Listen to this story. Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.
Your browser does not support the <audio> element.
Two and a half millennia ago, Socrates complained that writing would harm students. With a way to store ideas permanently and externally, they would no longer need to memorise. It is tempting to dismiss him as an old man complaining about change. Socrates did not have a stack of peer-reviewed science to make his case about the usefulness of learning concepts by heart.
Today a different debate is raging about the dangers of another technology—computers—and the typing people do on them. As primary-school pupils and PhD hopefuls return for a new school year in the northern hemisphere, many will do so with a greater-than-ever reliance on computers to take notes and write papers. Some parents of younger students are dismayed that their children are not just encouraged but required to tote laptops to class. University professors complain of rampant distraction in classrooms, with students reading and messaging instead of listening to lectures.
A line of research shows the benefits of an “innovation” that predates computers: handwriting. Studies have found that writing on paper can improve everything from recalling a random series of words to imparting a better conceptual grasp of complicated ideas.
For learning material by rote, from the shapes of letters to the quirks of English spelling, the benefits of using a pen or pencil lie in how the motor and sensory memory of putting words on paper reinforces that material. The arrangement of squiggles on a page feeds into visual memory: people might remember a word they wrote down in French class as being at the bottom-left on a page, par exemple.
The power that reading provides
In Arkansas, approximately one-third of fourth graders are able read at grade level, a deplorable and frightening statistic.
Print Headline: The power that reading provides
Literacy is everyone’s business. Using the science of reading is the best way to teach it
Your browser is not supported | tennessean.com
tennessean.com wants to ensure the best experience for all of our readers, so we built our site to take advantage of the latest technology, making it faster and easier to use.
Unfortunately, your browser is not supported. Please download one of these browsers for the best experience on tennessean.com