I have had the pleasure of using Rationale recently to look at the concept of argument mapping. In it’s rawest form this can be seen as ‘essay writing with trainer wheels’ according to a colleague of mine. I really like how it visually represents prose and breaks down the structure of essays to enable students to see how to construct these pieces of work.
The visual nature of this tool enables students to be able to see how their work should be mapped out and how balanced or unbalanced discussions can be depending on the work being done.
An Issues template shows in a similar way how the the reasons and objections are more balanced in this piece of work.
Using maps to plan out an essay in the map, provides students with their essay at the same time and the export facility gives an .rtf file that the students can use to further their work.
Using the tool, brought into questions of whether students should be restricted, structured in their work from the outset or should they be left to play, to fall over in different ways (eg provide too many reasons in an essay that has a word limit). However, the tool does have facilities to accommodate your pedagogical approach.
I also have concerns about whether use of Rationale without strong teaching would lead to bland essays that had a very formulaic structure but perhaps that is what is needed. It could be argued that any tool still needs good teaching to support it so Rationale is no different in that respect.
All in all, I find this a really useful insight into a lovely example of how technology can enhance traditional educational practice.