Try the WebQuest Experience!

By Celeste M. Scholz

Middle School Teacher

 

How can students use the Internet for meaningful learning? How can learners identify the most valuable websites for their needs? How can Internet resources be used to develop higher order thinking skills in students?

 

These are just a few examples of the questions teachers have been asking since the Internet has become easy to access at school and home. Many teachers have experimented with integrating the Internet. They quickly learned specialized activities were needed to provide focus. In 1995, Bernie Dodge, a professor of education technology at San Diego State University (SDSU), came up with a unique strategy called the WebQuest that incorporates specialized activities.*

 

 

A WebQuest consists of six parts:

  1. Introduction: alert the learner to what’s coming, raise the student’s interest
  2. Task: explains what the learner will have done at the end
  3. Process: outlines for the learner the steps to be done to complete the task
  4. Resources: lists WebPages, textbooks, books, magazines to help the learner complete the task
  5. Conclusion: gives the learner the opportunity to reflect on the task and process
  6. Evaluation: measures the results with the aid of rubrics.

 

At first glance, the WebQuest parts outlined above show nothing more than well-defined learning activities. However, a closer look at the WebQuests featured on SDSU’s WebQuest website (edweb.sdsu.edu/webquest/), reveals engaging tasks that are multidisciplinary, collaborative, inquiry-based and realistic. In fact, Bernie Dodge’s WebQuest taxonomy of tasks includes: retelling, compilation, mystery, journalistic, design, creative product, consensus building, judgment, persuasion, self-knowledge, analytical and scientific. The following WebQuest example, A Forest Forever, given a rating of four (out of five) stars on the Best WebQuests website (bestwebquests.com/), illustrates how WebQuests can integrate several task types.

 

In the A Forest Forever WebQuest (www.teachtheteachers.org/projects/MBergey/index.htm) learners are asked to determine the fate of a forest after they explore the different uses of national forests and the laws that govern them. Once the learners “graduate” from forest training, they join a team of four and are assigned one of the following roles: 1) a forest ranger, 2) an off road vehicle and recreation enthusiast, 3) a Sierra Club member and environmentalist and 4) a timber industry representative.

 

Each student writes a position paper from the point of view of their role and convinces the other team members to use the forest in the way they propose. Each team decides upon the best use of the forest and prepares a PowerPoint presentation to the “public” that explains their recommendations. The paper and presentation are graded on specific criteria, using rubrics supplied on the website.

 

The A Forest Forever WebQuest incorporates learning tasks that are analytical, judgmental, persuasive and consensus building. This WebQuest is multidisciplinary in the areas of science, social studies and language arts and asks learners to contribute individually and collaboratively, regarding a real-life situation.

 

Where is the Internet in all this? The Internet provides the basic content for the activities in the WebQuest. In A Forest Forever, during forest training, the learners visit a number of websites where they use the information they find to answer questions, fill in worksheets and complete crossword puzzles. When the learners prepare to write their persuasive essay as, for example, an off-road vehicle enthusiast, they again review information on four or five websites to fill in a graphic organizer outlining their specific arguments. Each step in the WebQuest process has specific Internet information that the learner processes with a specific task in mind.

 

Let’s reflect for a moment on the opening questions. Using the WebQuest strategy, teachers can ensure that students engage in meaningful learning, find the websites to meet their needs and develop higher order thinking skills. Teachers can find appropriate WebQuests from the thousands available on the Internet or take the plunge and design their own. Connect to one of the WebQuest websites given above and try the WebQuest experience yourself!

 

*C.M. Scholz attended “Catching the Vision: Support Engaged Learning with Technology” at the AISA, 2002 Teacher’s Conference at AISJ in October where WebQuests were one topic discussed. She will present “Designing web-based research activities” at the TESOL Convention in Baltimore, MD in March.