electronically via keyboards big and small. Indeed, technology often gets blamed for handwriting’s demise. But in an interesting twist, new software for touch-screen devices, such as the iPad, is starting to reinvigorate the practice.

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a “spaceship,” actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called “functional” MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.

“It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.

Source: WSJ Oct 5,2010

Margaret Atwood on writing


Margaret Atwood, is revered for her novels, poems and essays. She describes her creative process as a writer in a interview:

My absolute opening entry is always a handheld object with a point on one end.  So it’s going to be either a pencil or a pen. And then it is applied to a flat substance of some kind, which is usually a piece of paper, but could be a piece of cardboard if one’s stuck without the paper. Or even my arm when things get really bad.

I think that people should carry notebooks with them at all times just for those moments because there’s nothing worse than having that moment and finding that you’re unable to set it down except with a knife on your leg or something.  You actually don’t want to do that.  So I recommend the paper and the pencil. Or if you must, some other stylus writing device that provides a permanent record of what you just set down.

When we get a bit further into it, I have to say that I do love the sticky notes. I like them. I like the bedside notebook for those thoughts that are so important at about 12:00 midnight when you wake up in the morning and can’t figure out why you thought that.  So all of that goes on.

And then, do you know what a rolling barrage is?  A rolling barrage comes from World War I and it’s when you run forward and then crouch down and your side fires over your head. Then you stand up, run forward and your side fires over your head again. If you get the timing wrong, of course, it’s unfortunate.

So, I start typing on a computer now. Computers were very helpful for me because I was always a bad typist and a bad speller.  I start typing up my handwritten text while I’m still writing it at the back. So the rolling barrage of typing goes on while the writing creeps forward along the ground, if you will.

Source:  Margaret Atwood’s Creative Process | Margaret Atwood | Big Think.