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I was very sad to hear of the cancellation of so many operations and problems that occurred as a result of the cyber-attack on the NHS. Backup systems are a necessity to keep records so that business can continue seamlessly if such an attack happens. However, it was fascinating to hear that they “had to revert to using pen and paper”.

This comment was such as to insinuate that pen and paper were obsolete. It is an interesting fact that many schools in the USA and here have had to re-introduce teaching cursive writing.  Not only so that the youngsters of today can actually read the writings of previous generations but also because it has been proven that doing “joined up handwriting” actually links parts of the brain allowing the easier processing of information. Judy Willis, a neurologist and teacher consultant, wrote “Consider all of the important ways that writing supports the development of higher process thinking: conceptual thinking; transfer of knowledge; judgment; critical analysis; induction; deduction; prior-knowledge evaluation (not just activation) for prediction; delay of immediate gratification for long-term goals; recognition of relationships for symbolic conceptualization; evaluation of emotions, including recognizing and analyzing response choices; the ability to recognize and activate information stored in memory circuits throughout the brain’s cerebral cortex that are relevant to evaluating and responding to new information or for producing new creative insights—whether academic, artistic, physical, emotional, or social.”

All of these attributes are lost when keyboarding.  Since the cyber-attack, I have heard already that a number of nurses are complaining that they are unable to either understand what another has written or that they themselves do not know how to hold a pen to write. Technology is fantastic, but it has its limitations like so many other things but putting pen to paper is not obsolete.

In research using neuroimaging (probably not possible at the moment due to the cyber-attack), it was shown that children with early fine motor writing skills at prekindergarten did better later on in school. Research conducted by Virginia Berninger a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington looked at how oral and written language related to attention  found that evidence from this and other studies suggest that “handwriting — forming letters — engages the mind, and that can help children pay attention to written language.” “We use motor parts of our brain, motor planning, motor control, but what’s very critical is a region of our brain where the visual and language come together, the fusiform gyrus, where visual stimuli actually become letters and written words.” You have to see letters in “the mind’s eye” in order to produce them on the page, she said. Brain imaging shows that the activation of this region is different in children who are having trouble with handwriting.”

The BBC reported on a global study from the OECD whereby they found that investing heavily in IT in schools had not improved educational standards and in fact resulted in lower results.  Using pen and paper, in fact, has shown that university students can retain information longer and gain better grades than their fellows who keyboard notes.

What are the results of all of this?

Well IT organizations are researching the usage for handwriting within their technology “Nobody else has the same strokes,” said John Mears, senior fellow for Lockheed IT and Security Solutions. “People can forge your handwriting in two dimensions, but they couldn’t forge it in three or four dimensions. Three is the pressure you put in, in addition to the two dimensions on the paper. The fourth dimension is time. The most advanced handwriting-type authentication tracks you in four dimensions.”  Who are looking at it in regard of handwriting motion detection for smartphones.

However good the technology, pen, and paper still carry an importance in our lives as so many people have just discovered with this cyber-attack.

As a final comment, I would just say as has been heard by many golfers “Oh dear, you’re in the bunker, that’s so sad”   Pens triumph again.

For information about learning graphology to aid with recruitment, team building and for personal development, then contact Christina on enquiries@christina-strang.com

Christina Strang is a graphologist of 20 years, profiling people for recruitment and personal development.  She is an international speaker and has written articles for magazines as diverse as the HR Institute of New Zealand and for the Private Investigators Journal as well as having appeared regularly on the BBC Radio & TV and International TV channels.