“Writing is easy,” said Gene Fowler. “All you do is sit staring at a blank piece of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Other than replacing blank pages with blank computer screens, technology has done mercilessly little to reduce the agony of student writers or improve the content of their essays.
That’s why we developed our Writing Navigator—a suite of tools to guide and support students in all four stages of the composition process: planning, drafting, revising, and publishing.
Students determine their purpose and audience; develop ideas, facts, or opinions; support their ideas with quotations and information from web sites, books, or other sources; group and sequence their ideas; and review their writing plans.
Students transform their writing plans, developing sentences, supporting details and transitions; creating introductory and concluding paragraphs; and improving sentence patterns, punctuation, and transitions.
By learning to ask questions experienced writers ask automatically, students begin to express themselves with greater precision and power. A built-in language parser lets students examine their own work for wordiness, verb selection, sentence structure, overuse of prepositional phrases, and much more.
Students put the final touches on their essays: formatting the text, proofreading, and documenting sources using an automated tool that creates MLA-style parenthetical citations and a works-cited page.
What makes us different?
Unlike a grammar checker, we seek less to identify mistakes than to point out opportunities for invigorating student work. Conventional methods offer abstract and generally unhelpful injunctions: Giving students a topic and the command “Write clearly!” is akin to pushing them out a window and shouting “Fly!”
Writing Navigator shifts the paradigm by focusing on whatever the student writes. The impact of that shift is difficult to overstate.
Over the next week, we’ll discuss the product’s teacher-driven origins, the technology that makes it work, and the classroom response. Follow along to learn more about how it all came about!