Kobe University study: Japanese children learn to write through rhythm

6 Jul

Moi wrote about the importance of handwriting in The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum:

Gwendolyn Bounds reported in the WSJ article, How Handwriting Trains the Brain:

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a “spaceship,” actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called “functional” MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and ”adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.
“It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study….
Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704631504575531932754922518.html

https://drwilda.com/2012/01/24/the-importance-of-the-skill-of-handwriting-in-the-school-curriculum/

See, The Importance of Cursive Writing
http://www.enterpriseefficiency.com/author.asp?section_id=1077&doc_id=236382 and The Case for Cursive

Robert Lee Hotz reported in the Wall Street Journal article, Can Handwriting Make You Smarter?

Laptops and organizer apps make pen and paper seem antique, but handwriting appears to focus classroom attention and boost learning in a way that typing notes on a keyboard does not, new studies suggest.
Students who took handwritten notes generally outperformed students who typed their notes via computer, researchers at Princeton University and the University of California at Los Angeles found. Compared with those who type their notes, people who write them out in longhand appear to learn better, retain information longer, and more readily grasp new ideas, according to experiments by other researchers who also compared note-taking techniques….
Generally, people who take class notes on a laptop do take more notes and can more easily keep up with the pace of a lecture than people scribbling with a pen or pencil, researchers have found. College students typically type lecture notes at a rate of about 33 words a minute. People trying to write it down manage about 22 words a minute.
In the short run, it pays off. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis in 2012 found that laptop note-takers tested immediately after a class could recall more of a lecture and performed slightly better than their pen-pushing classmates when tested on facts presented in class. They reported their experiments with 80 students in the Journal of Educational Psychology….
http://www.wsj.com/articles/can-handwriting-make-you-smarter-1459784659

A Kobe University study examines the role of rhythm and learning to write.

Science Daily reported in Japanese children learn to write through rhythm:

How do we learn to write? Associate Professor NONAKA Tetsushi (Kobe University Graduate School of Human Development and Environment) looked at the development of writing skills in Japanese first-grade students learning the hiragana script. By quantifying their pen movements, he revealed the process of learning distinct temporal patterns of movement in such a way to differentiate a set of subtle features of each symbol. These aspects of handwriting development have been largely neglected in research carried out in Latin alphabet communities. The findings were published on June 13 in Developmental Psychobiology.
Previous research based on the Latin alphabet explains the acquisition of writing skills during childhood as a combination of two processes: the acquisition of visual representations and the development of fine motor skills to produce the desired trajectory of the pen. This study looked at the development of movement dynamics of handwriting in 1st graders at the Kobe University Elementary School who learned to write hiragana, a phonetic script used for Japanese. He examined how their movements were influenced by the social norms of the classroom environment in which those 1st graders participated over the first three months of the primary school….
This demonstrates that the process of handwriting development as explained by Latin alphabet-based research — acquiring fine motor skills in hands, plus storing the shapes in the head — cannot fully explain the handwriting skill development process for hiragana script. At least in this particular language community, learning the temporal pattern of movement corresponding to a letter seems highly important, based on which the invariant features of a letter — the traces of the specific temporal pattern of movement — can be discriminated as such. The study also suggests that the process of learning to write by differentiating physical movements may be linked to a phenomenon specific to Chinese character-based cultures known as “air writing,” when people unconsciously move their fingers while trying to recall a certain character. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170630105033.htm

Citation:

Japanese children learn to write through rhythm
Date: June 30,
Source: Kobe University
Summary:
How do we learn to write? A Japanese study looked at the development of writing skills in Japanese first-grade students, and revealed aspects of handwriting development that have been largely neglected in research carried out in Latin alphabet communities.
Journal Reference:
1. Tetsushi Nonaka. Cultural entrainment of motor skill development: Learning to write hiragana in Japanese primary school. Developmental Psychobiology, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/dev.21536

Here is the press release from Kobe University:

Japanese children learn to write through rhythm

June 29, 2017
Graduate School of Human Development and Environment

News

How do we learn to write? Associate Professor NONAKA Tetsushi (Kobe University Graduate School of Human Development and Environment) looked at the development of writing skills in Japanese first-grade students learning the hiragana script. By quantifying their pen movements, he revealed the process of learning distinct temporal patterns of movement in such a way to differentiate a set of subtle features of each symbol. These aspects of handwriting development have been largely neglected in research carried out in Latin alphabet communities. The findings were published on June 13 in Developmental Psychobiology.
Previous research based on the Latin alphabet explains the acquisition of writing skills during childhood as a combination of two processes: the acquisition of visual representations and the development of fine motor skills to produce the desired trajectory of the pen. This study looked at the development of movement dynamics of handwriting in 1st graders at the Kobe University Elementary School who learned to write hiragana, a phonetic script used for Japanese. He examined how their movements were influenced by the social norms of the classroom environment in which those 1st graders participated over the first three months of the primary school.

During the study, the children were repeatedly encouraged to pay attention to the specific requirements for writing each character, including stroke endings, stroke order and rhythm of movement. While he observed individual variation in handwriting development among six students studying in the same classroom, two common trends were quantitatively demonstrated. Firstly, the pen movements became clearly differentiated for each type of stroke ending (stop, sweep or jump). Secondly, a consistent temporal structure of movement gradually emerged for each stroke.
This demonstrates that the process of handwriting development as explained by Latin alphabet-based research – acquiring fine motor skills in hands, plus storing the shapes in the head – cannot fully explain the handwriting skill development process for hiragana script. At least in this particular language community, learning the temporal pattern of movement corresponding to a letter seems highly important, based on which the invariant features of a letter—the traces of the specific temporal pattern of movement—can be discriminated as such. The study also suggests that the process of learning to write by differentiating physical movements may be linked to a phenomenon specific to Chinese character-based cultures known as “air writing”, when people unconsciously move their fingers while trying to recall a certain character.

Journal information
Title
Cultural entrainment of motor skill development: Learning to write hiragana in Japanese primary school
doi:10.1002/dev.21536

Author
Tetsushi Nonaka

Journal
Developmental Psychobiology
Related Information

Graduate School of Human Development and Environment [Figures Omitted]

It is interesting that in Silicon Valley where many of the tech elite live, many of the top managers send their children to an “old school” school. See, The private school in Silicon Valley where tech honchos send their kids so they DON’T use computers http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2052977/The-Silicon-Valley-school-tech-honchos-send-kids-DONT-use-computers.html#ixzz2PjQ8sOfD

Matt Richtell reported in the New York Times article, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute:

Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Mr. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.”
While other schools in the region brag about their wired classrooms, the Waldorf school embraces a simple, retro look — blackboards with colorful chalk, bookshelves with encyclopedias, wooden desks filled with workbooks and No. 2 pencils. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?pagewanted=all

There is quite a lot that researchers need to explore about how technology affects the mind and body connection as well as how technology affects interpersonal relationships.

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