The writing’s on the… digital device

Are students losing critical communication skills such as handwriting because of the rise of edtech?

By Gary Baum, VP of Marketing at MyScript

From interactive whiteboards to tablets, digital devices have become common in education. But as technology continues to become a staple in the classroom, there’s concern that students may be losing critical communication skills such as handwriting. 

Our children are growing up more comfortable with keyboards and touchpads than pencil and paper. Even the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and STEM Education Programme strongly emphasizes STEM learning utilizing keyboard skills after first grade. However, this approach could have adverse effects on development. 

Handwriting has been proven to be a critical communication skill, and studies have shown that students who write out their notes learn and retain information better than those using a keyboard to type notes. A Saperstein Associates’ white paper found that up to 33% of students are now struggling to achieve competency in completing assignments by hand. The study stresses stresses the importance of direct, systematic spelling and handwriting instruction in improving academic performance, yet shows that not all students are being provided with adequate instruction for this foundational skill. 

The New York Times also sounded the alarm in an article stating that the link between handwriting and broader educational development run deep. The article concluded that children who write not only learn to read more quickly but they remain better able to generate ideas and retain information.

Handwriting recognition technology (HWR) together with interactive ink management technology bridges the gap between traditional methods of retaining information and technology adoption. 

So how do we introduce technology into our classrooms and school technology budgets, without negatively affecting student development? Handwriting recognition technology (HWR) together with interactive ink management technology bridges the gap between traditional methods of retaining information and technology adoption. 

Interactive ink is a method to permanently link digital ink to its recognized digital meaning – ink objects are created that can be processed, searched, shared and stored as easily as digital documents today. This new ink management technology enables handwritten information on a digital device to be edited as easily as a digital document using a keyboard. Digital ink is now elevated to the level of control and manipulation provided by the keyboard. Digital ink, a natural input method, is often the preferred to keyboard input when capturing notes that include equations, shapes, and diagrams. Coupling handwriting recognition together with interactive ink management technology enables natural note taking that is “alive” allowing editing, formatting, and viewing on a variety of digital devices with the option of instant conversion to a digital document when desired. Ink is no longer stationary as physical ink on paper but can be managed in a similar manner as word processors manage digital text.

Here are several ways interactive ink management and HWR enhances the learning experience in the classroom.

Helps student’s cognitive development and information retention 

With typing and similar forms of input, it is easy for students (and others) to jot down verbatim what they’re hearing, rather than processing and digesting the information. On the contrary, handwriting requires closer listening and attention to detail, so students take the extra step to understand the information and take notes on what is most relevant. This way, when it comes time to study for an exam or work on a final project, students will have a better understanding of the material than if they had simply typed or audio recorded the notes. 

Makes handwritten notes easily searchable

Rather than flipping through a notebook with a semester’s worth of notes and assignments (some of which might have otherwise been difficult to decipher due to messy handwriting), HWR makes it easy to search for and find specific notes. Notes can be searched by date, keywords or specific passages. This enables students to save time when completing assignments and find exactly what they’re looking for while studying for a particularly tricky section of an exam. Students can also use search capabilities to streamline research projects, with immediate reference links and resources, simply by selecting a specific word or phrase.

Facilitates easy note sharing and collaborative learning

Whether a student misses class or needs to share content with members of a group project, HWR makes it easy to share and collaborate on notes. Digital devices of varying form factors and sizes can be effectively used, allowing students to personalize the information on any device that they are using at a particular time. Once the handwritten notes are captured digitally, other members of a study group can view the document to make sure they have the information needed to complete an assignment or study for a final. In doing so, students can also compare and expand notes filling in any holes or missing information. Creative thinking is also allowed to flourish since diagrams, equations, and even music notation can easily be captured and converted to digital documents.

Simplifies assignment submissions and grading

HWR enables students of all grade levels to easily complete worksheets, quizzes, tests and other forms. By combining handwriting and a digital experience, it can also make the learning experience more interactive, by providing grades and correct versus incorrect answers in real time. This way, with practice assignments, for example, students can have a grasp on what subject matter they need to improve upon before exam time. 

For teachers, grading and returning assignments is simplified with HWR. Instead of carrying around a stack of papers, teachers can easily grade digital versions of students’ work while making handwritten comments or drawings. This also enables students to view feedback and grades as soon as they’re ready and gives them the opportunity to interact with educators on the specific feedback.

Integrates with educational apps

HWR technology can be used in collaboration with apps for specific subjects, such as mathematical exercises. In fact, HWR has capabilities to recognize hundreds of mathematical symbols and convert them to digital information in real time, enabling students to more easily complete interactive math exercises. This technology can also be used for music education, using a composition app. One example is PreSonus® Notion® for iOS, which uses HWR to convert handwritten musical notes and other symbols into digital notation.

HWR delivers a more engaging and effective educational experience. By bridging the gap between traditional learning and increased use of technology, HWR has the potential to revolutionize the way students take notes in class, study for exams, complete assignments and collaborate on group projects, while streamlining the teaching experience for teachers and IT professionals at educational institutions.