WebQuest News

News and views about the WebQuest model, a constructivist lesson format used widely around the world.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Virginia Teachers Return Alive from Camp WebQuest

This is the season of summer workshops for teachers. One with a long history is Camp WebQuest, directed by Betty Hutsler, Frederick County (Virginia) Public Schools. According to an article published this week...

Some Frederick County fifth-graders will travel deep into the abyss to study ocean organisms this school year. The students will do so without the aid of adults, and rely only on their intelligence and their fellow classmates to accomplish the chore. And they will do so without setting foot in water. “To Survive or Not to Survive: An Adventure to the Abyss” is the name of one of the projects teachers at Camp WebQuest churned out in July.

...This year, for the first time, students in the nursing program at Dowell J. Howard Center will explore the world of Type 1 diabetes online using a quest created by instructors Kathy Torkelson and Cindy Parkes. Torkelson said they will have to familiarize the students with computers, because students will be looking up charts and performing research. 'Nursing is loaded with technology,' she said. By introducing a WebQuest to the nursing students, Torkelson said, they can become more comfortable with computers while expanding their education.

"It sort of adds to the text," Parkes said. "A little bit more fun, kid-friendly."

The products of this year's camp won't be posted until they've been tested with students, but you can see lessons from previous years by going to the mysteriously familiar-looking page at the Camp WebQuest site.

Monday, July 21, 2003

NECC WebQuest Session Now Online

The archived version of the session in Seattle where the new WebQuest Portal was unveiled is now ready to view at the Minds TV site. As you can see from the session abstract, there's information here about the rationale behind the new portal and a look at some of the tools I evaluated before settling on the present design.

From my point of view, it wasn't the best presentation I've ever done. You might not be able to tell from the video, but I felt out of breath for some reason and never quite got into The Zone. Still, you might find it useful as it expresses some concerns about the quality of existing WebQuests that I haven't put into writing anywhere else.

Center Grove Indiana Workshop Makes the Newspaper

From the Daily Journal (Indiana):

A student who likes worms or Cinderella should be in seventh heaven. Next fall, Center Grove youngsters will try new computer methods that teachers say will make them more fluent readers and writers. An Internet tool called Webquests or Cyberhunts offers computerized scavenger hunts that take students on an independent search. Whether by mapping out the parts of an earthworm or constructing a financial plan to get Cinderella to the ball, students of all ability levels have the chance to learn in a way that makes sense to them, said Judy Apple-VanAlstine, Center Grove Community School Corp.’s curriculum director.

Nice to see coverage at the local level for a teacher inservice. Too bad, though, that the reporter couldn't help equating WebQuests with scavenger hunts!

Friday, July 11, 2003

Another New Crop

Last week marked the end of EDTEC 570, the course at SDSU that leads to a WebQuest as the final project. Normally it's a face to face class with 20 or so students, but this year a twist in the California Teaching Credential rules created a sudden demand for the class. We ended up with 130 students... 45 of them in two campus-based classes, and another 85 taking it online... all in 6 weeks.

It could have been a disaster. This was the first time we'd offered it online, and in a risky-but-interesting move I decided to eschew the SDSU sanctioned Blackboard tools and set up my own Moodle server to run the course. It was intense, and some of the online students were ill-suited to take a distance course, but we all survived. The class ended with a showcase and party, four worn-out instructors and two graduate assistants in line for canonization.

You can sample the accomplishments of this hurried experience at these four URLs:

Campus: Roberto's class | Wendy's class | Online: Wendy's class | Jim's class

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Discourse Analysis and Baseball at NECC

Around 400 attended my session unveiling the new portal. It was webcast live and the archive will be viewable after July 15. If you're reading this then you already know about the portal.

I was excited to attend a roundtable session about some new research conducted around a WebQuest. The Nature of Discourse as Students Collaborate on a Mathematics WebQuest was discussed by Eula Ewing Monroe from BYU. She and Michelle Orme recorded the conversations kids had as they worked their way through A Creative Encounter of the Numerical Kind, a WebQuest in which kids have to create a new number system in base 4.

The exciting thing to me about the study was the methodology for coding the discussions. They used a scheme called SLANT (Spoken Language and New Technology) which categorized student talk as Exploratory, Cumulative, Disputational and Tutorial. I think this might be a useful tool for other researchers to look at as they study what really goes on during a WebQuest.

Another interesting session was Covering All the Bases: WebQuests Across the Curriculum in which a team from Danville, Illinois described a two week long constellation of activities all built around the theme of baseball. This is something I hadn't seen before; it wasn't a single WebQuest but rather a whole system of lessons... some of which might individually be considered WebQuests and others not. It was heartening to listen to them describe how some of their most disengaged kids got completely hooked. This is the kind of outcome that keeps educators going even in the hardest of places.