What makes a WebQuest a good one? Why is one better than another? What should I look for? Will one particular Quest meet my students' needs? Will students enjoy the activity? Will they really learn what I want them to learn and will they be able to communicate this to others?
Whether you are new to WebQuests or a veteran user, you may have had the same questions. And, if you are like most educators, you don't have much free time to find and evaluate online projects to use in your daily classroom teaching. Also, when you do find the time to go online to explore, you want to use your time as efficiently as possible. Hopefully the following will prove useful.
The WebQuest is defined as "an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet . . ." (Dodge, 1995). Bernie Dodge and Tom March first developed the model at San Diego State University in 1995. WebQuests are a great way to foster collaboration and critical thinking, as well as to demonstrate authentic learning. If you search the Internet for WebQuests, you will find hundreds of references to WebQuests in all subject areas and across grade levels, from elementary through high school.
Below you will find evaluation criteria that I have developed over the last two years, since I was introduced to WebQuests in an online graduate class at Lesley University. Think of it as a shopping list: it will help you focus on what you need, and filter out what you don't need or can't use. Not every WebQuest will meet all the criteria every time. You know your students best, and can decide what areas are most beneficial for your students and most appropriate for your particular classroom situation, whether it is a one-computer classroom or a computer laboratory.
The WebQuest should:
- Align with your state standards in one or more subject areas, including technology
- Demonstrate higher order thinking skills, including analysis, synthesis, and evaluation
- Be Multidisciplinary (including technology)
- Allow for collaborative tasks and for individual work. This might include the exchange of email with experts in the field of study.
- Provide for a demonstrable outcome
- Have a culminating activity
- Be able to adapt itself to team teaching if this is one of your goals
- Demonstrate the use of various low level and high level technologies
- Use more than one piece of software with a short learning curve just in case students have not used it before
- Be curriculum specific
- Provide self, peer, and teacher assessment rubrics that are clear and objective
- Provide for self, peer, and teacher evaluation that will allow reflection on what has been learned, the process, and the outcome
- Engage the student through different roles that can be played
- Provide a variety of activities for students with multiple intelligences
- Provide a variety of activities to accommodate different learning styles
- Give clear directions
- Require some pre-knowledge; i.e., the WebQuest requires that the student be familiar with some of the material
- Be visually attractive
- Incorporate graphics and sounds
- Be free of cultural and gender bias
- Allow the teacher to take on the role of facilitator; it should let the students "do"
- Require some off line tasks just in case of down time or inability to access the Internet
- Appeal to the students' sense of natural curiosity
- Allow extension to the home so that parents and others can get involved
- Allow for adaptation and extended activities to challenge all learners
If you are looking at a short-term project, you might want to focus on teamwork and basic technology skills such as researching on the Internet or using a word processor. In my own computer lab I use short-term WebQuests to introduce my students to the concept: what it is, what is expected of them, playing a role, and final outcomes. A good example is "King Tutankhamun Was It Murder?" Designed to be completed in two to three class periods, it requires searching the Internet for answers, and students work individually and in groups to come up with their opinions. An element of mystery will always capture a student's attention, especially on the Middle School level. Here's a WebQuest I designed that challenges students to solve the Mozart/Salieri Mystery.
Long-term projects, if they are to sustain student interest, should meet as much of the criteria listed above as possible. Such a Quest is "China Today" This particular quest is interdisciplinary as it incorporates technology, language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. The standards that are addressed through the quest are clearly stated on the site. Through the quest, the students study the people, the climate, the economy, the culture, customs/ traditions, leisure activities, and the physical environment of China. In addition, the students are reminded to collect data and enter it into a database and/or spreadsheet for future reference, which reflects technology skills the students are expected to have already mastered.
The demonstrable outcome is a class presentation that outlines the itinerary for a family group. Technology must be used in the final project, including audio or video clips, concept maps, or a Web page. A word processing application must be used to produce the script for the presentation. Students are required to reflect on their learning through the use of an electronic file or journal in which they save text, graphics, and links that they have found useful in their quest. The evaluation consists of two sets of rubrics: one for process (individual evaluation) and one for the final project (group evaluation). Resources needed (hardware, software, Internet links) are listed on the site.
A long-term project is ideal for assessing group skills and for sharing what has been learned with the school community. You can search for WebQuests on the Internet, but a good start is The WebQuest Page , Bernie Dodge's site at San Diego State University. There you will find a matrix of WebQuests arranged by level and subject area. The site offers you a wealth of information on the origin and nature of the WebQuest, including links to templates that you can use to create your own WebQuest (in your spare time!)
There is one other important consideration when looking for a WebQuest: learning can and should be fun. The WebQuest can provide your students with hours of engaging activities. It can transform your role as teacher into one of facilitator, and make your classroom a center for unlimited learning. Happy surfing and happy Questing!
Email: Juanita Y. Benjamín