Why keep learning to handwrite in an AI world


The world of writing is changing. First, there were keyboards, automatic entry of words or sentences on messaging. An era of which we are already turning the page. With the rise of artificial intelligence, robots can now produce texts of a level comparable to texts written by humans, without the use of any hand whatsoever.

With recent improvements in transcription software, even human writers can do without a keyboard, let alone a pen. And AI would even open up the possibility of generating texts by reading brain activity.

The writers of the future will be talkers and thinkers who don’t need to lift a finger. The word “writer” could evolve to a very different meaning, with people composing texts in myriad ways in an increasingly digital world. So, do human beings still need to learn to write by hand  ?

With the pandemic, online education has grown considerably, and in different countries around the world, some important tests are now carried out on computers. Voices are also raised in favor of the abandonment of cursive writing in high school. However, handwriting remains central to fundamental learning in elementary school.

Parents may wonder if it’s still worth spending time on the difficult learning of handwriting . Wouldn’t the efforts made be better invested in an introduction to coding? After all, students with disabilities are already learning to write with assistive technology .

But there are a number of important reasons why handwriting will always – and always should – be taught in schools. Here are five.

Writing develops fine motor skills

Handwriting develops the motor skills and coordination necessary to control precise movements, which are essential in everyday life , whether at school or later in the professional sphere.

The improvement of these motor skills results in increasingly readable and fluent writing. We don’t know where technology will take us, but it may take us back to the past.

Handwriting could be more important than ever if tests and exams return to handwriting to prevent the use of generative AI and cheating.

Writing by hand makes memorization easier

Handwriting has significant cognitive benefits, especially for memory . Research suggests that notes taken with a pen are better remembered than those taken on a computer, due to the greater complexity of the handwriting process.

Learning to read and write are intimately linked . Students become better readers by practicing writing.

A tool for graphic design

Handwriting and related activities such as drawing can be sources of creativity and well-being at any age.

The popularity of practices such as journaling and calligraphy are proof of this. There are many online communities where writers share great examples of graphic design.

Great flexibility of use

Handwriting requires no electricity or devices, batteries, software, subscriptions, internet connection, loading times – and all those other things that digital writing depends on.

It only assumes a pen and paper. And it can be done anywhere.

Sometimes, for writing a birthday card, filling out printed forms, or writing a quick note, it’s the easiest and best solution.

Writing as a medium for reflection

More importantly, learning to write and to think are intimately linked. Ideas are formed as students write . They are developed and organized throughout the composition. This is something that cannot be delegated to robots!

Teaching writing involves giving students a toolkit of multiple writing strategies to enable them to realize their potential as thoughtful, creative, and skilled communicators. And handwriting will remain an important part of that toolkit for the foreseeable future, despite the amazing advances in generative AI.

Perfection of spelling may become less important in the future. But students will still need to be able to handwrite legibly and fluently as part of their studies and daily lives.

Author Bios: Lucinda McKnight is a Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy and Curriculum and Maria Nicholas is a Senior Lecturer in Language and Literacy Education both at Deakin University