This fantastic guest post comes to us from Jenn Choi. Jenn is a New Yorker and a graduate of New York University. She lives in Western Queens with her husband and two seriously interesting boys. When she noticed that her boys sometimes pursued learning in less conventional ways, she starting researching solutions that would augment their unique learning styles. Among those solutions were special toys, tools, games, and quirky gadgets that could build and enhance their academic, social, emotional, and physical development. You can find many of her product reviews on www.toysaretools.com.
Today, Jenn is a Parent Advocate and Assistive Technology Coach at Special Support Services. She provides consultation and support to parents navigating the special education process in public schools. She also provides instruction and coaching to children and parents on the use of assistive technology for disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is that I have the privilege of trying out new gadgets that help kids in school. We certainly have our share of academic struggles and so I was excited to try a pencil that had been on my mind for quite some time. It is basically just a pencil but the cool part is that it vibrates. Yes, vibrates and that really is the cool part.
I think it is a little funny how this pencil is called “Tran-Quill" because if anything, I think it is a waker-upper but do we need that when we are writing? Kids are already so distracted these days- don't we need just more calm and focus here? To answer that, I'll paint a picture for you. You may have seen this in your own home.
Waking Up My Neurons
Your child is ready to go, pencils, erasers, notebook, textbook, lighting, steady chair... they are all in place and he starts to work. The next thing you know, you are saying, "Eyes on paper!" or "Focus!"
The vibrating pencil was turned on with just a twist and DING- it was as if I had turned on a switch in my son. (And I had been looking for this switch for quite some time!) Seriously, it's like he woke up and just starting plowing into his work.
"Yes, vibration can do that," said Susan Roberts, MDiv, OTR/L, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and Integrative Nutritionist. Her explanation was simple: "Basically the more you stimulate the brain, the more learning there is."
Writing to Memorize Writing
When she said that, I actually didn't realize that kids are "learning" when they write. I always think of kids as either learning-to-write or writing-what-they-learned but I never think of writing in itself as learning but according to Susan, not only is writing a learning activity but with the Tran-Quill Pencil, there is much more learning to be had. Here's why:
"Vibration does a lot of things," said Susan. "It provides a lot of resistance on some level. You have to hold the pen a little bit tighter so you're getting more sensory feedback." According to Susan, writing is a rote memory task and so we have to know all our letters to write. We can't think about how to write as we write just like you can't drive if you are thinking about how to push the brakes and when to step on the accelerator. Susan calls this "motor memory.”
With the vibration of the Tran-Quill Pencil, you will stimulate more nerve endings and that helps to create more motor memory. Isn't that just brilliant? To me, that says that whenever you use the pencil to practice writing, you'll just end up learning and memorizing those letters faster.
Until writing becomes part of rote memory, keeping the child engaged during this time of practice can be difficult. "We want to keep the engagement long enough until motor memory goes in.”
Susan said that the vibration of the Z-Vibe (which makes up the handle of the Tran-Quill Pencil) engages more muscle fibers. "And the more muscle fibers then again the better you can construct that neuronal pathway to make automatic writing.”
"There are 25 tiny muscles that start and end in the hand and the vibration strengthens those muscles," she said. "It makes you more aware of those muscles and therefore allows you to use them more efficiently.”
You Can't Overuse This
Gosh, if this special pencil does work that well then maybe they should be using it everytime they write! I asked Susan about that I couldn't believe what I heard. "I would encourage the parents to buy a Z-Vibe (Tran-Quill Pencil) and use it all the time." According to Susan, kids should not be writing for more than 20 minutes though so please keep that in mind. Additionally, Susan doesn't think that a child could overuse this pencil. "At some point the child is just going to say I don't need this anymore."
I love the Tran-Quill Pencil so much. I love what I have seen it do. I definitely want my child to use it all the time and we have started sending it to school everyday. But if my kid ever tells me that he doesn't need it anymore, that is when I will be the most grateful for it because it will mean that this very important mission will finally be accomplished. It's going to happen. I just know it!