Do you think the penmanship is out of date?

Pen or keyboard?

Finland: is manual writing dying out?

At least since the first PISA study was published more than a decade and a half ago, Finland has been a role model when it comes to education. Ironically, in the country that has almost traditionally achieved the best values ​​for reading and writing performance, this discussion has broken out particularly violently: Why should children still bother with learning to write letters with fountain pens, ballpoint pens or pencils? There is a keyboard on laptop, mobile phone and tablet. At the same time, scientists, doctors, teachers and parents are registering an almost dramatic decline in writing motor skills and considerable deficits in reading. Is there a connection?

Handwriting or typing on the computer?

Carmen Mayer, psychologist and project coordinator "Better Writing & Reading" at the Transfer Center for Neuroscience and Learning at Ulm University, describes the research project as follows:

"At its core is the consideration of whether replacing handwriting with typing actually leads to better learning through the supposed motor relief or whether writing with pen and paper is important for learning, as it is an additional source of information (motor memory trace) that is missing when typing. "

She points out that there is a study that says that the frequent use of computers in preschool children is associated with a higher knowledge of letters. However, there are also contrary studies which suggest that children who learn to read and write with pen and paper learn the written language better overall. Proponents of handwriting advocate the idea that children not only use it to save an image of a letter, but also develop a visual and, in addition, a motorized memory trace of the letter shape, which supports remembering. “When we use many senses in learning to write, several experience-based sources of information arise in the brain. That makes it easier for me to write later, ”believes Carmen Mayer.

Modernization against extinction

One of the greatest proponents of handwriting is the writing motor skills expert Dr. Christian Marquardt, who sits on the scientific advisory board of the Schreibmotorik-Institut in Munich. He is convinced:

“The digital world certainly has great advantages when it comes to storing, forwarding and disseminating information. But cognitive development is not just about storing information. With handwritten writing, one deals much more intensively with the information. You formulate and visualize them. That is a more intensive use of language, which increases the memory performance and increases the imagination about what one writes about. "

Carmen Mayer agrees. When writing by hand, you also deal very intensively and in detail with the shape of the letters (number, alignment and arrangement of the lines and arcs). That increases the recognition value. She is convinced: “It is not a very different experience, motor and sensor, which letter I press on a keyboard.” However, she qualifies: “These are all theories so far. We are currently researching in the study 'How do children learn to write and read better?'

Decline in writing skills in children

This seems to be urgently needed. According to Christian Marquardt, 30 percent of girls and 50 percent of boys no longer learn to write fluently and legibly. But he does not advocate sticking rigidly to traditional learning to write: “We have to find ways to modernize, otherwise the handwriting may one day disappear completely.” Not a nice idea - he says. Not least from a purely emotional perspective: Think of something personal, something dedicated to the individual and possibly more time-consuming, such as a handwritten invitation or letter.

Practice writing

Dr. Michael Schlienz, Head of the German / General Education / Foreign Languages ​​program at Klett Grundschulverlag, is convinced that a person cannot do without handwritten writing all his life. This also applies to the number writing. It is therefore necessary to learn to write with regularity so that letters and numbers pass into the subconscious. The publisher naturally offers both options - traditional and modern - in its workbooks. However, in times of digitization, one wants to give more weight to practicing handwriting in textbooks. The fact that more and more children come to school with less and less motor skills can also be counteracted through the increased use of occupational therapists.

Fine motor skills and inclusion

Fritz Buthke works as an occupational therapist for the non-profit company Ergopedia, whose goal is the preventive and early support of all children regardless of their origin. The team is currently supporting five mainstream schools in Berlin. Twice a week, he and his colleagues work around eight to ten hours in the respective schools. You train body tension and fine motor skills. Strength and warm-up exercises (push-ups on the wall) are just as much part of the program as relaxation exercises (shaking hands). All of this promotes body awareness and motor skills. “We deliberately accompany the children throughout the class,” emphasizes Buthke. The team is moving away from deficit thinking and individual support needs. And so not only makes a contribution to learning to write, but also to inclusion.