Handwriting and Spelling: Still Essential in a Digital World

    Posted by Sarah Rutzler on June 29, 2017

     handwriting and spelling are still important tools for your childs education, even in this technology era As the world continues to further on and technology continues to improve, people are becoming more reliant on technology rather than what’s inside their head. Because technology is becoming stronger and better, society, especially ones in the younger generations, are becoming more dependent on technological tools like a calculator or spell check. Because smart phones allow us to access these tools, it is assisting to our need to not know how to do basic math, or how to spell a word. Even though the digital age is giving us, especially children, the power to avoid needing to learn handwriting or spelling because of spell check, it is important to note that knowing how to spell and write is extremely necessary in a digital world.

    Handwriting is a digital understanding of our language and has played a significant role in the educational process in terms of reading and writing. You may ask yourself; why is handwriting and spelling so important to learn in the society we live in today? Well, here are two major reasons why handwriting and spelling are essential.

    Contributes to cognitive development and embraces many subskills

    Susan du Plessis, director of educational programmes at Edublox, an online tutoring site, discusses how spelling and handwriting are important foundational skills in the learning process and how it takes away from learning skills overall. Edouard Gentaz, a professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Geneva, agrees with Du Plessis’s view and discusses how writing and typing differ in cognitive processes.

    He says “Handwriting is a complex task, which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement and directing movement by thought. Children take several years to master this precise motor exercise: you need to hold the scripting tool firmly while moving it in such a way as to leave a different mark for each letter.” 

    Many educators, including du Plessis and Mr. Gentaz believe that if children do not master these skills, their spelling is likely to suffer.

    Du Plessis says how knowing spelling unfolds other skills. “The skill of spelling embraces many subskills – the ability to perceive the whole in its individual parts, auditory perception of letter sounds and auditory memory, and decoding skills. Together, spelling and handwriting are important foundational skills in the learning process.” 

    You acquire knowledge by performing

    According to The Conversation, “Contemporary education and psychology research suggest handwriting skills help children to learn by writing down what they are learning in terms of spelling and sentence construction, similar to not-taking in other subject areas.” This is something that tablets and smart phones do not do because they auto-correct and spell check. It takes away the learning experience from the child in terms of being able to see how the letters form. The Conversation continues by saying “Handwriting provides us with the ability to see letters as shapes with form, weight, texture, and space and this facilitates ease of reading by being able to form and identify letters that are clearly distinguishable from each other.”

    According to an article posted in The New York Times, the author, Maria Konnikova, discusses research done in France and the US that talks about how handwriting helps children create, imagine, and recall information. Besides handwriting teaching children how to read more quickly, it also helps children to generate ideas and preserve information better. Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris, says, “When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated. There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.” The “ neural circuit” in the brain that Dehaene is referring to is contributing in different ways, thus making learning easier for children. 

    In 2012, Karin James at Indiana University did a study that supports this information. Her study found that “The “doing” part of drawing letters by hand increases activity in three areas of a child’s brain that adults use when they read and write.” Dr. Virginia Berninger, University of Washington psychologist states, “Handwriting and typing on a computer keyboard generate different and distinctive brain patterns in children and that handwriting enables children to generate more words and more ideas.” Dr. Berninger also believes that the myth that handwriting is just a motor skill is untrue. “We use motor parts of our brain, motor planning, motor control, but what’s very critical is a region of our brain where the visual and language come together, the fusiform gyrus, where visual stimuli actually become letters and written words.” The fusiform gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex are the parts of the brain that create ideas and recall information. 

    In simpler terms, handwriting and spelling contribute to a child’s cognitive process, helps children better interpret letters, and helps them recall information better because they are writing it down. Computers and other technological devices take away that learning aspect and children are not recognizing and remembering information as much. Normal developing brains learn by forming letters on the page, thus contributing to the cognitive process.

    So, if you are thinking that your child should drift away from learning to write and spell, think otherwise. Besides the research discussed above, there are other studies and research that show that handwriting and spelling are indeed important in a digital world. Make sure your child is writing everyday. You won’t regret it.


    Cahalan, Anthony Pro Vice- Chancellor & Chief Executive, Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Swinburne University of Technology. “Handwriting’s relevance in a digital world.” The Conversation. 3 July 2014. Web.

    Konnikova, Maria. “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2 June 2014. Web.

    Kulman, Dr. Randy, Leah Watkins, and Ryan Smith. “Does Handwriting Still Matter in a Digital World?” LearningWorks for Kids. 27 Apr. 2016. Web.

    “Why Spelling and handwriting are still critical in a digital world.” Education & Training news. 17 May 2017. Web.


    Topics: English Language Arts, Technology, Continued Learning, Spelling, Handwriting

    What To Do Next…

    1 Get your free 60-minute Child Assessment and learn:

    • If your child is learning at the appropriate age level.
    • Your child’s strengths and where they need additional help.
    • If your child has an affinity for a particular subject, they may excel in.
    • Our professional recommendations and learning strategy for your child.
    • And much more…

    2 Have more questions? Call us at 732-651-2700 to discuss your Childs specific needs.