LetterSchool Enhances Young Learners’ Handwriting and Manual Dexterity
Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington investigated the effectiveness of digital handwriting applications when paired with the traditional method of practicing handwriting. Both groups in the study (control and experimental) were given worksheets to practice their handwriting. The major difference was that the experimental group also used an application (LetterSchool) on a tablet with a stylus. Findings from this study prove that including digital applications within instruction can enhance children’s handwriting skills. This may also lead to an overall increase in many fine motor skills.
Struggles Affecting Everyday Life
In addition to common handwriting issues, some of the children in the study also have trouble with their fine motor skills, known as manual dexterity (MD). This is defined as the ability to control their hands in a coordinated way to hold and manipulate objects. According to a 2017 study by McGlashan, “a common consequence of MD problems is difficulties in handwriting, a problem that exists in 10%–30% of school-aged children.”
As you may remember from your time in school, almost half of the lesson is spent completing tasks on paper using a pencil. Children who experience issues with their handwriting or have trouble with MD may feel self-conscious and this negatively affects their academic output and motivation. To combat this problem, many schools have introduced tablets as a tool in the classroom. As we strongly believe at Letter School, technology can further the development of these skills and is an excellent way to practice and improve.
The goal of the study was to analyze the effectiveness of combining the LetterSchool application with the traditional method of teaching handwriting to kindergarten-age children. They theorized that the inclusion of the LetterSchool app would improve the children’s handwriting as compared to just teaching through traditional methods (pencil and paper).
Study Deep Dive
The study took place in a large city in North Texas and included nine kindergarten classes. In terms of the participants, the study included one hundred and twenty-five (76 boys and 49 girls) kindergarten students. There were 58 students selected at random in the experimental group and the control group included the remaining 67 students. The study lasted 12 weeks and was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Arlington. Before the study was conducted, all students were tested for both MD and handwriting skills.
Since both control and experimental group students were in the same classroom, they practiced their handwriting in different ways. Children in the control group were only taught through the typical “pencil on paper” method and this lasted for 45 minutes a day, every day of the school week. Their teacher explained how to hold a pencil and create letters. Students then practiced writing words, sentences, and letters using a pencil and paper. The teacher circulated around the classroom, checking and correcting students.
In terms of the experimental group, children utilized traditional methods 80% of the time and once a week (the other 20% of the time), they practiced with the LetterSchool app and a stylus. The D’Nealian font was chosen because the school believes it will help students make the jump from manuscript to cursive writing in the following years.
A Proven Method
After analyzing the results, the study found improvements in the experimental group. Specifically, in regards to manual dexterity, the experimental group improved from the pre-test to the post-test. The study hypothesized that the use of a stylus helped children have a better grip hand position, which increased dexterity. The LetterSchool app also provides instant feedback to students and corrects each individual line as it is being drawn. Due to the nature of the app, students can fix their mistakes in real-time and not have to wait for feedback from the teacher. Additionally, students may be more engaged and motivated to practice when technology and a tablet are involved.
LetterSchool is honored to have been included in the study and we strive to change the future of education for children around the world.
This research further proves the effectiveness of including digital tools in the classroom and the positive impact of technology on instruction and learning.
To read the full study: https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/2135/2515