I ran across this article from Business Insider from a couple of years ago that tells us handwriting is better for learning because it forces your brain to engage with the material. Normally, I’d jump up and down, shout “YES!” and say that this is proof that you need to write everything down. Like Field Notes says, “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”
But, the more I think about it, the issue isn’t handwriting versus typing. The issue is critical thinking and teaching students how to study. I tell people all the time when I went to Seminary I didn’t learn everything about theology any more than someone who goes to medical school learns everything about the human body. What I learned is a method and a way to approach my given subject matter that helps me do what is expected of me. I learned to slow down and interact with the material to gain a better understanding – and this skill has helped me in much of life.
This is an issue I have with much of education. As Derek Webb says in his song A New Law:
Don’t teach me about politics and Government
Just tell me who to vote for
Don’t teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music
The issue isn’t handwriting. The issue is slowing down. Yes, pen(cil) and paper force you to do that. They eliminate distractions. And they are just cool. But let’s get to the real issue and remind everyone that life isn’t a sprint but a marathon. It takes time to develop thoughts. It’s time worth taking regardless of if it is on a computer, typewriter, quill, fountain pen or a pencil. The issue isn’t the medium; it’s teaching the critical thinking skills necessary to interact with the materials.