Why Use WebQuests for Today’s Learners
I started using WebQuests in 2003. I created a literature-based WebQuest on the story ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowery. The WebQuest was used for an international literature project. Anyone can create a WebQuest. All you need is a topic, a dramatic task or quest you’d like your audience to follow and perhaps play different life or imaginary roles, and websites.
According to Tom March, a quality WebQuest provides a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the World Wide Web and an authentic task to motivate students’ investigation of an open-ended question, development of individual expertise, and participation in a group production that transforms newly acquired information into a more sophisticated understanding.
WebQuests are not just activities that utilize the Internet. They are more than that.
Students can experience both individual and team learning. This can be done by encouraging them to produce an authentic end product that is creative and applicable to real life. WebQuests should be be real, rich, and relevant. Students work in teams, learn to cooperate and collaborate because they not only access the Internet for information, but they also apply the information in a new way. This leads students to use their higher thinking skills for a deeper understanding and more independent learning. As a result they become responsible for their own learning.
A quality WebQuest must have thought provoking questions in the task that clearly lead to independent and critical higher order thinking.
WebQuests are all about Collaboration
Team work and collaboration should be incorporated into a WebQuest. Making decisions is an important aspect of team work. A quality WebQuest should clearly state in the process how the team members will be divided. Each team member has a role to which he is responsible. Team collaboration helps students learn how to share information and ideas and be responsible for their own learning.
A quality WebQuest must have an evaluation rubric for each stage not only for the end product. Students should present their work in a creative and interesting manner. They should be encouraged to use multimedia and other visual aids.
Finally, a good WebQuest should have a feedback questionnaire or a reflection page for students to add their feelings and comments not only at the end but throughout the project. I would add a working file journal to the WebQuest so that information could be documented. Feelings and ideas should be recorded at all times. This would add to the students’ learning experience.
Importance of Inquiry-based Learning
Inquiry-based learning presupposes that every child wants to learn and that asking questions is a natural means of getting information. However, students need to develop skills that allow them to cope with future situations and become lifelong learners. The inquiry-based approach to learning uses authentic situations by challenging students to view and solve real life problems. Learning to use computer applications such as word processors, databases, spreadsheets, presentations, and webpage software helps students deal with information to solve problems. Trying to solve or resolve problems motivates learners and involves them in the learning process. Students learn to use higher order thinking and social skills necessary in today’s fast paced world.
The aim of inquiry-based learning is to emphasize learning as a lifelong process, which transforms the teacher from a provider of information to a facilitator, or coach. This facilitator, or coach, then guides students on a lifelong quest to learn about learning. Inquiry and problem-based learning are very similar to project-based learning (PBL) in that they also raise questions that require answers. Project based learning connects learning to the task. Technology offers an ideal environment to practice inquiry, problem, and project-based learning as students work in teams to enhance learning by making it meaningful. One example of inquiry, problem, and project-based learning task has been the WebQuest.
Instructional Inquiry-Based Program
A WebQuest engages students in an inquiry, problem-based learning activity that integrates teamwork, higher order thinking, and access to information on the Internet. There are short and long term programs to the WebQuest instruction model. Students are able to comprehend vast amounts of information within one to three class periods by working in groups through a series of activities
As a whole, a WebQuest promotes time and task management skills while scaffolding the learning process. Students learn by classification, inducing, deducing, abstraction, and comparing. The WebQuest moves across other disciplines but requires a great deal of structure to prevent random surfing on the Internet.
Desired Outcomes of the WebQuest
WebQuests are designed to use learners’ time well, to focus on using rather than searching for information, and to support learners’ thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation The two levels of a WebQuest, short term and long term, encourage learners to obtain information from the Internet. Both short and long term WebQuests are deliberately designed to make the best use of a learner’s time. WebQuests consist of an introduction, a process, a task, list of resources, a conclusion, an evaluation, and additional information such as student roles, teacher notes along with state, district, or local educational standards, lessons plans, student reflections, and student presentations. Teachers may use WebQuests in the classroom:
(a) as a collaborative activity in which students create a product
(b) to teach students how to be independent thinkers since most of the problems encountered in a WebQuest are real-world problems
(c) to teach critical and higher order thinking skills
(d) to increase competency in the use of technology
(e) as a motivational techniques to keep students on task
The Internet is bringing learning to more homes. Information about every conceivable topic is now readily available to the public. Information is no longer the monopoly of schools, teachers, libraries, or books. Because of integrated workforce technology and technology-rich environments at home, the educational focus on the Internet has turned from teacher teaching to student learning. The WebQuest model may affect the learning institution by creating a more meaningful online collaborative learning environment.
WebQuests for Teachers
Authentic material involves teacher instruction and student performance. The WebQuest combines inquiry-based authentic material and performance-based tasks that require the use of Internet resources. This paper will examine the WebQuest as a research-based instructional tool, determine reasons for choosing the WebQuest, by stating the desired outcomes and implications for the learning institution and discuss the staff’s development and understanding regarding research in instructional decision making.
WebQuests integrate technology by requiring learners to search for information by accessing the Internet. Using the Internet as a learning tool is an unconventional way of learning, since the Internet challenges conventional textbooks and teachers as the sole providers of information. WebQuests are similar to online distance learning in that students can work independently. Students do not require assistance from the school or the teacher while performing a WebQuest. WebQuests are alternative forms of instruction that have implications for the learning institution.
If you have been using WebQuests in your teaching, please share your experiences in comments below!