WebQuests are such an engaging tool for students in the classroom. It begins with an authentic context, usually a problem that requires the students to work through the site to obtain the answer.
In SOSE (Studies of Society and Environments) last year, I constructed a WebQuest in collaboration with a peer. We used Microsoft Word as our WebQuest program, which can be considered the easiest program to use. The only problem that we had was linking the pages and pictures together. At times, I was required to manually update all the links to ensure that it worked when we presented the assignment. If I were to use this technology within the classroom in the future, I would investigate the use of a better program to ensure that a smooth learning experience occurs for the students. A site such as WebQuest Direct provides suggestions and tips for obtaining your own WebQuest.
We were required to pick a topic of sustainability. The topic question that students sought to find an answer was, “If the Sunshine Coast is giving water to other parts of Queensland, how can I reduce my water usage and how can I tell others to reduce their usage?”
Students were required to create a presentation (PowerPoint, poster or brochure) using the information from the WebQuest to assist them in answering the topic question. This task was aimed at a Year Three level; therefore, the Learning Manager significantly scaffolded their learning journey.
In this WebQuest, it required students to work collaboratively with peers. We created a mascot that ‘guided’ them through each stage. We used this approach, as we believed it would assist with student engagement. The use of WebQuests within the classroom aligns with Vygotsky’s theory, whereby, learning gains are made when students work with peers (Nichols, 2007).
I think that it is also important to note that the use of the Learning Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1999) is appropriate within this situation. The use of this theory is applied in the following way:
Relate – Students were required to work in groups for this WebQuest.
Create – Students were given an authentic, real-life problem to which they needed to seek out relevant answers. They were required to create a presentation that highlighted ways that they could save water around their home, school and community.
Donate – The students were required to present their findings to their class, as well as write an article for the local newspaper, encouraging their local community to save water.
WebQuests can be a long task for the Learning Manager to create. However, once in place, the role of the Learning Manager is to assist students in the literacy components of the WebQuest, as well as provide additional scaffolding where necessary. The Learning Manager is also required to continually censor the links on the site, as well as pose higher-order thinking questions that allow students to gain a deeper understanding of the focus topic.
I personally believe that WebQuests are a valuable tool within the classroom. My only concern is for the students to be safe online when following links to sites, even with censoring by the Learning Manager.
The use of WebQuests, as opposed to the traditional approach of learning, would require easy access to computers within the school. If technology was lacking, the Learning Manager could employ a rotation system, which would allow all groups to engage in this learning tool.
Nevertheless, WebQuests are an effective tool for the engagement of digital native students (Prensky, 2001). Although they may be time consuming to complete and monitor, the role and responsibility of the Learning Manager is to ensure that all students make learning gains.
Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Engagement Theory.Retrieved July 10, 2009, from http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm
Nichols, K. (2007). What is learning? Current knowledge and theories. In R. Smith, D. Lynch, & B. A. Knight, Learning Management: Transitioning teachers for national and international change (pp. 21-29). Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia: Pearson Education Australia.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Native, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon , 9 (5), 1-6.