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Digital Pen Research

A logo of project Digital Pen Research

Project Aims and Objectives

This research aims to analyse university students’ handwriting skills using digital pens. Digital pens can capture the speed and way a student writes more accurately than by use of a stop watch and manual inspection of handwriting.


Handwriting is a highly integrated activity made up of perceptual, cognitive and motor components and requiring complex skills. The computer can aid and in some cases speed writing activities such as copying, note taking, report and creative writing. However, handwriting skills in the University are still regarded as an essential part of learning skills and more crucially, handwriting at speed is a requirement when taking notes and examinations.

Therefore, it is important to identify and assess handwriting difficulties in order to provide students with tailored support that suits their specific needs. Conventional methods of assessment for handwriting skills tend to measure speed based on the number of letters or words written within a certain timescale. The UK ‘Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting’ (DASH) uses this methodology as part of its evaluation.

Although it is useful to measure the total speed of handwriting in order to identify whether students have special needs relating to their writing skills, as well as to determine the eligibility for support, this type of measurement does not provide enough information to evaluate precise handwriting difficulties. Speed tests alone do not provide sufficient information on which to base a program of assistance. To fill this gap, DASH requires manual evaluation of students’ handwriting skills using five tasks including, an alphabet recall and graphic speed task as well as sentence copying and a free writing task.

A temporal handwriting analysis, which times not only writing speed but also hesitations, corrections and alterations, may make it possible to bridge the gap. It is conceivable that the use of digital pens could provide a new method of evaluation to investigate the process of English handwriting. The use of digital pens as an assessment tool could also provide sufficient quantitate data for the analysis of handwriting skills across a wide age range.

Principal Investigators

  • Dr Mike Wald

Other Investigators

  • Dr Rumi Hirabayashi
  • E.A. Draffan
  • Russell Newman

Funded by

A logo of the partner organisation Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science