Black History WebQuest: The Past IS Present

Welcome to the Video Tour

An earlier post on the Past IS Present Black History WebQuest gave an overview of the elements and design process I used. The video below is a deep dive so you can take a closer look. You might want to use it with students or be inspired to create something of your own.

What really makes this WebQuest exciting for me are the great short videos available on all six compelling topics and then also really great interactive maps so that students can locate the issue in their own neighborhood, city or state.

The topics are:

  • Redlining
  • Racial Violence
  • Confederate Symbols
  • Gerrymandering
  • Economic Disadvantage
  • Mass Incarceration

The actual Past IS Present WebQuest is available from my TpT store. This is the first out of the many WebQuests I’ve made that I’ve opted to charge for. Let’s see how it goes. I’m happy to get feedback through the comments below or via the contact page on this Website.

Catcher in the Rye WebQuest

“If you really want to know…”

So began Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. Long a favorite novel of mine to read and teach, I wanted to help students really understand the cultural milieu of the 1950s, when the work became instantly popular.

The great thing about this era in terms of resources available for a WebQuest is that it’s both recent enough to have lots of video recordings of key people & topics, but the footage is old enough to have that otherworldly feel.  Students often assume Holden comes from a world roughly contemporaneous to their own, even with his dated slang.  They also often think radicalism in culture and the arts began with the 60s. So these archival videos bring that world between WWII and the Beatles to life.

In the video below, I take a deep dive into my Some Crazy Cliff WebQuest as a an example for literature WebQuests and also to invite you let me know if you want to use the WebQuest.  As with anything, the resources need a little checking for Link Rot and I’d probably want to make a few tweaks.

As an added bonus, I also creating some Look to Learn Thinking Routine activities related to the main themes of the WebQuest.  You can check these out and use them as warm-up / thinking prompts if you like.

Use the comments below, on the YouTube page or via the contact form on this Web site if you’d prefer anonymity.

The Big Wide World WebQuest

Introduction

Because people kept asking whether younger students could do WebQuests, I created The Big Wide World WebQuest as a way to immerse younger students in a teacher-facilitated exploration of the world.  Inspired by a son’s school field trip into the local farms and paddocks, I used the WebQuest to engage them in some of the bigger picture aspects of our world (seasons, climate, biomes, animals, plants, culture, etc.).

After watching the video and exploring the site, use the comments below or on Youtube or contact me to let me know if you are interested in using the WebQuest, particularly with students away from school due to the coronavirus. This will prompt me to update the links and give the WebQuest a little refresher with more engaging and interactive resources.

 

The Parts (What & Why) of WebQuests

The Key Aspects of WebQuests… Described & Illustrated

One way to understand what something is is to look at its “parts.” It helps even more if there’s a discussion of what the “parts” are supposed to do and why.  WebQuests are just the same – and it also helps to see examples. That’s what the following video does.

Web site and articles referred to in the video are listed below.

Links to WebQuests and Articles

Who is Tom and Why is he chattering on about WebQuests?

Hi all,

As part of the Quick and Dirty WebQuest PL series on Youtube Playlist, I thought a few (a very few 😉 ) people might be interested in a bit of background about my role and perspective on developing WebQuests. So here’s a backgrounder video followed by links to the WebQuests and articles referred to in the video.

Please subscribe if you’re interested in WebQuests and let me know through the comments section what you’re interested in and I’ll address this aspects.

 

Links to WebQuests and Articles

 

 

Dust-off WebQuests for Online Learning

Let WebQuests Help during COVID-19

As we all struggle to adapt to life in pandemic times, many schools, teachers and parents are grappling with how to provide online learning for students. Lots of great strategies and platforms exist that didn’t 20 years ago when we were in the heyday of WebQuests, so keep using these things (Google Suite, apps, videos, LMS platforms, etc.). But there will come a time when WebQuests are exactly the solution you’re looking for (he says, confidently).  When is this magical time?

You really want to use a WebQuest when…

  1. Obviously, learners have access to the Web 😉
  2. The goal is to develop understanding, not just learn information (e.g., not just memorize or copy/paste). Use the comments link if you want to discuss the difference.
  3. You’d rather guide, than direct, student learning.
  4. The topic is connected to the real world and people often have different opinions or theories about it.
  5. Especially during times of social isolation, you want students to work together and collaborate (even remotely).

How about a refresher on WebQuests?

The video below will take you quickly through the “Parts” of a WebQuest (and why each part is important).  Other videos will elaborate on WebQuest design tips.

 

Resources

 

 

Image of dusty computer – from Yinan Chen

New Black History Activities

My First WebQuest in Ages!

Part of how I get to spend my time these days is to create new learning activities. Recently I’ve been able to dip back into my love of Robert Frost and poetry in general. My long-standing interest in equality for Black Americans was nudged by Black History Month in the US.  When I began creating WebQuests, some of my first ones were inspired by this important commemoration. I decided to take a look at what was available on the Web – my starting place is to get excited by the resources I find. What I found were some outstanding short videos on important issues, and, fortunately, interactive maps on each of the topics. This allowed for the creation of the Past IS Present WebQuest.

The Past IS Present WebQuest

After creatively searching the Web, I came up with the following six issues that touched on enough to form a fairly complete experience for students. The issues are:

  • Redlining (long-term housing discrimination)
  • Racial Violence (lynching and hate groups)
  • Confederate Symbols
  • Gerrymandering (and voter suppression)
  • Economic Disadvantage
  • Mass Incarceration

Using my usual WebQuest approach, I begin with one video engage students and help create a little cognitive dissonance. That, “Huh?” experience that slightly disrupts their schema is what’s needed to build to the new “Ah-Ha!” insight and deeper understanding.  This is followed by floating some essential questions and encouraging students to Mindmap their current knowledge.  To make sure everyone’s got a solid base of shared understanding, years back I added the “Background for Everyone” phase to Bernie Dodge’s original template.  This is what I’ve come to call a Knowledge Hunt and isn’t impressive by itself because it can descend into a copy/paste experience for students.  Never-the-less, I have made this Background activity freely available, perhaps to entice engaging in the next steps.

Video Introductions and Issue-based Experts

Once all students have a shared background and a Mindmap that illustrates the current schema of their knowledge, the real fun begins. Using Google slides, one short and compelling video for each of the six issues is given to individual (or pairs) of students in a group.  After the video, students are given a few additional links and prompted to record new information in a basic 5Ws & H grid.  Armed with this, amazingly researchers, non-profits and concerned citizens have posted really engaging interactive maps that allow students to find local instances of the issue. This helps bring home the point – Black history and its injustices in the US are not only distant in time, but often occurring today and often in our own communities.  Detailed step-by-step instructions are provided for each map so students can encounter the most compelling data and insights.  To give shape to these insights, learners are guided with scaffolds to shape their opinions into a solid thesis statement or argument.

The Group Process and Transformation of Information into Understanding

Those who know me are aware that a small percentage of what are referred to as WebQuests actually fit the bill. Previous research reviewing almost 2,000 self-named WebQuests revealed that only about 16% actually met the main criteria. To put it at its most simple: it’s impossible for students to copy and paste their way to completing a WebQuest.  Because the questions are open-ended and the tasks such that they require problem-solving, the focus is one having students transform the acquired information into a new understanding.  That’s right, we found that 84% of what are referred to as WebQuests merely ask students to copy and past what they find on Web sites.  Obviously, my new Past IS Present WebQuest goes the full distance with scaffolds to help students transform information meaning.  It ends with suggestions for ways that students can contribute their learning to the real world such as:

But Wait… You can do rich learning in a shorter timeframe…

Because I know that many teachers don’t have the time to engage students in a real WebQuest, but want to use some of the Web’s rich media for more real and relevant learning, I’ve packaged up just the Introductory Videos on the Six Issues in a Awareness and Mindmapping activity. This way, people can get exposure to the issues and get students thinking.  This is a great way to move beyond knowledge acquisition and, perhaps eventually, into a full WebQuest.  With all the interest in PBL (Problem-based Learning) again these days, a WebQuest is a handy way to get the most from teacher time and student learning.

 

A Note on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I’ve decided to spend the year uploading activities to TpT after decades of putting work online for free.  In some ways I’m both comfortable and uncomfortable with charging for learning activities.  Given that I still provide lots for free and have been developing quite detailed and scaffolded activities for TpT, I’m curious to see how things are received.

 

 

WebQuests at 20: a lesson in “only new mistakes”

<soapbox>

seaching-for-china-0.1I wrote an article last month, The WebQuest: A Parable reflecting on the 20th anniversary of WebQuests (Education Technology Solutions magazine – also available as a pdf). I won’t repeat the article in this post but use what follows to provide a bit of evidence that K-12 education doesn’t need any new ideas, but new mistakes.

Evidence of Missed Opportunities

The heart of the reflection was that I think we’ve missed two decades of opportunities for educational technology in K-12 schools to make a difference, to achieve the goals we had for ICTs to empower authentic, personally rewarding and meaningful learning. As a way to verify this – and to double-check that I haven’t descended into a crotchety middle-aged pessimism – I recently asked a room full of ICT educators and leaders how often they observed the following happening in their school’s classrooms:

  • Essential questions and inquiry drive learning.
  • Students choose their own pathways through content.
  • Students analyse complex topics from multiple perspectives.
  • Learning activities are scaffolded to support differences among students.
  • Students use ICTs as tools for constructing knowledge and creating rich productions.
  • Students work in teams and collaborate with peers online.
  • Students get real world feedback from experts in the field.
  • By the end of every unit students have transformed information into understanding.

You can see the live poll here. The results are in no way a criticism of the people in the audience as I’d wager that this group is more sophisticated in their ICT integration and curriculum than most similar cohorts as they were a self-selected sample of keen educators who chose to attend an EdTech conference.  Here’s what we learned:

poll-SA

Ouch.  Of course the “gotcha” is that each of these teaching and learning bullet points are integrated into every real WebQuest. To verify this, you can take a look at What WebQuests (Really) Are. And these things aren’t radically difficult or cutting edge – and have only gotten easier as technology has becomes faster, more powerful and ubiquitous.  So I think it’s fair to say, as a general summary, that pockets of pioneering educators have ALWAYS done great things, but also, that we’re still far from pervasively improving what’s done across all schools.

I think that what’s heartening is that almost 20% identified that Carol Ann Tomlinson’s (et al) efforts in differentiation have had an impact.  Fantastic!  I have to be a little cynical, however, about the second most-observed aspect of “using ICTs as tools for constructing knowledge and creating rich productions.”  I justify my skepticism on two fronts.  First, again, these responses come from ICT integrators and leaders in the field so are not representative of an average school.  The second hesitation I have is around “constructing knowledge” and “creating rich productions” for which I set pretty high bars.  I see “constructing” as analogous to “understanding” and my work in Understanding by Design with schools indicates that many teachers still don’t have a great sense of the difference between “knowing” and “understanding” – not being harsh, just a reality that springs from mandatory curricula that tend to focus on covering content, not uncovering enduring understandings.  Also, in terms of “creating rich productions” the “richness” I seek is not just in terms of “rich media” which is great, but “richness” of thinking, relevance and authenticity: using technology to transform information into understandings that matter to the students and the world.

Of course the point is that the challenges schools face will not be solved by technology or any “new idea.” Just significant, hard, but deeply meaningful, work. The work, in fact, that only educators can and should do.  So let’s not fret or get too worked up by the latest buzzwords – today’s STEM/STEAM is yesterday’s “Challenge-based learning/ PBL” and last decade’s WebQuests.  This is why I say forget the “new ideas” and focus on making “new mistakes” because the mistakes people are making with STEM and the same they made with WebQuests.  Also, let’s not fixate on things we can’t change (unless you can) like high-stakes tests, government funding, cultural obsessions with technological silver bullets or social scourges.  Let’s keep focused on what we can do to transform our school cultures and curriculum from accepting calendar-based, mass produced teaching to competency-based, personally meaningful learning.

Thoughts?  Leave a comment.

</soapbox>

Next Era Ed @ ECAWA

Hello!

How great to be back in Perth!  I’m really pleased to return to the ECAWA conference to see old friends and meet new ones.  During the conference I’ll be presenting:

the following sessions:

Snapshot Poll

 

 

Friday Sessions

The Five Steps to Next Era Ed

  1. Vision – is it articulated and shared?
  2. Evidence – exactly what does achievement of the Vision look like?
  3. Pedagogies – do you have research-based models to get you there?
  4. Curriculum 2.0 – are your units designed to leverage the models & ICTs?
  5. Process – have you closed the loop for continuous improvement?

Take the Next Era Ed Readiness Check?

Vision & Evidence

Pedagogies / Psychology Research

Curriculum 2.0

CEQ•ALL

Frameworks / Processes

  • Understanding by Design / Schooling by Design
  • Curriculum Mapping
  • High Reliability Schools

Some Crazy Cliff

New Resource Site Launched

crazy cliffWhen I left the classroom in 1995 for a fellowship to develop things like WebQuests and Filamentality, one of the first projects I thought I’d work on was a comprehensive Web-based resource for The Catcher in the Rye.  Ok, so almost 20 years later I get around to it….

The site is (appropriately) called Some Crazy Cliff and focuses on an Understanding by Design approach to unit planning and classic WebQuest formatting that leverages great rich media to promote authentic and meaningful student learning.

Please take a look and send me any feedback.

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