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WebQuests: The Solution to Internet-Curriculum Integration

Ruth Kohut

Since its arrival on the educational scene, interest in the Internet has grown exponentially. Teachers are continually encouraged to integrate this wonderful tool into die classroom. Harness the power of the internet. Integrate. Use computers in the classroom. Integrate. Retrieve jour students' attention. Use jour studen s ’ natural enthusiasm for the in ter net to further learning. Breathe new life into research projects. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate. The only problem with this litany is that teachers are rarely offered the proper training to accomplish integration effectively. Nevertheless, the chant continues.

WebQuests: An answer

Bernie Dodge’s WebQuests may be the answer to our integration blues. Dodge describes a WebQuest as “an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet.”

With this tool, groups of students follow a guided lesson, search for information using teacher-selected internet sites and resources, answer questions that encourage critical thinking, and present their ideas through a multimedia presentation or web page. WebQuests can be short-term (one to three days) or long term (one to five weeks), based on a single topic or crosscurricular. The most exciting aspect of WebQuests is that they support the education research connections to constructivism, multiple intelligences, critical questioning and brain research and, best of all, they provide a useful integration tool that teachers can reuse, with minor adjustments, every year.

WebQuests and Constructivism

The key to the constructivist theory is that learners build on their existing knowledge base. When learners are asked to analyze, compare and synopsize new information, they use their previous experiences to make sense of the new. WebQuests support many of the beliefs of constructivism.

Constructivism emphasizes learning, not teaching

WebQuests are student-based activities with the teacher as a guide and facilitator.

Cosntructivism sees learning as a process

Tom March, a colleague of Bernie Dodge, writes: “Research has shown that the most important factor related to student learning and technology use is how teachers relate the technology-based activity to other learning activities.” In order to heighten student learning, it is important for the teacher to relate the WebQuest to other off-line learning activities, both before, and after, the WebQuest. The WebQuest should not be “an isolated experience disconnected from the rest of [the] curriculum.” (March 1998)

Constructivism encourages learning inquiry

WebQuests include a series of thoughtful, open-ended questions that invite student inquiry. Questions are designed to encourage students to ask questions of each other, analyze information and synthesize multiple sources of information. “A WebQuest forces students to transform information into something else: a cluster that maps out the main issue, a comparison, a hypothesis, a solution, etc.” (March 1998).

Constructivism acknowledges the critical role of experience in learning

The critical questioning involved in WebQuests encourages the learner to articulate personal perspectives about issues and then compare and analyze these perspectives against those of others. This aids the learner in constructing an understanding that builds on an individual prior knowledge.

Constructivism makes extensive use of cognitive theory terminology such as predict, create and analyze.

The questioning techniques used in WebQuests generally require learners to apply higher-level thinking skills after they have garnered the necessary information.

Constructivism encourages learners to engage in dialogue with other students and teachers.

In most cases, WebQuests are designed as group activities.

Construtivism supports co-operative learning.

Within each WebQuest group, students may be assigned different roles. The process through which the students merge their information promotes the use of co-operative learning strategies.

Teachers are eager to integrate the internet into their classroom curriculum, but up until recently diey haven’t been offered a suitable vehicle for effective integration. Our search is over. By combining “the most effective instructional practices into one integrated student activity” (March 1998), WebQuests give teachers the tool to make internet integration a reality in their classrooms.

WebQuests and multiple intelligences.

Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, developed a theory of seven or more “multiple intelligences.” Each individual has all of these intelligences, but some are better developed than others. A key to the effectiveness of internet integration is the recognition by the teacher that students learn in different ways. WebQuests can meet the needs of most of these “intelligences.”

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligences.

These individuals learn best by listening, reading and verbalizing. Most aspects of a WebQuest would suit this learner, including reading, writing and oral presentations.

Visual/Spacial Intelligences.

These learners need to be taught through images, pictures and colours. Maps, charts, drawings, puzzles and 3-D imaging are very effective teaching tools. This learner would particularly shine at creating a multimedia presentation or web page as an end result of a WebQuest.

Musical Intelligence .

These individuals learn through rhythm and melody. They would benefit from working with the visual/spacial person, adding a musical component to the multimedia presentation or web page.

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence.

These individuals learn best by forming concepts and looking for abstract patterns and relationship. An integral part of WebQuests is a problem-solving component, in which these learners would excel.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence.

Separate roles are assigned to the individuals in aWebQuest group. The B-K individual should have the role of manipulating the keyboard or mouse, as this person learns by touching, manipulating and moving.

Interpersonal Intelligence.

Children with interpersonal intelligence need dynamic interaction with other people. This would be provided within the WebQuest group, in which students are encouraged to discuss and exchange ideas.

Interpersonal Intelligence.

These individuals have a deep awareness of their inner feelings, dreams and ideas. A WebQuest element that would be suited to these individuals would be to identify and articulate personal perspectives about issues, or errors in one’s own or others’ thinking.

The format of the WebQuest project encourages and enables students to use their strengths, or their natural intelligences, to learn.

WebQuests and critical questioning.

One of the main components of a WebQuest is the outline of the assigned task, which includes the questions to be addressed. Questioning can mean the difference between a good WebQuest and a great one. The best WebQuest projects use questions to evoke deep thinking in students. Teachers need to pose a variety of questions to promote different thinking styles and to engage more students in the critical thinking process. Questions can ask learners to recall or retrieve information, to relate personally to the content, or to reorganize and synthesize information. It is up to the teacher, as the WebQuest questioner, to determine the level of thinking required by the student.

WebQuests and brain research.

Marian Diamond, a brain research pioneer, believes that enriched environments have an impact on the brain’s growth and learning. Many of Diamond’s ideas of an enriched environment are found in WebQuests. WebQuests may include

  • stimulation of all the senses;
  • having an atmosphere free of undue pressure and stress, but suffused with a degree of pleasurable intensity;
  • presenting a series of novel challenges that are neither too easy nor too difficult for the child at his or her stage of development;
  • allowing social interaction for a significant percentage of activities;
  • opportunity to choose many of his

With internet connections in the classrooms, students enjoy increased interaction with other students, mentors on-line, and people from around the world. Teachers are encouraged to act as guides and facilitators, rather than the providers of information. They are encouraged to use educational research ideas, such as constructivism, multiple intelligences, critical questioning and brain research. Now teachers have a tool in which these ideas have been united.

WebQuests were created specifically in response to the need to combine “the most effective instructional practices into one integrated student activity.” (March, 1998) Individually, these research ideas have been used in the classroom for years. For a truly integrated approach, however, WebQuests fill the gap all by themselves.

For the past five years, Ruth Kohut was a computer consultant with the Lambton Kent District School Board. In this role, one of her main tasks was to train and help teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. She is currently Vice-Principal of Lambton Centennial Central School, Petrolja.

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