Handwriting vs. Typing

Handwriting vs. Typing - Tutor CPS

Typing notes and essays in school is becoming increasingly common as we try to harness the wonders of technology for educational purposes. However, many teachers, parents and researchers still push students to handwrite their work.

There are arguments for both sides, so let’s dive into these:

Pros of handwriting

  • Some studies have shown that handwriting notes facilitates comprehension and conceptual understanding of the material.[1]
  • Handwriting is also effective because students cannot write as fast as they can type. A student cannot write out a class or lecture verbatim, so in order to make notes, they must learn to process what is being said and priorise what should be written down.
  • Handwriting is generally slower and therefore notes are usually more succinct; a student with handwritten notes generally has fewer notes to cover the same content because the material has already been condensed to keep only what is necessary.
  • There are fewer distractions; if a student is typing, they have a computer and access to all the distractions that it can bring. When writing by hand, it is easier to put these distractions out of sight and reach and focus on the task at hand.

Pros of typing

  • Typing is generally faster, meaning a student may be able to take more detailed notes or write more quickly.
  • Typed work is always legible. This is important for students who struggle to write neatly, or those with certain learning difficulties such as dyspraxia. For students who write slowly or need to take time to write neatly enough for their work to be read by a teacher or examiner, being able to type creates a more level playing field as they can write at the same speed as their peers.
  • Typing provides access to the benefits of technology. For example, a computer offers many tools such as translators, search engines and spell check. These can help students with accuracy, clarifying details and generally support the learning process.

Since there are advantages to both techniques, a student may want to experiment; for example to try handwriting their notes if they usually type and see if it helps their comprehension of the material. If a student usually handwrites exams but loses marks because the examiner misread the answer, discussing the possibility of typing future exams could give the student a boost in results.

Handwriting or typing – the choice depends on the individual student.

[1] Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1159-1168; Duran, K.S. & Frederick, C. M (2013). Information Comprehension: Handwritten vs. Typed Notes, Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences, Volume 12 (2013); Horbury, S.R. & Edmonds C.J. (2020). Taking Class Notes by Hand Compared to Typing: Effects on Children’s Recall and Understanding, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, August 2020.