Third-graders write faster on tablets

May 26, 2015 - 06:31

A study conducted in two Norwegian primary schools shows that children write considerably faster on computer tablets than on paper.

Children write much faster on tablets than they do with pen or pencil on paper. Their spelling abilities are equal, according to a recent Norwegian study. (Photo: Microstock)

Their spelling was just as good, whether the pupils wrote on tablets or on paper.

Moreover, when the kids who are accustomed to tablets were asked to write on paper, they wrote just as fast as those who usually use pens and pencils. But their handwriting was worse.

Tablets for learning to write

The use of tablets in teaching children to write does not necessarily detract from the speed of their writing on paper or their orthography, conclude the researchers behind the new study in Oslo.

Moreover, the researchers found that eight of the 14 pupils in the class that used tablets had sometimes illegible handwriting. Only three among the 15 kids in the pen-and-paper class scrawled so poorly.

Norwegian schools opt for ICT

Norway has actively promoted the use of information and communications technology in its schools. Norwegian elementary schools have expanded the use of computer tablets and PCs in teaching kids to write, starting with the first few grades.

Despite this initiative, little research has been conducted to show whether this is a smart decision. Nor has much been done to find out internationally whether children in the initial grades of primary school should be using computers to gain writing proficiencies.

Small study, clear result

The researchers behind the Norwegian study emphasise that their investigation is based on a small sample. Only a few third-graders were involved. It was a quasi-experimental study – a comparison of two groups, in this case two classrooms, where the researchers had no way of ensuring that the samples were representative or comprised a random and comparable distribution of individuals.

Nevertheless, the little study might provide some insights in whether grade schools should be using pen and paper, or tablets and PCs, when teaching basic writing skills.

The tentative answer seems to be that kids learn to write equally well and either way and they write faster on a tablet or a PC. Also, writing on keyboards is better adapted to the reality which most of the kids will be facing down the road.

But, for what it’s worth, the price they could be paying is inferior calligraphy.

Creative writing process

Another study of primary school pupils conducted by the Swedish doctoral degree candidate Anna Åkerfeldt looked at the writing process itself. Of course writing is usually much more than spinning out text as fast as possible.

Åkerfeldt found that when pupils switched from using pen and paper to using a tablet or a PC, their writing process was less dominated by linear logic. The writing process became more spontaneous and innovative. The pupils’ thoughts were better visualised and the computer screen became “a tool for thought”.

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Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no

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Translated by
Glenn Ostling