Blog applications in the classroom and beyond

CINF 6

Randy Reichardt, randy.reichardt@ualberta.ca, Science & Technology Library, University of Alberta, 1-26 Cameron, Edmonton, AB T6G 2J8, Canada
Weblogs, or blogs, are websites, which are regularly and frequently updated with new entries, links, documents, multimedia, graphics, and pictures. First appearing as online diaries or journals in the late 1990s, other applications evolved as the usability and robustness of blog software improved, making it easier for anyone to create and use a blog. In science and technology, discipline- and subject-specific blogs began to appear, attracting the interest of students, academics, and practitioners working in areas such as chemistry and engineering.

In 2003, the engineering librarian introduced blogs into chemical, material and mechanical design engineering classes. Students working in groups of four on capstone design projects in these subjects were given the option of using blogs as a project management tool. Instructions on blog creation and utility were written and distributed to interested student groups, who worked with the engineering librarian to create, upload and maintain a blog for each project. Certain Subject-specific databases such as Compendex (Engineering Index) now provide the ability to make use of blogging and RSS functionality, features which were available to the students as well.

The use and application of blogs will be discussed. Included will be a brief review of examples of blogs in chemistry as well as the author's professional blog, covering issues of interest to science and technology librarians. Use of blogs in chemical engineering design classes will be covered, as well as newer applications, such as the “Blog This” and RSS features now available in the engineering database, Compendex.