I was officially diagnosed with dysgraphia at the age of five, which is a learning disability that is characterized by poor handwriting and trouble with forming letters. I’ve always struggled with dysgraphia, but the people who seemed most frustrated by my poor handwriting were my teachers- in one memorable instance, a teacher called me out for not writing legibly in front of a group of my friends, which was really embarrassing.
Even though I receive disability accommodations to type my assignments whenever possible, I knew that I needed to find a way to improve handwriting and manage my dysgraphia. Here is how I use technology to improve my handwriting, and high-tech dysgraphia strategies that work well for students of all ages, especially high school/college students.
One of the things I noticed in college was that my handwriting was much neater on a dry-erase board than it was on paper. I have a few guesses for why this is the case, including the slanted surface of a dry-erase board, the fact that markers are larger/easier to grasp than pens, and I can more easily erase mistakes.
Instead of writing on scratch paper and scanning in my work for classes, I would take a picture of my work on the whiteboard or scan it in with Microsoft Office Lens, and attach copies of scratch work that way. This was especially helpful for math classes, where I had previously struggled with writing numbers legibly and also found it harder to improve handwriting since I often had to write quickly on exams.
I started using the Apple Pencil when taking a calculus class in 2020, and noticed that my handwriting was easier for everyone to read when I used the Apple Pencil with Notability or Microsoft OneNote- again, it might be because of the slanted surface of the iPad, or because it is easier for me to erase mistakes, but I think it’s because I can zoom in on what I am writing more effectively. I’ve also used the Apple Pencil to interact with handwriting applications and tools on my iPad.
I have the HP Sprout desktop computer, which comes with a built-in projector and TouchMat, which is a second monitor that displays content on the surface of my desk, instead of a traditional second monitor that is placed directly next to the primary monitor. I downloaded several high-resolution images for handwriting practice and projected them onto the TouchMat, and practiced tracing the letters with a stylus or with a pen/paper. I did this for fifteen minutes every other day for about three months, and noticed a significant improvement in how I write certain letters like B, D, and P – previously, it was hard to tell the difference between these letters.
One of my friends is an occupational therapist and recommended I try out the Dexteria app for improving my handwriting and general fine motor skills- two things that are affected by my neurological condition. While Dexteria is targeted at younger users, this $6.99 application has a lot of great features for improving handwriting and supports large print. Users can practice writing letters with a finger, or use a stylus. I recommend practicing writing with the iPad at multiple angles, such as flat on a table or with a stand.
Handwriting notes in the classroom is not practical for me, as I often have to write quickly to catch information and end up making a lot of mistakes or end up writing words incorrectly. Instead of using handwriting as my primary way of taking notes, I will type my notes in class and then re-write them by hand to practice retaining information outside of class time. When I was in college, my favorite way to do this was by writing on cardstock that had large bold lines printed on it- I preferred cardstock because my high contrast markers/pens would not bleed through.
I don’t like to rewrite someone else’s handwritten notes, because I often have trouble reading other people’s handwriting with low vision. I discovered this when my friend let me borrow their notebook after I had missed class, and I realized I had absolutely no clue what their notes said, and ended up calling them on the phone.
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated September 2023.
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