Stop Forcing Your Students To Blog, Do This Instead

In this post, I’m going to make a case AGAINST student blogging and suggest, what I believe to be, a superior alternative instead.

What Blogs Were Supposed To Do For Students

Blogs were supposed to offer students a platform upon which they could share their thoughts, work, and words with the world. Blogs were supposed to offer students an authentic and engaged audience. They were supposed to promote dialogue between reader and author, and above all else, blogs were supposed to elevate mere “assignments” to publications that possessed the potential to be read by the several billion people on this planet with internet access.

What Blogs Actually Did

Save for an exception or two, student blogs mostly did… nothing.

While tech specialists everywhere are likely spit-taking coffee on their laptops, deep down you’ve probably suspected this all along. Almost every student blog features the same orange Blogger template, the same Google Plus share gadget, half of an “About” page, 1-3 posts, and a single uninspired comment from a classmate. Also, each student has at least one or more identical blogs that they set up and orphaned for another “innovative” teacher.

The Problem With Blogs

When you set up a blog, you’re setting up an entire publishing platform. Rarely does any writing merit its own platform, let alone “this-is-what-I-learned-over-summer-break” writing.

Blogs come with certain expectations like unique design, a distinct point of view, a plethora of content, and perhaps most importantly a reason to come back. Quite frankly, a blog is the wrong medium for 1, 2, or even 10 writing assignments – even the most stellar ones.

Student blogging may actually have the opposite of the desired effect on your students’ writing.

If connecting with an authentic audience is the goal of publishing student work to a blog, one must consider that Google’s search algorithm actually punishes incomplete, unresponsively designed websites. So unless your students are experts in search engine optimization, their blogs will not connect them to real-world readers. Instead, they’ll simply get buried deep in Google’s search rankings to the point of being unfindable, and that’s not exactly motivating to young writers.

So What Are We To Do?

If blogs are the wrong medium, what’s the right one? Actually, a platform called Medium is, in my opinion, the right medium.

Medium is relatively new, and what it does best is what it doesn’t do. Medium eliminates the whole template/theme/gadget/widget part of blogging and places the entire focus on reading and writing. You’ve probably even read something on Medium and not even realized it. To me, that’s the point. The sharing of student work and the exchange of ideas shouldn’t get bogged down in the frivolous tasks of website design.

Medium’s editor is super intuitive for students to use. There’s no admin side/live side juggling act on the platform. What you see when you write is actually what you get when you publish. Commenting is built in as is a community of avid readers who have self-selected topics that they want to read more about. Medium also includes innovative features like tweetable highlighting and estimated read times. Since Medium itself is a platform, single written assignments can stand alone, but entire compilations of writing work equally well.

In short, Medium does ALL of the things that blogs were supposed to do and then gets the hell out of the way.

Techy Bits

  • Medium is responsively and beautifully designed, so it looks great on every screen
  • Mobile Apps exist for Medium on iOS and Android but it works exceptionally well in a standard web browser
  • Students can log in with a Google account
  • Somewhat ironically, Ev Williams (the founder of Blogger AND Twitter)  founded Medium – he gets web publishing

Final Thoughts

The focus of student writing should be on the writing itself. Medium accomplishes this exceptionally well. So stop forcing your students to set up blogs that they don’t even like to read, and start publishing on Medium.