This is the first in a series of 3 posts about assistive technology for students with learning disabilities. Read more about Inspiration’s DSA/SEN programs here!
By Andy Clark, Assistive Technology Consultant, UK
Question: Why do we write?
A simple enough question perhaps, but the answer can be as unique as each individual that considers it. To the writer, writing is sharing. The writer is informing the reader of their thoughts. Be it an essay, a gripping story, a personal message of love, or simply an email to a colleague regarding the latest sales forecast, the writer assembles a stream of consciousness to share with his or her audience. Right now we are sharing, me as your writer and you as my reader. Let me hold your attention for a little while longer as I have something I’d like to share with you.
Writing for me is about two things – ideas and structure. Ideas are the content of writing, and in academia “content is the king”. The academic writer is required to make regular, pertinent and informed points, based on research and directed by a question or brief. Structure is the flow of those points so that they make a coherent story, with depth, which helps demonstrate true understanding.
Visual structure tools (and Inspiration 9 in particular) offer the best way I have found in my 20 years working in the field of assistive technology to help stimulate the process of “ideas generation” and then move those ideas to a “structure”. They are at the very heart of writing, both in academia and elsewhere. Inspiration 9 allows the user to generate ideas by asking the questions “what, who, when, why and how” and then collate answers ready for writing.
In my experience of working one to one with students (often with specific learning difficulties), I’ve noted that there is often a lack of understanding regarding when they are ready to start writing. How many pages of notes are enough to help build a 1,000 word essay? Where and how do they start? More experienced writers know that simply starting to write and then periodically staring at the wall for the next spark of genius is unlikely to lead to concise and structured points. To make an effective start with your writing you need your main ideas beside you – informing you.
What do we need in order to write a 1,000 word essay? Words on their own are meaningless – they need to be structured into sentences. For readability sentences are best kept between 15-20 words long. With three to five sentences per paragraph this equates to 16-20 paragraphs to form your 1,000 words. Each paragraph will need to contain at least two ideas (things to say). This is your content and your starting point. This means that before you start to write you need between 35 and 40 ideas to fill your 1,000 word essay. And that means for a 10,000 word dissertation, you’ll need 350 – 400 ideas! Inspiration 9 as a visual structure tool acts as mental machinery to help you produce sufficient quality ideas to express yourself clearly through writing.
Take a look at the demonstration video below so that you can literally see what Inspiration 9 has to offer! It will show you not only how to create ideas, but also how you can structure those ideas to help with writing.
Cheers and catch you in the next post,
Andy Clarke is a DSA Assessor and freelance AT consultant who has been a prominent member of the UK AT community for over 20 years, assessing individual needs, training and supporting people so they can get the most out of technology.