Selecting aWebQuest Project

 

Introduction

Writing a WebQuest is time-consuming and challenging, at least the first time. To make the most of your efforts and to maximize your chances for satisfaction and success, you should choose your WebQuest projects well. There are four filters that your idea must pass through.

The WebQuest should:

  1. be tied to local, state or national curriculum standards;
  2. replace a lesson that you're not totally satisfied with;
  3. make good use of the Web;
  4. require a degree of understanding that goes beyond mere comprehension.

There are great lesson ideas that will not pass through all of these filters. They might make for terrific classroom activities, but they won't make terrific WebQuests. Your task now is to juggle possible ideas until they meet all four criteria.

We'll discuss each of the four in more detail below.

1. Curriculum Standards

One temptation that technology-using teachers often succumb to is to do things just because they are cool. We've all seen labs filled with kids creating animations or comic strips or games or HyperStudio stacks that sang and danced and used every feature of the software. Once you get past the novelty, you might ask yourself what children learn from such things. Sometimes the glitz has an instructional goal that is well thought out, other times not.

The movement towards definable standards in all content areas is apparent everywhere and is unstoppable. Nowhere are they perfect. Even where the standards are disorganized or unclear, though, it is wise to spend your time creating lessons that can be tied to definable goals that others recognize as important. Don't let the technology tail wag the curricular dog.

We'll assume that you have access to the standards that apply to your location, grade level and content, and that you'll consult them as you juggle possible ideas. For inspiration, see the awesome list of state and national standards maintained by Education World.

2. Creative Discontent

Creating your first WebQuest is going to take a fair amount of time. (Your second will go more quickly and will be of higher quality, but let's get through the first one first.) Since that's so, you should choose as your project something that you've taught before and have never been fully satisfied with. The WebQuest you design should replace something and improve upon it rather than being yet another add-on in an already crowded year. When the going gets rough, you'll draw energy from the fact that your newborn WebQuest will make a part of your teaching more effective and enjoyable.

3. Using the Web Well

The Web adds a unique dimension to teaching. It brings in primary sources that would not ordinarily be available to schools. It brings in timely information that is fresher than tomorrow's newspaper. It allows for colorful pictures, sound and animation. The basic structure of a WebQuest could be done with a pile of books and magazines. You should choose a project that could not be done solely with print materials. Using print alongside the web is a great idea... but let's pick something that couldn't be done as well without web access.

4. Understanding

Not everything we teach requires deep understanding. Some things are best taught with direct instruction because there's no room for creativity and no need for synthesis, analysis or judgement. Irregular verbs in Spanish, the list of NATO member states, the eleven-times table, the definitions of parts of speech... these are not good material for WebQuests. Choose content and standards that invite creativity, that have multiple layers, can have multiple interpretations or be seen from multiple perspectives. In short, pick material that requires students to transform what they seen into something different.
 

The Process

How do you deal with these four filters? Set aside some quiet time to think about your teaching, the curriculum standards, and the kinds of things you've found on the web so far. Then go through the process as outlined here. You may need to use your newly honed web searching skills to see what's out there on your topic. When you can't answer YES, either modify your idea or pick another one. When you can answer YES to all four questions, you're ready to go on to the next stage.

 


© Bernie Dodge, 1999. May be freely used by non-profit, public educational institutions