You Blog, We Blog: A Guide to How Teacher-Librarians Can Use Weblogs to Build Communication and Research Skills

Article excerpt

The global reach of the World Wide Web helps create connections between many people with diverse opinions and interests. This strength, combined with the ease of publishing to the Web when compared to traditional publishing endeavors, and the ability to reach a large audience have fostered a phenomenon known as weblogs.

Weblogs, or blogs for short, are a cross between a diary, a web site, and an online community. Blogs are built using specially designed software that makes creating and updating a web site quick and easy. As a result, blogs are informal, frequently updated and often chock full of the humor and personality of their creator/moderator.

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Blogs have existed on the Internet for several years now. But it has only been in the last several months that they have increased in popularity. This rise in popularity has resulted in new words being added to the English language: blog--a weblog; blogging--the act of creating a blog; bloggers --individuals who create blogs; and the blogosphere--the connected realm of blogs that exists on the Internet and is accessible via links to other blogs, specialty search engines and blog indexes. As this form of communication flourishes, other jargon will surely come into existence as well.

Blogs started out as personal communication tools that could provide Web commentary on social issues and other topics of interest to the blogging community. Blogging was quickly picked up as a distribution tool for technologists, who use their blogs to distribute source code for software, provide bug reports and comment on the state of technology and society. Some examples of this phenomenon are Little Green Footballs' blog (http://www.little greenfootballs.com/weblog/weblog .php), Scripting News (http:// www.scripting.com/), and WriteTheWeb (http://writethe web.com).

More recently there has been a surge in the number of professional blogs. Several professional journalists have blogs, including Andrew Sullivan (http://www. andrewsullivan.com) and Iain Murray (http://englands sword.blogspot.com/). Noah Shachtman reports that several journalism schools are including blogging in their online journalism classes for the fall of 2002 (Shachtman, 2002).

Part of the spread and popularity of blogs are due to the fact that they are often interactive and community forming. There are even some library blogs that are collaborative, like the Handheld Librarian (http://handheldlib. blogspot.com). Collaborative blogs, i.e. blogs with multiple contributors, are supported by much of the blogging software available today. Other library blogs include The Shifted Librarian (http://the shiftedlibrarian.com), Library Stuff (http://www.librarystuff.net/), and Library News Daily (http://www. lights.com/scott/). There are so many library blogs now that Peter Scott, Internet Projects Manager at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, is compiling an index of them (http://www.libdex.com/ weblogs.html).

Educational blogs

A number of educators have already embraced blogging and are active bloggers. Here are some links to a few on the Internet: Blogging from the Barrio: A Tech Sensei's Blog from Chicago's Barrio of Pilsen (http://radio. weblogs.com/0100504/), K-12blogWrite (http://www. bayareawritingproject.org/k12blog Write/), and Schoolblogs (http://www.schoolblogs.com). Some schools are using the blogs as an electronic alternate to school newsletters for parents and area residents while others are internal communication tools aimed at teachers and administrators.

But blogs could be so much more. How about incorporating blogs in a lesson plan on using search engines, on using news aggregators, or evaluating online resources? Or in a journalism class on detecting bias? Or in a computer class on how to document code? Here is an example of how one class used a blog to communicate what they learned about Tudor Exploration in their social studies class: Tudor Exploration (http://class6f. …