Type or to write? Why we all need to write well in a digital age

04 Sep 2015 Posted by: Mel Harwood

Who needs to write when they can type, right? Wrong!

There is clear scientific evidence that children who can write are able to access the entire education curriculum more efficiently than children who cannot write well enough.

Take secondary school pupil and Start-Bee's success story, Adam, he was struggling to read his own handwriting and so was his maths teacher. How can teachers or examiners mark a child’s work if they cannot read it? How can a child correct work they can’t read? How can Adam achieve his maths potential if his teacher can’t make out that a ‘9’ is indeed a ‘9’.?

Even in the digital age, there is still a daily need to write things down, to take notes in class or answer questions in exams. Whilst computers are still barred from the exam room, children need to be able to write fluently and quickly if they are to pass those exams and achieve their potential in life.

When it comes to learning, the keyboard just isn’t the right tool and here’s why.

Typing is quicker? Wrong. Researchers at the University of Washington found that children aged between seven and 12 wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand than when typing on a keyboard.

Learning to type is the same as learning to write? Wrong. Handwriting helps children learn letters and shapes, improves their composition of ideas, and may also boost fine-motor skills development. Writing things out by hand may be a critical way we train our brains. The finger movements involved in writing activate large regions of the brain involved in thinking, memory, and language. You don’t get that through typing

It’s better to learn through typing? Wrong. The process of putting pen to paper and reading from a book seems to imprint knowledge in the brain in a better way than using a keyboard and computer screen. Two US researchers, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, found that note-taking with a pen, rather than a laptop, gives students a better grasp of the subject.

With countries like Finland reported to be phasing out cursive writing from the curriculum, should the rest of us be rushing to bin a skill that we’ve been using for six millennia in favour of one that has been around for just a hundred and fifty years? Perhaps not when you consider this:

Experts at Indiana University found that children who practiced printing by hand had more active brains than kids who simply looked at letters.

Writing out letters and words helps with spelling.

Writing helps us to express who we are.

And it’s not just children who benefit from writing by hand, adults do too. A study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience revealed that adults learning a new language remember its characters better if they write them out by hand than if they produce them with a keyboard.

Taking the research as a whole, my belief is that writing by hand makes you smarter and makes you, well, YOU! Yet, you might be shocked to learn that one child in three will have started secondary school this year unable to write properly.

My child was one of those one in three children so I decided to do something about it. In the process, I invented a method that teaches learners whether SEN, Dyslexic or Neutral the life-enabling skill of handwriting, which I currently deliver as after-school clubs. In just seven weeks my Start-Bee handwriting method can get any child writing their names in a legible, neat, cursive script.

I believe we, as a society and as parents, can’t afford to get the “type or write” experiment wrong. This is why as Start-Bee I’m on a mission to #dothewritething by helping every child, everywhere to join up their letters in neat, legible handwriting. I’m now pre-selling my handwriting kits (which include options for dyslexic and SEN leaners) to raise the necessary funds to turn my method into handwriting kits and the accompanying lessons into films that will be broadcast over the internet. You can purchase the kits at our website or via our crowdfunding page when it goes live on the 8th September at www.indiegogo.com.

Here’s an example of a typical kit.

Packaged up in a Start-Bee Trunki in the form of a bee, this kit contains everything a learner without specific educational needs or dyslexia requires to master handwriting.


Everything* from bespoke pencils, puzzles, posters, ink pads, light box, exercises, support materials, folders, paper and stencils are all included. In fact, everything a neutral learner needs to master handwriting has been carefully selected to teach every child how to write, to expand their vocabulary and to read whilst having fun learning. The items are all contained in Start-Bee Trunki shaped like a bee. An insect whose endless pursuit for pollen makes them very hardworking and industrious, our bee shaped case represents the rewards of hard work and continuous effort. Storing the Start-Bee handwriting kit items in this suitcase makes it easier for the learner to transport the kit to any location so that they can continue with the Start-Bee handwriting programme wherever they may be. The kit pictured here will be sold at a special crowdfunding discounted rate of £300 which includes 4 x ‘get you started’ lessons.

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