Project Learning Curve – a push by Domtar Corporation (NYSE: UFS) (TSX: UFS) to increase focus on handwriting and the research that shows how much it benefits students – won a Silver Lion on Monday at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Cannes is considered the world’s most prestigious annual advertising and communications awards honoring marketing excellence.  Roughly 40,000 entries, including work for the world’s biggest brands, are being judged at the annual festival, held in Cannes, France.

Domtar’s “Project Learning Curve” was recognized in the Mobile Services category. The honor came after Domtar spearheaded the creation of the world’s first handwriting tracker – an app that connects a digital pen to paper. Just like wearable fitness trackers encourage people to exercise their hearts by tracking their miles, the Project Learning Curve app encourages students to exercise their brains through handwriting. It also allows teachers to monitor what students write on paper, gauge how much time is spent handwriting in class and at home, and set classroom goals for students, such as writing enough characters to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

This honor follows an April announcement that Domtar won a Merit Award for Product and Mobile Integration from The One Show, one of the world’s most respected competitions recognizing the best creative work in advertising, interactive, design and branded entertainment.

“We’re certainly proud of these awards, but what we’re really proud of is how Project Learning Curve illustrates how print and pixels can complement each other in the classroom, giving students the best chance of success,” said Paige Goff, Domtar’s vice president of sustainability and business communications. “A growing body of research underscores the importance of handwriting and the brain development it stimulates, yet a growing number of classrooms have eliminated handwriting from the curriculum because of the greater availability of technology. This is a fun way to engage students and help them succeed.”

Parents and teachers can learn more about Project Learning Curve and watch a short video at Anyone with the Anoto pen can also download the free app. Here’s where to buy the pen and where to download the application.

Researchers have found handwriting helps students learn, remember, express ideas and perform better in a variety of ways. Consider:

  • Experts at Indiana University conducted brain scans on pre-literate children to determine whether printing letters, tracing them or typing is the most effective method in the learning process. The children tried each method, and then received a functional MRI scan. The results? If children wrote by hand, the experts saw more neural activity that could be linked to reading.
  • Good handwriting can play a role in classroom performance. It can take a generic classroom test score from the 50th percentile to the 84th percentile, while bad penmanship could tank it to the 16th, said an education professor at Vanderbilt University in this Wall Street Journal article.
  • A Florida International University researcher found a similar link. She looked at students’ grades on fine motor writing tasks in pre-K and their grades in elementary school. Those who did well on fine motor tasks had an average GPA of 3.02 in math and 2.84 in reading, a “B” grade. Those who struggled with fine motor tasks had an average GPA of 2.30 in math and 2.12 in reading, the equivalent of a “C.”
  • Handwriting can also help older students. Psychologists at Princeton and UCLA have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. This difference does not necessarily stem from the distracting effects of computers. Rather, writing by hand allows students to process a lecture’s content and reframe it. This process of reflection and manipulation can lead to better understanding and memory encoding, according to this New York Times article.
  • An article in Psychology Today, titled “Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter,” highlights similar findings. A professor at the University of Washington, for example, studied children in grades two, four and six, finding they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand and not with a keyboard.

Project Learning Curve is part of Domtar’s PAPERbecause campaign, which showcases the effectiveness and sustainability of paper. Since its launch in 2010, the campaign has been profiled in The New York Times, featured on the front page of USA Today, honored by readers of Newsweek, written about in Communication Arts and a series of videos done as part of the campaign has been viewed more than half a million times on YouTube.

In 2013, Domtar’s “Paper Hotspot” at the SXSW Interactive Festival was also named a finalist for a Cannes Lions award.