A recent study at the University of Washington (USA) found that children in the 2nd, 4th and 6th standards were able to write more and faster with a pen than a keyboard, when writing sentences and topical essays. The study tracked 200 children as they moved through the 2nd standard, 4th standard and 6th standard.
In each standard, they were given 3 tasks - writing out the alphabet in small letters, writing out a sentence and writing an essay in 10 minutes on a given topic. Each task was performed on the computer and with a pen. The study found that the only task where children were faster on a computer, was the first one - writing out the alphabet in small letters. When writing sentences, children in the 4th and 6th grades wrote more complete sentences with a pen. When writing essays (a set of sentences about a topic) also, children were faster and wrote more with a pen.
The study was done to understand what is called the "transcription process". This is how the ideas, images and thoughts in the brain get converted to words in writing. With a keyboard, the child has to pick the letters to type. With a pen, the child has to form the letters with their hand movements. The latter method using a pen, is believed to be better as a transcription process.
Lead researcher Virginia Berninger said "A keyboard doesn't allow a child to have the same opportunity to engage the hand while forming letters – on a keyboard a letter is selected by pressing a key and is not formed. Brain imaging studies with adults have shown an advantage for forming letters over selecting or viewing letters. A brain imaging study at the University of Washington with children showed that sequencing fingers may engage thinking."
The study is published in the Learning Disability Quarterly.