I’ve been reflecting on how easy it is to perform research and write now for both blind and sighted students. But it was not always this way.
In the fall of 1967, I entered my junior year at Perkins. Our English teacher impressed upon students that we must not wait to choose a subject for our junior essay. A thoroughly researched and well-written paper was emphasized, and it would seriously affect our grade that semester. For that essay, students preformed research on their topics at Perkins or their local libraries. I remember for me, personally, it was quite time consuming.
Subsequently, in October I put some extracurricular activities aside to concentrate on reading about Edna St. Vincent Millay, the poet I would write my essay on. With a talking book and print as my references, my mom would often read to me as I took notes. I took all my notes in Braille and they were very handy references when writing my essay.
Taking notes and reading were easy compared to the writing and countless re-typing of pages on a manual typewriter. Though, even with these small annoyances, I liked the process of writing something uniquely mine. Although the task of footnotes and having your paper proofread for typing errors was daunting, the rewarding sense of a project at its completion was worth these aggravations.
Today, the writing of term papers for blind high school and college students is, comparatively, a breeze. While the research and note taking will always be there, the process is easier now. You can download countless books on Bard, among many other sites. You may need readers for print material, but taking notes is easier with devices like Braille note takers and digital recording devices. For students who do not have a note taker, a Perkins braillewriter will also help to quicken the pace.
Writing and revising term papers also takes up less time, as you can proofread your own work, correcting punctuation or grammar. Spell check is a great help, even though it doesn’t replace a proper edit. Even footnotes and sources are easier to weave into your term paper. If you have questions, you can email your paper to your instructor for guidance. We never had that type of access to our teachers.
Regardless of the process, though, the act of researching a topic and writing their own work teaches a student how to use their voice, how to create arguments, how to express themselves–all things that will help them succeed in their future education and beyond. If anything, the technology that we have now ensures that students can accomplish this more often and at a higher level.
Are there any Ziegler readers who are currently students? If so, what is the process of writing an essay like for you? What about you, parents? How have things changed from when you were a kid now that you’re helping your own children with their school work?