WebQuest

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1 Definition

A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web, optionally supplemented with videoconferencing. WebQuests are designed to use learner's time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learner's thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The model was developed in 1995 at San Diego State University by B.Dodge with T.March. There are at least two levels of WebQuests:

(a) Short Term WebQuests: designed to be completed in 1 to 3 class periods. The instructional goal is knowledge acquisition and integration, described as Dimension 2 in Marzano's (1992) Dimensions of Thinking model. At the end of a short term WebQuest, a learner will have grappled with a significant amount of new information and made sense of it.

(b) Longer Term WebQuest: will typically take between one week and a month in a classroom setting. The instructional goal is extending and refining knowledge (Marzano's Dimension 3). After completing a longer term WebQuest, a learner would have analyzed a body of knowledge deeply, transformed it in some way, and demonstrated an understanding of the material by creating something that others can respond to, on-line or off-.

The forms that a longer term WebQuest might take are open to the imagination. Some ideas:

  • A searchable database in which the categories in each field were created by the learners.
  • A microworld that users can navigate through that represents a physical space.
  • An interactive story or case study created by learners.
  • A document that describes an analysis of a controversial situation, takes a stand, and invites users to add to or disagree with that stand.
  • A simulated person who can be interviewed on-line. The questions and answers would be generated by learners who have deeply studied the person being simulated.

Putting the results of their thinking process back out onto the internet serves 3 purposes: it focuses the learners on a tangible task; it gives them an audience to create for; and it opens up the possibility of getting feedback from that distant audience.

2 Critical Attributes

WebQuests of either short or long duration are deliberately designed to make the best use of the learner's time. There is questionable educational benefit in having learners surfing the net without a clear task in mind, and most schools must ration student connect time severely. To achieve that efficiency and clarity of purpose, WebQuests should contain at least the following parts:

  1. An introduction that sets the stage and provides some background information.
  2. A task that is doable and interesting.
  3. A set of information sources needed to complete the task. Many (though not necessarily all) of the resources are embedded in the WebQuest document itself as anchors pointing to information on the Web. Information sources might include web documents, experts available via e-mail or realtime conferencing, searchable databases, and books and other documents physically available in the learner's setting. Because pointers to resources are included, the learner is not left to wander through webspace completely adrift.
  4. A description of the process the learners should go through in accomplishing the task. The process should be broken out into clearly described steps.
  5. Some guidance on how to organize the information acquired. This can take the form of guiding questions, or directions to complete organizational frameworks such as timelines, concept maps, or cause-and-effect diagrams as described by Marzano (1988, 1992) and Clarke (1990).
  6. A conclusion that brings closure to the quest, reminds the learners about what they've learned, and perhaps encourages them to extend the experience into other domains.

Some other non-critical attributes of a WebQuest include these:

  1. WebQuests are most likely to be group activities, although one could imagine solo quests that might be applicable in distance education or library settings.
  2. WebQuests might be enhanced by wrapping motivational elements around the basic structure by giving the learners a role to play (e.g., scientist, detective, reporter), simulated personae to interact with via e-mail, and a scenario to work within (e.g., you've been asked by the Secretary General of the UN to brief him on what's happening in sub-Saharan Africa this week.)
  3. WebQuests can be designed within a single discipline or they can be interdisciplinary. Given that designing effective interdisciplinary instruction is more of a challenge than designing for a single content area, WebQuest creators should probably start with the latter until they are comfortable with the format.

3 Thinking Skills required

(from Marzano, 1992)

  1. Comparing: Identifying and articulating similarities and differences between things.
  2. Classifying: Grouping things into definable categories on the basis of their attributes.
  3. Inducing: Inferring unknown generalizations or principles from observations or analysis.
  4. Deducing: Inferring unstated consequences and conditions from given principles and generalizations.
  5. Analyzing errors: Identifying and articulating errors in one's own or other's thinking.
  6. Constructing support: Constructing a system of support or proof for an assertion.
  7. Abstraction: Identifying and articulating the underlying theme or general pattern of information.
  8. Analyzing perspectives: Identifying and articulating personal perspectives about issues.

4 Design Steps

Learning to design WebQuests is a process that should go from the simple and familiar to the more complex and new. That means starting within a single discipline and a short-term WebQuest and then moving up to longer and more interdisciplinary activities. Here are the recommended steps:

  1. Become familiar with the resources available on-line in one's own content area. Toward that end, it exists a Catalog of Catalogs of Web Sites for Teachers. This provides short list of starting points for exploration broken down by subject matter discipline.
  2. Organize one's knowledge of what's out there. For example, Non-WebQuest 3 will guide the teacher in organizing the resources in their discipline into categories like searchable database, reference material, project ideas, etc.
  3. Following that, teachers should identify topics that fit in with their curriculum and for which there are appropriate materials on-line.

5 Selecting a WebQuest Project

WebQuest projects have to be well chosen. There are four filters that the idea must pass through. The WebQuest should:

5.1 1. Curriculum Standards

One temptation is to do things just because they are cool. We've all seen labs filled with kids creating animations or comic strips or games. Once you get past the novelty, you might ask yourself what children learn from such things. Sometimes the glitz has an instructional goal that is well thought out, other times not.

The movement towards definable standards in all content areas is apparent everywhere and is unstoppable. Nowhere are they perfect. Even where the standards are disorganized or unclear, though, it is wise to spend your time creating lessons that can be tied to definable goals that others recognize as important.

We'll assume that you have access to the standards that apply to your location, grade level and content, and that you'll consult them as you juggle possible ideas.

5.2 2. Creative Discontent

Creating a first WebQuest is going to take a fair amount of time. (the second will go more quickly and will be of higher quality…) Since that's so, the chosen project must be something taught before and never been fully satisfied with. The WebQuest designed should replace something and improve upon it rather than being yet another add-on in an already crowded year. When the going gets rough, you'll draw energy from the fact that your newborn WebQuest will make a part of your teaching more effective and enjoyable.

5.3 3. Using the Web Well

The Web adds a unique dimension to teaching. It brings in primary sources that would not ordinarily be available to schools. It brings in timely information that is fresher than tomorrow's newspaper. It allows for colorful pictures, sound and animation. The basic structure of a WebQuest could be done with a pile of books and magazines. You should choose a project that could not be done solely with print materials. Using print alongside the web is a great idea... but let's pick something that couldn't be done as well without web access.

5.4 4. Understanding

Not everything teached requires deep understanding. Some things are best taught with direct instruction because there's no room for creativity and no need for synthesis, analysis or judgement. Irregular verbs in Spanish, the list of NATO member states,... these are not good material for WebQuests. Choose content and standards that invite creativity, that have multiple layers, can have multiple interpretations or be seen from multiple perspectives. In short, pick material that requires students to transform what they seen into something different.

There are great lesson ideas that will not pass through all of these filters. They might make for terrific classroom activities, but they won't make terrific WebQuests. The task now is to juggle possible ideas until they meet all four criteria.

5.5 The Process

How deal with these four filters? Think about the teaching, the curriculum standards, and the kinds of things found on the web so far. Then go through the process as outlined here. You may need to use your newly honed web searching skills to see what's out there on your topic. When you can't answer YES, either modify your idea or pick another one. When you can answer YES to all four questions, you're ready to go on to the next stage.

Adapted from : Selecting a WebQuest Project

6 Tools

6.1 QuestGarden

QuestGarden is an online authoring tool, community and hosting service designed to make it easier and quicker to create high quality WebQuests. No knowledge of web editing or uploading is required. Prompts, guides and examples are provided for each step of the process. Images, worksheets and other documents can easily be attached or embedded in the WebQuest, and users have complete control over the appearance of the final lesson.

QuestGarden is modeled after a community garden with all the resources needed to bring great WebQuests to life. Users are encouraged to comment on each other's work, to share links and images, and to build new WebQuests on existing ones. Rather than starting from scratch, users can bring a WebQuest written by another member of the community into their workspace, modify the content or appearance to suit their needs, and use it with their own students. Attribution to the first author is maintained, and authors are notified when another member of the community makes an improved or modified version of their work.

The main features are:

  • Step by step guidance through the entire process of creating a WebQuest
  • WYSIWYG editing of each section of the WebQuest
  • Ability to insert images and upload supplementary documents to be linked to the WebQuest
  • Publication of the WebQuest in a layout over which the creator has complete control of colors and fonts.
  • Attaching a WebQuest to a group which allows for easy feedback and commenting among group members. This is designed especially for use by WebQuest workshop leaders and teacher educators.

QuestGarden is more than just a tool, it's a community of educators with many goals in common. Members are encouraged to become critical friends of each other's work, to generate ideas for improvement that benefit all of us.

6.2 San Diego City Tool

The Technology Challenge Grants Website from the San Diego City schools suggest step-by-step online tools to create WebQuest forms. Each block of a WebQuest is detailed here with some examples for each block.

Then people can see two differents templates with lot of details of what to do for each block, when and how :

Student page:

  • Several blocks: Title, Introduction, Task, Process, Evaluation, Conclusion.

Teacher page:

  • Several blocks: Title, Introduction, Learners, Curriculum Standards, Process, Variations, Resources Needed, Evaluation, Conclusion.

7 Examples of WebQuests

7.1 Investigating Archaeotype

The goal of this short term WebQuest was to give student a sense of how Archaeotype, a simulated archaeological dig, was conceived and implemented at two very different school sites. The exercise took about 2 hours and involved students working in groups to answer a series of questions. They were given a set of resources to read and interact with which included project reports and theoretical papers on the Web, copies of a portion of the Archaeotype documentation, and directions to go to another room and interact with a teacher via video conference, or with a staff member via speakerphone. The students broke up into groups to experience each of these sources of data and then spent time telling each other what they'd learned. The end result was that each person in the class could explain what Archaeotype was and what problems and successes came with its implementation.

7.2 A look at other school Pages

Short term WebQuest in which the student teachers examined a number of web pages put up by schools. The point of the exercise was to expose them to a variety of ways in which a school could portray itself on the web in preparation for their creating web pages. By the end of the exercise they were able to articulate general principles of good and not-so-good design for school web sites.

7.3 A Webquest about Webquests

Short term WebQuest about WebQuests. The student teachers have to develop an understanding of the differents possibilities of web-based lessons. To do it, they analyze a number of webquest examples and discuss them from multiple perspectives. By the end of the exercise they are able to recognise the good and the bad features of a WebQuest.

7.4 Other WebQuests

The most recently published WebQuests

The best WebQuests

8 References

  • Clarke, J. H. (1990). Patterns of thinking: Integrating learning skills in content teaching. Needham Heights MA: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Dodge, B. (1995, May 5, 1997). Some thoughts about WebQuests, HTML, retrieved 19:56, 23 May 2006 (MEST)
  • Grant, Michael, M. (2002), Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal a service of NC State University, Raleigh, NC, Volume 5, Issue 1 ISSN 1097 9778 HTML (retrieved 19:56, 23 May 2006 (MEST))
  • Marzano, R. J., Brandt, R.S., Hughes, C.S., Jones, B. F., Presseisen, B, Z., Rankin, S. C., & Suhor, C. (1988). Dimensions of thinking: A framework for curriculum and instruction. Alexandria VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Marzano, R. J. (1992). A different kind of classroom: Teaching with dimensions of learning. Alexandria VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Pickett, N., & Dodge, B. (2001, June 20, 2001). Rubrics for web lessons, HTML, retrieved 19:56, 23 May 2006 (MEST)
  • Starr, L. (2000). Creating a WebQuest: It's easier than you think!, [1], retrieved 19:56, 23 May 2006 (MEST)
  • Yoder, M. B. (1999). The student WebQuest. Learning and Leading with Technology, 26(7).