The world of WebQuests
According to WebQuest orginator Bernie Dodge, a WebQuest is 'an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet, optionally supplemented with videoconferencing.' Kate Browne illustrates how advantageous they can be in the Secondary classroom.
Education is not what it was 50 years ago. Not only do the privileged children of the 21st Century have computers in their bedroom at home, now many are getting them in their classrooms. The main resource for information is no longer books (a key tool for learning) but the World Wide Web so it makes sense that WebQuests are a fitting approach to project work and self-study. My experience shows that giving students freedom to go forth and explore in their learning promotes interest and autonomy so WebQuests seem to be the perfect option to combine the two ideas.
What is a WebQuest?
A WebQuest is a task set by the teacher and can be conducted both inside and outside the classroom (providing there is easy Internet access in your school). It can be an inquiry into a state of affairs, a social concern in the community your learners live in or a problem which students solve by consulting the millions of pages in any given area at their disposal. In class I have asked students to research a country or a tribe which has appeared in a unit of book in preparation for the following class. This exercise could be extended and made into a WebQuest task.
The aim of a WebQuest is for learners to have a clear objective and interest (hopefully) in their topic as well as a final product to show for all their research. All too often students mindlessly and blindly search for information and produce a piece of work which reflects little or no engagement. The focus of a WebQuest is for students to use and therefore engage with the material at hand.
Why use WebQuests in language learning?
As with any task we set in the classroom, the key to its success is the clarity of the instructions. If you include the following stages in your WebQuest instructions, your students should be clear on what they have to do and stay on task.
Ideas for WebQuest topics
You can integrate WebQuests into any topic dealt with in the coursebook. Here are a few areas and ideas for possible WebQuests:
Students can carry out research with a view to create a new art exhibit for their local museum.
Literature / History
Students can follow a factual reader and research the historical characters as they appear in the book.
Students can research an environmental issue in order to solve any major problems in their community.
Students have to showcase a unique animal for an important visitor who will be making a tour of their local zoo.
It is their goal to design an animal that in order to survive has adapted well to its environment and to convince the visitor of the zoo that your animal is the most unique and is worthy of investment. Taken from: http://www.bestwebquests.com
The Internet provides an almost interminable source of content. WebQuests are a great way of sharpening students’ critical thinking skills by getting students used to processing, analysing and being selective with information. They are engaging, authentic, and adaptable to any content area. They have been a big hit with my students, which isn’t too surprising… after all, who doesn’t enjoy a good quiz?
Kate Browne is a teacher and teacher trainer.