Online Help for Pre-writing WebQuests

Working Title

Because developing WebQuests appeals to creative individuals, it's not surprising many WebQuests have clever or challenging titles. Don't feel the pressure to come up with a clever title at this stage. If it happens, great, but the time will come when you're writing the actual introduction and conclusion to the WebQuest, when you're in writing "flow," that you may hit on the right title. At this point don't sweat it.

Content Area(s)

Generally, is this WebQuest for students of California history, French conversation, Consumer Math, Applied Technology, Advanced Placement Physics, etc. Of course, you may be creating a WebQuest that targets interdisciplinary study. Great. Just list the main content areas you're developing this WebQuest for.

Specific Topic

Think about the "unit" level here. What sub-topic in the curriculum do you want to address with this WebQuest? Likely, this will be an area that's typcially studied at the grade levels you're working with. Your WebQuest won't replace these standard units, but it will likely add an inquiry dimension that prompts higher-order thinking. So, specific topics might be (to link up to the Content Areas above): Spanish Missions (California history), current events in France (French conversation), planning a budget (Consumer Math), the ethics of technology (Applied Technology), advanced problem-solving (Advanced Placement Physics). If you're struggling for ideas or added dimensions, you might try the Idea Machine.

WebQuest Question

The easiest way to work this aspect is to think of the Question and the Task separately. The Question will tend to emerge from the Internet resources themselves and your critical thinking goals for students. Look for the conflicting viewpoints and gray areas; this is the heart of higher order thinking. You can check yourself quickly at this point by asking, "When the students are involved in answering the Question, what kind of thinking are they doing?" If the answer is knowledge acquisition, you don't have a WebQuest yet. If you want some examples of WebQuest Questions, try Uncovering the Question / Task.

Type of Cognition

Ah-ha. That's what we're after. Yes students can learn a lot of information from the Web, but it offers so much more. When you think you've got your WebQuest shaping up, really look hard and long at what you're asking students to do. Look at their cognition, not their outputs here. What's going on in the learnerss brains? The usual place in a WebQuest to engage learners in higher order thinking is during that phase when they come back together from developing expertise in their separate roles. The right way to do this is to give the groups a task that requires them to make new meaning, not just to assemble the separate pieces they have learned about. This is the tough part, but it's the critical piece. Good luck.

Possible Tasks

The Task is the actual product or outcome of the WebQuest, i.e., what students make. Draw from an array of software / technologies for these outputs: email letters, desktop slide presentations, HyperStudio stacks, Web pages, etc. This being said, if you have time or technology constraints, you can still have an effective and stimulating WebQuest that ends in a class discussion or a butcher paper mural. Remember, it's the thinking and learning, not the Web sites and wires.

Roles / Jobs / Expertise

As much as possible try to get the roles to emerge from the design process. As you collect resources and Web sites, see if there isn't a natural division or chunking going on. Don't worry if the boundaries between the categories are a little fuzzy. There isn't a job that doesn't overlap into some other area of expertise. You might wonder how many roles to create, but that's usually self-evident. You can't force a role into being that you don't have resources for. In the terminology, Roles refer to perspectives in a scenario (like the Human Rights Activist, Business Investor from Searching for China) while Jobs refer to tasks or a domain of knowledge (like the Sociologist and Scientist in the Tuskegee Tragedy). Finally, the more realistic you make these roles, the more authentic the whole task will appear to the students. Try as hard as you can not to make this a playing school scenario where it's about pretending to do something. Use the Web to bring reality into your classroom.

Use of the Web

Can the learning you envision be achieved without the Web? Then why use it? Furthermore, why go to the trouble of creating a WebQuest? However, if you tap into elements of the Web that can't be accessed elsewhere, bravo! Look for Web sites that provide interactivity to speed student learning. What about all the hidden and blatant agendas floating behind the HTML of Web pages? Use these pages to challenge critical thinking, reading, and the synthesis of conflicting opinions. Also look for information that's so current it will be months before it arrived in the school library. Finally, provide learners with that rich array of information, images, opinion, etc. so that they can pick and choose what bits fit in their present semantic network. If you want more ideas and some examples, use the Thinking thru Linking page.

Other WebQuest Resources