Magazine article MultiMedia Schools

"WebQuests 101": Tips on Choosing and Assessing WebQuests

Magazine article MultiMedia Schools

"WebQuests 101": Tips on Choosing and Assessing WebQuests

Article excerpt

In 1995, I had the pleasure of teamteaching with professor Bernie Dodge. During that semester, Web access came to the computer labs at San Diego State University (SDSU) so Bernie began experimenting with creative ways to integrate the Web with other successful learning strategies. By posting one elegant activity for pre-service teachers and a support page describing the rationale behind the structure, he launched the WebQuest, arguably the most popular approach for integrating the Web in classroom learning. At that point I also joined SDSU's Ed Tech staff on a 3-year fellowship and enjoyed working closely with Bernie as we added to and refined the strategy.

My particular flavor of WebQuest is based on experiences as a member of a project-based interdisciplinary teaching team, technology-using high school teacher, and developer of online activities. The main features I've tweaked within the original format are the addition of an essential question, a phase for acquiring background knowledge, the use of roles, and a real-world feedback loop. The following article begins to explore the subtleties of identifying, creating, and using WebQuests. Perhaps it goes without saying that these opinions highlight my perspective on the subject, not the one truth.

The World of WebQuests

By now many educators have caught some of the buzz about WebQuests. Colleges of education, school districts, online content providers, and individual teachers have all used the format to support students' higher-order thinking. For those new to WebQuests, the best place to begin is Bernie Dodge's The WebQuest Page [httpJ/edweb.sdsu. edu/webquest/webquest.html]. Another entry point is my own "WebQuests for Learning" [http@/ozline.com/webquests]. Exploring these sites and their featured WebQuests should help newcomers get a feel for the nature of the format. Specifically, read introductory articles like Bernie's "Some Thoughts about WebQuests" [http://edweb.sdsu.edu/ courses/edtec596/about-webquests. html], my "Why WebQuests?" [http:// ozline.com/webquests/intro.html], and a variety of works linked from The WebQuest Page. "Fine," you might be saying right now, "but why do I want to get involved in WebQuests? Are WebQuests the Answer?" If the question involves wanting to help students use newly acquired knowledge to construct meaning on a complex topicpreferably in a way that motivates working together and testing ideas in a real world context-then WebQuests can be a pretty good answer.

The next reason to recommend WebQuests is that creating a learning environment involves more than saying to students: "Think deep thoughts.... Ready, set, go!" Our best intentions to use best practices can fall short at the nuts-and-bolts level: "Is there a way to avoid The New Plagiarism?" "How can I make sure all students in a group contribute?" "What helps bolster student motivation?" "What if children rebel when confronted by ProblemBased Learning?" These questions illustrate that cool, research-based learning theories often confront variableladen classroom realities.

Enter the WebQuest.

From Bernie Dodge's original description in "Some Thoughts About WebQuests," he structured a template for activities to help both teachers and students translate educational theories into classroom practices. How is this achieved? Some call it scaffolding, some prompting, some procedural facilitation. Either way, the idea is that by asking teachers and students to address specific aspects (create an open-ended, essential question, critique resources that present conflicting viewpoints), we encourage more advanced performances. This is the heart of the writing process. The WebQuest format prompts an inquiry-based approach to encourage a richer learning experience.

When WebQuests

Aren't the Answer

In schools we typically instigate a variety of learning experiences that don't need to culminate in a WebQuest. For example, sometimes our goals focus on independent research, knowledge acquisition, affective engagement, or concept attainment. …

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