Welcome to a New View of WebQuests
Let’s start with a brainstorm: What are WebQuests?
My introduction to WebQuests occurred in 1994/95 when Bernie Dodge shared this new format he had been brainstorming for integrating the Web into classroom / online learning. After several years of being all the rage, many people now treat WebQuests like “old news,” as in, “oh, we did those last century.” I don’t mean to be snotty, but actually, not many people did really do WebQuests in any century. People who know my BestWebQuests site might be aware that out of 2000 activities reviewed, only about 16% of what called themselves WebQuests actually prompted students to transform newly acquired information into new understandings. Most were glorified info hunts, solved through skimming Web sites followed by copying and pasting.
Part of the problem is that a WebQuest demands a few areas of experience or expertise. First, you have to know your way around the Web well enough to tap into the rich resources and interactive potentials available. Second, you have to really “get” critical thinking. People do best who have internalized models like Mazano’s Dimensions of Learning, Costa’s Habits of Mind, Perkins et al.’s Visible Thinking or Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design. It’s not enough to max out at Bloom’s synthesis and evaluation, because we’re really looking at constructing new meaning, accommodating new schema, building new understandings. The third key area of expertise is the ability to facilitate student-centered group learning – that 3 Ring circus of classroom excitement.
Revisit What are WebQuests?
A Process for the Day
To help “edge-ucators” who already have these backgrounds, let’s look at a new process for quickly drafting what could become a vibrant and fun WebQuest, taking advantage of great Web 2 tools.
A Rich Topic, Concept and Theme
Survey your curriculum for a topic rich enough in complexity to warrant long-term and in-depth study. Within this topic, there will invariably be at least a few robust concepts to empower student manipulation of important variables. These concepts will certainly link to broader themes, which when tapped into connect the topic across other equally rich topics.
||Sustainability depends on a delicate balance among resources, pollution, population and economics
||Social Justice, Globalization, scientific innovations
|Folktales & Fables
||Stories that endure across the centuries and cultures provide insights through a rich mix of core human experiences, compelling characterization and powerful emotions
||The fine arts, folk arts, mythology
Once you have a rich topic and some notion of related concepts and themes, take a quick 360 degree survey of who would have vested interests in the topic. Who cares about the topic? Who is affected by it? Who are the “stakeholders?” List as many of these as you can. Finally, match up your list to see if you have a balanced list where all sides are represented. There should be sparks ready to fly between more than a few of the perspectives you’ve listed. For example, if you have “greenies,” you’d better have developers or manufacturers.
Quick Resource Search
Don’t take more than 30 minutes to make a quick tour of the Web to see if rich resources exist on your topic. You aren’t gathering a complete hotlist of resources, just making sure things exist to enliven the experience for students. Consider using your Diigo toolbar and a group or make a list. Be smart, look in TEDTalks, YouTube / iTunes EDU, Diigo groups, RSS feeds and great content providers (Trove, WWF, etc.).
A WebQuest is guided by a big question – this empowers students to discover their own path through the topic and connect the new learning to what they already know.
Your 360 Perspectives brainstorm now combines with your quick search to line out what would seem to be the best 3-6 roles to get students deep into the topic. These will immerse students in areas of expertise that they will use to reshape the gray areas into greater definition and understanding.
Possible Real World Productions / Constructs
Given the topic, the question and the roles, what kinds of things to people make who spend their professional lives caring about the topic? Do they make formal plans, create artworks, raise awareness, invent solutions? Choose at least one that makes the most sense for your topic and also sings with some excitement for you and your students.
Possble Real World Feedback
Who could you contact who might be willing and able to provide authentic feedback to students on what they come up with? These could be parents or older students, but better if they are professionals in the field. The feedback could be provided in person, but comments through a social network or Skype conference can be just as good.
You’re Ready to Go!
Use the above process to draft together what could become a great WebQuest. Use your favorite platform like WordPress to develop the WebQuest and tap into all the great Web tools you love to flatten the learning hierarchy so that you can join in on the learning fun and role-model the joy of learning for your students.
Here’s the process as a handout you can work with.
WebQuests .9 & 1.0