Medium as an educational tool — the feedback era

I have read a lot of stories on Medium about what Medium really is. Here’s another answer for you;


Medium is an educational tool. Medium is not about writing but about feedback and discussion. And right now Medium is probably the best and easiest tool for feedback and discussion on writings there is. Comments, highlights and responses is not an on/off feature. It’s the core of Medium.

If your look at research on feedback you see that it has quite an impact on learning for both the ones who write and the ones who give feedback.

“…producing feedback reviews engages students in multiple acts of evaluative judgement, both about the work of peers, and, through a reflective process, about their own work; that it involves them in both invoking and applying criteria to explain those judgements; and that it shifts control of feedback processes into students’ hands, a shift that can reduce their need for external feedback”
Nicol, Thomson & Breslin. 2014

The more the students give and receive feedback the more they learn. Therefore we as teachers must ensure opportunities for peer feedback. That’s why I think Medium is such a great tool for education. You don’t write to write or read to read; you write to start a discussion, you read to participate in one. You use Medium to engage with other people.

I recently read about an interesting blogging project at Virginia Commonwealth University. A great number of students where ask to do their writings on a blog platform and share and discuss via Twitter. This is a really interesting project because it makes students writings public thereby creating an place for peer feedback.

So bottom line is; Writing for peers improves the learning outcome for both the writer and the peers.

Why Medium is the tool

When students do writings today they are likely using Word, Pages or Google Docs and export the final as a PDF.

But PDF has a few big disadvantage;

  • It’s basically a digital print format which means adding web content is a pain in the anchor.
  • The one(s) who give feedback need a separate app for annotation, comments and highlight.
  • It difficult to make the feedback public.
  • It’s not responsive which makes it a pain to read on a mobile.

And Medium has a lot of advantage;

  • No need for separate app for annotation. You can highlight and comment directly in the story.
  • You can write a longer response to any story.
  • Rich media; Just paste in a link to a video, a webpage, a GIF, a ThingLink, a tweet, a soundcloud or whatever and you’ll (often) get a beautiful inline preview.
  • Great and easy text editor. You can’t do it very wrong. It will look great on any device.
  • It’s public by default but you have the option to make your story unlisted
  • There is an app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Which mean you can read, write, comment, highlight and response from anywhere.

“One important way we learn is through expressing and articulating to others what we know or understand. In this process of self-expression, we construct an evolving understanding of increasing complexity. One aspect of this process is providing learners with opportunities to explore and articulate criteria and standards in the context of working on specific assessment tasks. In order to clarify notions of quality, learners need to analyse real, illustrative exemplars. This is where examining the work of peers offers meaningful opportunities for articulating discipline-specific knowledge, as well as criteria and standards.”

Liu and Carless, 2006 (Peer feedback: the learning element of peer assessment)

Using Medium for education in 4 steps

The following will be a concept of Medium in teaching.

1. Write on Medium

Ask your students to write a story on Medium about a relevant subject. You might ask them to add content such as a Thinglink which has an inline preview in Medium. Remember that the web is full of great content and tools. Make your students use them.

2. Peer feedback during the writing proces

Ask your students to share their story with other students before publishing it. Either two-and-two or in smaller groups. In this way they can easily give feedback to each other during the writing proces (without worrying about different versions).

3. Feedback on the final story

Ask the students to publish their final story either as a public story (with the world) or unlisted (only with fellow students). Share the story with the rest of the class. Now it’s time for the students and the teacher(s) to give feedback and discuss through comments, highlights and responses. This is the essential part.

4. Teachers response on Medium

Optionally the teacher can give feedback via a response story. Again this response can be public or unlisted. But it’s important that the feedback is available for all students to read. Everybody benefits from feedback even though it’s not for or from you.

Una feature request, por favor

You can use Medium for education right of the box but I have one feature request that would make it just at bit easier. All I need is a Group feature. It would be like a publication but instead of the submission process the writers (students) would be able to add their story without any approval. The admin of the group would have the option to make the group either unlisted or public. So that only the writers added to the group would be able to read the stories (unless the writers themselves made their stories public)

That’s it. I really thing this is an exciting time for education. Not because of the technology itself but because of the opportunities they give us. All we need to do is see those opportunities.

I just read a story by John Lasseter and I would like to end my story with a quote:

“I remember when I first saw computer animation. It wasn’t being used for much at the time. It was really geometric, sterile and cold, but I was blown away by it. Not by what I was seeing, but the potential I saw in it.” John Lasseter

(Remember that feedback on this story is only a highlight away)

Edit: Robinson Greig published a similar story just earlier today. It’s really great with a different approach. You should read it.