What is a Webquest?
A Webquest has been described by Bernie Dodge (the creator of WebQuests) as an ‘inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet….”
Webquests have also been described as activities, using Internet resources, which encourage students to higher order thinking skills to solve a problem. Webquest are a ‘sub set of Problem Based Learning or PBL’.
In my own definition, I see Webquests as an interactive website about a topic or subject. The site contains information about the topic. This information may include notes or written information, videos, audio such as podcasts, and images or pictures
Webquests are about building knowledge from information. Although most information comes from the internet, not all of the information can be from the internet. Because most of the learning takes place away from the computer, students will bring to the webquest their already formed information. The Webquest will build on their existing knowledge and take them to a new level of learning.
Are not webquests just simply asking students to look the information up on the Internet?
No. Where most research based tasks given to students give very little direction to students, Webquests give structure to the learning process by providing students with a ‘goal’ or ‘quest’ in which to reach their goal they must read through information, view internet links, watch videos, listen to audio tracks such as podcasts and view images or pictures.
Dianne Ruffles states that Webquests are distinguished from other web-based experiences by ‘the fact that the quests are built around engaging tasks that ellicit higher order thinking’ – they are about building knowledge from information.
Where most reserach based tasks involve students merely looking up information, Webquests are exactly that – they are quests or a ‘journey’ of discovery for the learner. With each click of the mouse, with every press of the key board, they scroll through, view, listen – and more importantly learn about a subject
Most reserach based tasks are very general and give little direction to the students learning, resulting in students easily becoming bored or distracted with the information, and learning fails to take place. But Webquests engage the learner in the learning process.
What makes ‘Webquests’ useful as a Teaching tool?
To encourage learning, teachers need to make learning ‘Fun’ for students. Simply reading books or digesting information from the internet is not stimulating for all students, who simply copy the information down and then forget about it – defeating the whole purpose of the lesson. As Bernie Dodge notes that there is ‘questionable educational benefit in having learners surfing the net without a clear task in mind’.
Webquests are very much a ‘Constructivist’ model of learning in which students are actively involved in their own learning and are encouraged to take risks, learn from their errors and assume a ‘degree of responsibility for their own education’.
Learning needs to be stimulating for students. Students need to be challenged in their thinking. If Students feel that they are ‘engaged’ or part of the learning process, they will be more likely to be interested in learning.
Webquests engage students by providing interesting and stimulating research for students.
What would a ‘Typical Webquest’ be like?
In his article, ‘Some Thoughts on Webquests’, Bernie Dodge suggests a format for creating an ideal webequest.
The webquest would be constructed to include an “introduction’ which introduces the subject or ‘sets the stage’. This also should provide the ‘guiding’ or central question around which the Webquest will discuss.
The Webquest would then set a ‘Task’ in which set for the students a ‘goal’. This goal would have to stimulate students interest by being ‘doable and interesting’. The task should also be ‘Interesting, motivational, and engaging and encourage students to challenge their thinking’.
The Webquest would then provide a set of ‘information sources’ which are needed to complete the task. The information would already be on each page, with possible links to other information, videos, audio or images embedded into the webquest. The Webquest could also include a discussion board or allow communication by emails or real time conferencing.
Webquests would also include a ‘description of the process’ in which students would look at to understand how to complete the task. It would also include guidance on how to organise the information acquired such as using questions or directions to complete the tasks.
Are there any problems with Webquests?
A Webquest is only as good as the information that it provides. Dianne Ruffles promotes Webquests in the view that Webquests generates ‘interesting, challenging activities which stimulates students creative and intellectual faculties….’. But do they?
Certainly a Webquest which provides a achievable goal, gives direction to learning, provides quality information such as internet links, videos, audios, pictures or images which engage the students interest and encourage them to learn, will be an excellent learning tool.
However, a webquest which is poorly constructed, provides little direction, and information which is hard to understand, relies on just notes, very little imagination will be boring to students and will fail as a learning tool.
The goal of the Webquest should be to encourage the student to want to learn. Every click of the mouse, every scroll on the next page or image should be a new idea or a new concept which gives the student a ‘brain explosion’ and encourage the student to want to know more about the subject.
What makes a good Webquest?
A good webquest draws the student into it.
But a great Webquest encourages the learner to develop skills.
The most important skill would be to develop Higher order thinking. Dianne Ruffles believes that the webquest should not be just to memorise ‘slabs of information’ but to develop ‘Higher Order thinking’ which equips students with critical thinking and problem- solving skills. These skills enable students to analyse, synthesise and evaluate large volumes of raw data and transform it into coherent, thoughtful analysis.
A good Webquest scaffolds the information for students, allowing students to build on their information.
For example, I have to do a lesson on ‘Deserts’ for a Year 7 class. If i was creating a Webquest about ‘Deserts’. I would provide a ‘defnition’ of a desert and an image of a Desert. I would then give students an image of two Deserts – the Simpson Desert in Australia and the Sahara Desert in Africa. I would ask students what are the features that make them ‘deserts’ from the images.
In this Webquest, students are not only learning about what a ‘Desert’ is, but build on that description of a ‘Desert’ by looking at images of two deserts. Here students learn other important skills – analysis (what is a desert), comparison (looking at the two images), Classifying (how are they deserts), Inducing (what are the features that make them a desert), Deducing (drawing their own conclusions about what makes them a desert and what other deserts should look like).
Webquests also allow students to develop other important skills such as abstraction or identifying and articulating the theme or general patterns of information. Students can also learn how to analyse perspectives or looking at views, concepts or ideas and developing their own perspective on those ideas.
What are the benefits of Webquest to schools?