WebQuests


What are WebQuests?


WebQuest is an internet-based teaching technique developed by San Diego State University's Bernie Dodge. It is defined by Dodge as a lesson format that is "inquiry-oriented" as it encourages students to seek answers for themselves in the web. WebQuests are essentially lessons uploaded unto a website. It expands the classroom into the web but nonetheless keeps the whole activity similar to that of a traditional structured class room lesson. The usual components of WebQuest page includes a topic description or introduction, a list of relevant web resources, a set of tasks or questions that the learner needs to answer by the end of the activity, a criteria or rubric to evaluate learning and finally a conclusion which ends the quest, summarizing the learnings the students should have achieved (see diag. 1).

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An essential aspect in creating WebQuests is that it is not just a listing of information or data of the lesson. It requires student-interaction wherein students are encouraged to engage with the lesson through web resources and questions posted by the teacher and other interactive applications that are made available in the site as well so as to further enhance the learning experience. These would then elicit a response from the student leading them to effectively analyze and synthesize a topic/lesson and be able to solve problems creatively and be bricoleurs.

WebQuests support the idea of the scaffolding technique in which the teacher gives a formal "structure" or "guideline" which helps the student work on his/her research and find needed data for him/her to synthesize such information and thereby independently formulate new ideas.The learner will develop the habit of being decisive in using on-line resource materials, gain competency in utilizing it and his participatory role in interactive programs can give him/her a meaningful learning experience. Further more, the availability of mega information in websites will train the student to discern/make out clearly or analyze the appropriate data he/she needs. The student is able to link new information with what he knows and this is a higher order of thinking.

Learning Theories that Guide the Use of WebQuests


WebQuests can essentially cater to an array of learning styles (verbal, visual, even kinesthetic as students are in direct contact with their computers) depending on how a teacher designs his/her WebQuest site. With thoughtful and careful design of a WebQuest it can be a medium in which the Multiple Intelligence learning theory can be employed. Moreover, WebQuests do not simply adhere to just logical and analytical thinking (left brain), it allows synthesis and intuitive thinking (right brain) and thus creating a balance in the curriculum which highly supports the learning theory of Right Brain vs. Left Brain Thinking.

The goal of the WebQuest to is effectively engage the student into the lesson in which he/she is actively synthesizing information and formulating new ideas. This kind of learning is highly valued in the Cognitivist and Constructivist learning theories. The Web provides a good environment for students to have inquiry-based learning as it exposes them to a multitude of up-to-date information which supports constructivist learning. The student gains new knowledge and links this to his/her existing information/data and active construction of a better meaning takes place. The tasks in the WebQuests present a challenging situation and a higher order of thinking that can motivate the student to achieve the learning goals.

The Benefits of Using WebQuests

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With the ever growing library of information that is in the Web, there is also an increasing demand for educators to harness this explosion of data and help students sift through the information. WebQuest activities help teachers address this issue. Through WebQuests, students are given a venue in which they can increase their understanding through research and at the same time think critically of the materials they read. WebQuests is not simply a tool for content learning but it also encourages learning in an authentic research and problem-solving environment (Ikpeze and Boyd, 2007). WebQuests facilitate focused inquiry, constructive communication, expression and active learning.

As mentioned in the previous section, WebQuests can be designed to address different learning styles which may normally be difficult to address in a classroom. This then offers the learners various ways in which they can comprehend a subject matter. "With multiple knowledge representations learners experience the same content in different ways, with different activities and multiple media forms." (Ikpeze and Boyd, 2007). Exposure to such technologies will help improve the student's performance academically and develop broader forms of social, cultural and intellectual capacity (MacGregor and Lou, 2004).

The Challenges of Using WebQuests


The Teacher Challenge:

Creating a WebQuest can be daunting at first look, although it's creator, Dodge, reassures educators that it should not be a block for
possible obstacles!
possible obstacles!
as long as one knows how to make documents with hyperlinks. The challenge then lies in creating an effective WebQuest. Whether one adapts a previous model of a WebQuest or starts from scratch, the teacher must have careful consideration of each element that is on the page. Previously mentioned, a WebQuest is not simply an account of a lesson but it should be engaging to the students encouraging them to flourish in their own learning type. The scaffolding technique is very much essential in implementing a WebQuest activity. This can be done through explicit instruction, elaborative questioning, modeling and individualized instruction (Ikpeze and Boyd, 2007).

The Student Challenge:

In Ikpeze and Boyd's article, they mention that one of the major problems with learning on the Internet is navigational disorientation and information overload (2007). If the WebQuest overloads the student with information the tendency is for the student to lose track of their search subject or simply become fatigued. Although the generation of students nowadays may be seen as internet savvy, it is non sequitur that they would always have adequate skills to efficiently and effectively negotiate through the Web. Furthermore, because the Web does present us various windows into different sites, the issue of distraction arises as the students sees this activity as an opportunity to also visit other websites that may not be related to the topic being discussed.


Special Guidance for Using WebQuests


In his website, Dodge mentions a few critical components in creating a WebQuest:

A real WebQuest....
  • should be tailored to its students making the tasks doable but at the same time interesting; it is ideally a scaled down version of things that adults do as citizens or workers so as to enable the students to make connections with real-world complexities.
  • should invoke a higher level of thinking, which means synthesis, analysis, problem-solving, creativity and judgment.
  • should make good use of the web. As mentioned there is a vast spread of information out there. The teacher should use the web's potentiality in broadening their lessons by incorporating these information into their lesson but at the same time not overwhelm the students
  • is not a research report or a step-by-step science or math procedure. Having learners simply distilling web sites and making a presentation about them isn't enough.
  • is not just about having a series of web-related experiences. A WebQuest should actively engage a student into the lesson and this does not equate to simple games and passive viewing of websites. It entails higher learning and synthesis of data.

The success of a WebQuest is highly dependent on the educator's creativity and flexibility in the activities that are uploaded on the WebQuest.

Research on Webquests


Ikpeze, C. H., & Boyd, F. B. (2007). Web-based inquiry learning: Facilitating thoughtful literacy with WebQuests. Reading Teacher, 60(7), 644-654.

This article is a study focusing on WebQuests and how they can be used to facilitate thoughtful literacy in U.S. public schools. Ikpeze and Boyd's findings indicate that Wequests do facilitate thoughtful literacy given that they are well designed (tasks are carefully selected, organized and implemented) however, they also suggest further research on the WebQuest processes and how they promote inquiry learning and thoughtful literacy to the more diverse student population.

MacGregor, S.K., & Lou, Y. (2004). Web-Based Learning: How Task Scaffolding and Web Site Design Support Knowledge Acquisition. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37(2), 161-175.

MacGregor and Lou makes a research on how to enhance pedagogical effectiveness in WebQuests as prior studies have indicated that WebQuests are promising but effective implementation into classes were not always achieved. The study examined fifth grade students and their experience of different scaffolding techniques (conceptual, metacognitive, procedural, and strategic) implemented in WebQuests. They conclude that the most effective was using the conceptual scaffold in the form of study guides and concept mapping templates. This finding indicates that educators need to be meticulous in their designing of a WebQuest so as to achieve learning objectives.

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WebQuest Lesson Ideas


An example of using multi-knowledge representations on WebQuest is created by Susan Hulse, Debbie Morrie and Lynn Dye of Keheley Elementary School in Marietta, GA. Their WebQuest is a interdisciplinary study on the topic of Environmental Protection covering subjects like Social Studies, Language Arts and Science:

http://www.cobb.k12.ga.us/~keheley/kidpower/kidpower.htm

Another good example of a WebQuest integrating two subject fields is one on Charles Dicken's Great Expectations. This particular WebQuest explores the social issues in the novel:

http://www.web-and-flow.com/members/jcowleyd/dickens/webquest.htm

WebQuest can also be used in fine arts. This WebQuest helps entice students of classical music to know more of the composers and their backgrounds:

http://www.spa3.k12.sc.us/WebQuests/mozart/Mozartquest.html


WebQuest Links






References:


Brown, J. S. (2002). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education, and the ways people learn. Retrieved Oct. 2, 2007

Ikpeze, C. H., & Boyd, F. B. (2007). Web-based inquiry learning: Facilitating thoughtful literacy with WebQuests. Reading Teacher, 60(7), 644-654.

Kitchenham, A. (2006). Teachers and technology: A transformative journey. Journal Of Transformative Education, 4(3), 202-225.

MacGregor, S.K., & Lou, Y. (2004). Web-Based Learning: How Task Scaffolding and Web Site Design Support Knowledge Acquisition. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37(2), 161-175. Retrieved October 2, 2007, from Research Library Core database.