Every once in a while, news stations will break away from whatever tragedy they are covering that day to do a segment on the decline of handwriting in the United States. The downturn in two-fold: schools decrease the amount of time they spend on teaching it, especially cursive script. Adults abandon it in favor of leaving voice memos or jotting things down on their smart phones. So I wondered: between handwriting and electronic writing, is one better than the other? I assumed that as most people turn to electronic ways to “write” everything down, science would back up that this is a reasonable substitution, a progressive, 21st-century way to do things better than had been done before. But does my own hypothesis concur with that off the scientific community?
Even though that was my hypothesis, my own preference has always been to handwrite things. In all but one class here at Penn State I use old fashioned pen and paper to take notes, and I began to observe similar things as stated in this Atlantic article. I found I took away the key points better in those classes I manually wrote things down than when I used a keyboard. Further research shows that this finding could affect children from a young age. The University of Washington went into great detail in a randomized, controlled experiment that saw children in 3 different grade levels (2nd, 4th, and 6th) write essays with either a computer or a pen. Those writing manually consistently wrote longer essays in a more expeditious manner. To me, these are crucial stepping stones in the learning process that would seem to increase chance for success in later life, but length of the writing does not necessarily equate to quality. To me, this study can’t be held in the highest regard when trying to figure out my hypothesis as I am looking to find differences in quality of notes, not quantity of essays. A report that was published in SAGE Journals contained the results of three separate experiments that all agreed with their alternative hypothesis that written notes are preferable to those typed.
But is this conclusive? I feared it wasn’t, because the Texas sharpshooter problem could be in full effect here. But while millennial’s for the most part favor technology, the real issue isn’t what they prefer, but what is a better and more efficient way to take and remember notes. And a google search on the subject begins with 5 straight pages in favor of handwriting with no evidence to the contrary. This leads me to believe that while the null hypothesis hasn’t been rejected, it certainly looks very likely that the alternative hypothesis of handwriting being preferable is correct, which means I was wrong in at least the area of note-taking!