NECC 2004
Blogs and Wikis as WebQuest Tasks

Over 500 packed the room for this session. What follows is a summary with links for more detailed information.

WebQuests have continually evolved since their start nine years ago. Of course the web itself is also evolving and as new forms of web-based interaction emerge, it makes sense for WebQuests to incorporate them as long as they have a pedagogical justification. Two such forms are weblogs (blogs) and wikis.

Blogs

What is a Blog? It's an...

  • Online journal with
  • Chronological organization and
  • At least one link per entry and a
  • Point of view. Blogs lie somewhere on a continuum between
  • Personal disclosure vs. Outward-oriented

Blogs are popular. with one writer estimating that a new blog is created every 11 seconds. They have been used in schools with students as young as 7, though their peak use is among those in high school, college and in their 20s. Blogs have also arrived on the NECC radar as there is a blog set up for those attending this conference, and Will Richardson (of Weblogg-ed fame) was brought onstage during one of the keynotes.

Examples shown: my blog, a wry entry by a 16 year old, a student teacher, Pepys Diary, and (as inspiration, not for kids) The Spot.

Wikis

Wikis were invented in 1995 (the same year as WebQuests) by Ward Cunningham. The word means quick in Hawaiian. Cunningham's definition: A wiki is the simplest online database that could possibly work. The archetypal wiki is Wikipedia, an amazing collaborative effort with over a quarter million entries including this one for WebQuest.

Wikis allow open editing. Anyone can edit anyone else's writing, or undo a previous edit. This leads to a shared ownership of the collected work. To experience this, you can add an entry to Wikipedia or set up your own free wikispace on SeedWiki. If you have sufficient geek experience you can install your own wiki software on a server running Linux or Mac OS X. Most are open source (free!).

To summarize the difference between blogs and wikis:

Blogs

  • Usually single author
  • Reverse chronological structure
  • Usually personal
  • External links

Wikis

  • Usually many authors
  • Structure determined by content and users
  • Usually objective
  • Internal and external links

 

Blogs and Wikis and Pedagogy

These formats have a lot of potential, but to make sense as teaching tools we need to embed them in some kind of larger pedagogical structure. One way to do that is to look over the list of WebQuest design patterns, a set of structures based on existing successful lessons.

Three that seem immediately applicable to blogs are Simulated Diary, Travel Account, and Historical Story. Imagine, for example, if the Experiencing India's Caste System WebQuest was wrapped around a collection of blogs, one for each caste, and pulled together under one master page as in The Spot.

Wikis, on the other hand, seem tailor-made for WebQuests based on the Compilation or Recommendation designs. SDSU graduate students compiled a micropedia about Educational Games and Simulations in Fall, 2003 and next Fall's class will add to it. Another compilation example is the Election 2004 WebQuest from Austria in which information about the next U.S. election is collaboratively authored by students.

As an example of a Recommendation design, Dan McDowell has written a WebQuest about India and Pakistan which culminates in drafting a peace accord using a wiki.

In summary, these two formats have a lot of potential for use within WebQuests. I hope to hear from some of you in the coming year as you experiment with them in new WebQuests.

Last updated June 25, 2004 by Bernie Dodge.