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Smart Pen to Assess Children’s Handwriting in the Philippines

Confident that a child’s handwriting can be the basis of his future success in the field of learning, the Philippines has prioritised looking into the details while at the same time developing a health database for it. Specifically, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) has allocated over PHP 3.2 million (US$ 61.32 thousand) in funding for a project that aims to develop a tool that could assess the handwriting of children.

The project called i-SULAT (Intelligent Stroke Utilisation, Learning, Assessment, and Testing) aims to create a system and unified handwriting tool that could help solve the problems of inter-tool scoring variations, inconsistency, incongruence, and assessment time, according to de la Peña. The project is headed by Edison Roxas of the Electronics Engineering Department of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and will run from April 2022 to June 2024.

“There is much information that can be gathered from the simple pencil grasp, speed and legibility of handwriting; and even different stroke patterns. The proposed solution is to gather these available data from handwriting stroke patterns and (get the) distinct features using a specialised smart pen,” said Fortunato de la Peña, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology. He added that the proposed iSULAT system is capable of getting distinct features through different handwriting stroke patterns for continuous analysis, and evaluation of children’s handwriting. 

The Roxas’ project will define a reference normative database of Filipino school-aged children’s handwriting using the traditional tools:

  • Test of Visual-Motor Skills (TVMS)
  • Minnesota Handwriting Assessment (MHA)
  • Evaluation Tool of Children’s Handwriting (ETCH)

ETCH can be used to assess and evaluate handwriting with or without impairments. Moreover, it will also determine significant handwriting parameters for a quantitative assessment of children’s handwriting. Moreover, it will develop a smartpen equipped with a software-based iSULAT system.

While handwriting may not warrant as much attention for many parents, it is actually a process that shows a lot about the child. There are two key aspects that educators look into:

  • Product: How does the final written outcome look? Do the letters follow accepted guidelines on how to write a particular letter or number?
  • Performance: How did the process go? Did he hold the pen right? How long did it take the student to finish?

De la Peña noted that the children’s handwriting database from the project can be used as a reference for future studies and further analysis involving handwriting assessment of individuals having different medical, neurological, and psychological conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, and even early onset of depression. The DOST chief said the failure to attain handwriting competency during the school-age year results in negative effects on both academic success and self-esteem.

Indeed, digitisation can spell a lot of benefits for everyone. With its digital adoption, the Philippines is in a better position to move education to greater levels in the country. Without digital, assessing a seemingly simple task as a student’s handwriting becomes a lot more manageable.

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