Blogging is everywhere. It informs, comments, inspires, and reveals, with a potential audience that is literally global. Why shouldn’t students be doing it too? It strengthens writing skills, prompts reflection, and provides an autonomous means for students to display their passions and their expertise.
Blogging is not new in the sense that literate folk have been keeping diaries, writing editorials and letters to the editor, answering inquiries for advice, and commenting on the world around them (and within them) since writing was invented. Caesar’s recounting of the Gallic campaigns sounds like an early blog of an embedded soldier-journalist.
Hildegard of Bingen – a medieval nun, scholar, and visionary – answered questions and shared her sermons with a European-wide readership, and seems to have been the earliest blogger on the effects of migraine attacks. In fact, scratch any of the authors whose works students read in high school or college, and you will probably also find a diarist, noting the events of their own and other’s lives. Thus, students have a solid tradition to look to in undertaking the practice of blogging.
Nevertheless, what is the point? Why should overloaded students, already pressed to produce homework and projects, take on another writing task?
Sharpens writing techniques:
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. It is no different with writing. The more you do of it, with a conscious concern for quality, the better you will be at it. This means willfully avoiding dependence on punctuation and smiley faces to express subtleties, and re-reading to edit and perfect your work. This includes blogs about celebrities!
Develops a tough skin:
You will, if you set your blog up to permit this, almost certainly receive some feedback. Some comments will be negative; there is always someone so choked with anger that they can barely wait to post something critical. Deal with it.
Gets it out there:
Whether you are simply writing descriptively to share an experience, or trying to change opinions, your words will have a greater chance of impact than in a 5-paragraph essay for English or Political Science. Your audience, if you set up your blog to permit this, will far outstrip the size of your class. Why shouldn’t you let the world know how you feel?
Gets you in deeper:
You may have found that some topics in your classes intrigue you, but the syllabus marches inexorably onwards to new items, while you want to know more, discuss more, share more on one particular subject. Blogging gives you great chances to research and think about an author, an event, a trend, a person, or anything else that you want to know better. If you feel that you have more to say about something than an essay question on the final exam will permit, this is your avenue to say it.
Showcases your interests:
Yes, you may be fully immersed in your major, but you may also have expertise in other things. Blogging gives you a chance to talk about your accomplishments outside the classroom, and even off the campus. Your music, your volunteer work, your fishing, or your entrepreneurial ventures (that lemonade and brownie stand for example, or your computer repairs for neighbors and classmates) all can be chronicled in your blog. This can be very helpful to high school students when applying for college, and a useful adjunct to a resume for college graduates. It demonstrates a breadth that is often not captured in a transcript, and can illustrate in a more three dimensional fashion the achievements noted in a resume/CV
Lets you toot your own horn:
A blog allows you to trumpet your accomplishments in a particular arena. Of course, you need not be so explicit about bragging. However, if your baking, for example, is fine enough to compete in the Cupcake Wars, and you have pictures, recipes, and tips, you can demonstrate your competence without ever coming out and saying, “I am totally awesome”.
A blog, as a species of diary, allows you to converse with yourself, in a way. Journaling has been a favored tool for psychological and spiritual ‘work’ for decades now. Forming ideas, articulating them in sentences, and then seeing them on the page (or screen), represents a powerful means of processing important or difficult feelings or life events. It is certainly cheaper than psychotherapy, although it should probably not take the place of professional counseling. Consider your audience when describing events and people in your blog, and take care not to breach someone else’s privacy in talking about them.
In fact, please be careful overall. Avoid sharing personally identifying information unless access to your blog is securely controlled and limited. Blogging should be fun and instructive but always safe.
Since there are cheap and free ways to set up a blog, this is an investment largely of time and effort. For students, who have so much that they MUST do, doing something just because they CAN is actually liberating, like auditing a course when you already have a full course load. Blogging is a superb form of exercise for the writing and argumentation muscles of the brain, and students can benefit from it.