What is a webquest?

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Crispin Andrews suggests an exciting webquest based on the new Doctor Who battling against his old foes, the Silurians. But what is a webquest, and is it a useful teaching tool? Linda Anderson provides an answer and offers guidelines for teachers to produce their own webquests.

Defining a webquest
A webquest is an enquiry-based learning tool which encourages students to become responsible for their own learning. Students are provided with a specific task and the activities to support that task. They are given links to information available on the web which they use to acquire knowledge. A webquest can ft well into a scheme of work – varying from a single lesson’s duration to a series of lessons within a topic.

Bernie Dodge of San Diego State University was amongst the first to attempt to define and structure this kind of learning activity: ‘an inquiry-based activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet’ (Dodge ,1995).

Why use webquests?
There are a number of excellent reasons, including:

  • They are an easy way to incorporate the Internet into the classroom. No specialist knowledge is needed to either produce or use them.
  • They lend themselves well to group activities.
  • They lend themselves well to cross-curriculum projects.
  • They encourage critical thinking skills. Learners are not able to simply regurgitate information, but are guided towards a transformation of that information.
  • They can be both motivating and authentic tasks, encouraging learners to feel they are doing something ‘real’ or ‘useful’.

Producing a webquest
1. Introduction
Your pupils need to know exactly what their task is. They need to be interested and motivated - you could provide them with a role-play scenario to make the task more ‘real’ (for example, you are the school social organiser and have to organise a trip for your class to, say, France…).

It’s important to set the scene for the quest, providing background information, linking the topic to previous lessons and making sure your pupils know what they will learn from the quest, and what skills they’ll develop. There should be a focus around which to base the activities, with the final outcome of the quest being an overall task such as producing a presentation or newspaper or web page.

2. The task
Explain clearly and precisely what the learners have to do. They may need to work in groups and decide among themselves how to divide up the task. You may need to provide general ICT advice such as how to open up links in a new window.

3. The process
This stage guides the learners through a set of activities and research tasks, using a set of predefined resources.
Links should be embedded in the webquest to sites, pages, databases, search engines and so on. There is no reason why pupils shouldn’t use printed resources and books as well, since this widens the skills they need to complete the task. Guidance should be given on how to present findings; for example, maps, graphs, essays, wall displays and diagrams.

4. Conclusion
To conclude the webquest, pupils must be aware of what they have learned from the activity. They should have a final piece of work to present to the class or display on the wall. Space should be allowed to expand the topic and encourage pupils to use webquests for future pieces of work.

Linda Anderson is production editor for Creative Teaching and Learning

Creative Teaching & Learning
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