WebQuest News

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

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

WebQuest.org is Moving

No... no need to change your bookmarks. The URL for the WebQuest Portal and QuestGarden will remain the same but the actual server they sit on is moving to a powerful new home. We've outgrown the shared server we've been on since 2002. The symptoms of that are that twice in the last two weeks, our web host has shut off access to the site because too many requests to the database were flooding in at the same time, disrupting things for the other sites on the same server. (Strangely enough, both times that this happened, a class of kids at a parochial school in Minnesota was online).

In any case, with over 18000 registered users, it's time to move on up to bigger iron. Moving all that code and user data is going to be tricky and there will need to be a period of time when the site is unavailable. I anticipate that this will happen sometime around St. Patrick's Day and I'll try to minimize the impact by doing it after midnight, Pacific Time.

Update: The official shutdown time is 12:30 am, Sunday, March 19. With any luck, the site will be back up that evening... but who knows?

When we come out on the other side, I hope that we'll have faster performance and more room to grow. Thanks to all of you for the amazing support you've been giving the WebQuest idea.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Is Latin Really Dead? Not in Maine!

Congratulations go to Eric Chamberlin whose WebQuest Is Latin Really Dead?
impressed members of the Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Consolidated School District, according to this report. Great to see a WebQuest used as evidence to get more support for doing the right things!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The DaVinci Code

I guess WebQuests have truly arrived in the mainstream. There's a lot of buzz around the web about the new DaVinci Code Web Quest which is part of a viral marketing campaign to promote the movie coming out next May and to sell a few more copies of the book to the handful who don't already have it (mostly cavedwellers in Borneo). The quest is a series of puzzles to solve that start out easy and move on towards impossible.

So that's what a WebQuest is, eh? A sequence of puzzles? I think not. Perhaps the authors of the site would agree since they carefully label it as a "Web (space) Quest".

Give it a try, though. If you like puzzles and word play you'll have fun with it. Just don't call it a WebQuest.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

WebQuests are Feminine. Who Knew?

I keep track of mentions of the word WebQuest using Technorati, which tracks the travails of pre-service teachers creating WebQuests in a required class, and occasionally the wails of high school kids who were assigned a WebQuest. I learn a lot from reading these unedited accounts. Increasingly there are blogs in Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese that mention WebQuests, too, and today I noticed something I hadn't thought of before: WebQuests are girly.

Here's the evidence: "Las WebQuest", "Una WebQuest", "La WebQuest", "Esta WebQuest" and there are lots more where those came from.
I wonder if that's true in German or any of the other languages that assign gender to nouns? And how do they know?

Friday, October 28, 2005

WebQuest Conference in Barcelona

Has there ever been a conference devoted exclusively to WebQuests? I don't think so, but soon, there will be. The amazingly productive Comunitat Catalana de WebQuest is organizing a two-day meeting next March in Barcelona. I've met the organizers and presenters and I'm sure it's going to be a tremendous event. If you're fluent in Spanish or Catalan, put it on your calendar! Congratulations, Carme and Sebastiá!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

New and Notable WebQuests for October

This post represents the first edition of a regular feature here. Around the middle of every month, I'll link to new WebQuests that have caught my eye. In future editions, they may well come from all over, but this time I'm going to restrict the list to lessons that have been grown in the QuestGarden. They're not all perfect and maybe not even finished yet, but they all had something interesting about them to make them worthy of a look.

First up: Hoosier Who's Who. This is a nice example of using the WebQuest format to enliven the usual study-your-own-state lesson which, let's admit it, is often a snoozer. It turns out that this is a good example of a design pattern, Simulated Interview, that I've had a partial draft of for years but haven't finished. With this example to point to, I'll be adding simulated interview to the patterns list soon.

Next, The Confederated States of America. Nice example of the Alternate History pattern. It has a KWL chart and some scaffolding about how to write a term paper. If it just had a little more scaffolding about the main task of extrapolating an alternate timeline, it would be perfect!

Artists and Style caught my eye, well... because it caught my eye. It's great to see someone making skilled use of the appearance module in QuestGarden. The choice of colors and fonts is spectacular... and it looks like a fun lesson, too.

Netiquette: Making a Big Decision has an appealingly dark look. It incorporates role playing as learners grapple with inappropriate technology use in a school setting from multiple perspectives.

The Puritans and Punishment: What a Pair! gives students the task of developing a how-to manual for Puritans as they face a number of sticky situations (e.g., a wife who won't obey). It's all done with a light wackiness that makes it fun to read.

Junge Mode gets special recognition for having an unusually creative task: design a clothing catalog for teens in German. This should snag the attention of at least some of the kids who aren't normally enthralled by German I.

And finally, A Home on Ganymede was a welcome sight. Over the years I've seen dozens of WebQuests which ask kids to design a human habitat on the planet of their choice, which inevitably leads to them making settlements on Jupiter or Mercury or other planets completely unsuitable for homesteading with any imaginable technology. The task is untenable and it makes kids dumber about science than if they'd never done the lesson at all. In contrast to those, this WebQuest does a very nice job of lining up resources and structuring things so that kids would learn about the hard science of making a space colony on a solid body somewhere in the solar system.

There are a lot more promising WebQuests coming to life in the QuestGarden. Next month, I'll point out some more.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Three-Week Birthday

It's just 21 days ago that I flipped the switch and opened up QuestGarden to the public, so here's a status report for anyone interested. The picture of recent logins tells the tale. In the last 48 hours we've had 213 members log in. There are 2,443 users and they come from 59 different countries. Here are the top 10:

China (including Hong Kong)23
New Zealand16

We've also had people logging in from more exotic locales like Albania, Bermuda, Guadeloupe, Iceland, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Oman, the UAE and Uruguay.

Most users so far are just jumping in to see what's what and making a few test pages in their WebQuest, but there are also some completed WebQuests already that are ready for the public. Some examples:

Florida Jigsaw

Reading the World with Information Trade Books
Nickled and Dimed in San Diego
Langston Hughes Monument
Mission: UN Address, 2211
Zoo Keeper for a Day
The Nutrition Resort

All in all I'd have to say, we're off to a good start. Once we have some more scaffolding and peer review in place, the quality should go even higher.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Jüergen Wagner, a longtime WebQuest watcher, has just written a piece titled
QuestGarden - WebQuests erstellen ohne HTML-Kenntnisse for the German language portal Lehrer Online. We might be seeing a lot more umlauts in the QuestGarden soon.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

48 Hours without Mishap

It's 2 nights ago now since I sent out the notices to all my lists and made links to QuestGarden from webquest.sdsu.edu and webquest.org and opened things up to anyone interested. Things seem to be holding up nicely. The QuestGarden page got over 700 hits since the doors opened. Yesterday, 57 people created WebQuests, and today another 31. Almost all of them are empty and untitled and came into existence only because people were getting acquainted with the tool. But already there are three WebQuests that are almost complete. It's clear that they were pasted in from existing quests, but there's nothing wrong with that.

Zafer Unal, creator of the Instant WebQuest site, kindly took the time to work his way through QuestGarden and uncovered a couple of places where I'd left myself open to security breaches. They're now fixed, and I hope he'll continue to provide that kind of advice.

It's cosmic the way some things cycle back to a new version of an older event. In 1982 I set up an electronic bulletin board on a spare Apple ][ in our lab at SDSU. As far as I can tell it was among the first 2 or three BBSs set up specifically for teachers to communicate with each other. After testing it by calling it up repeatedly myself (you had to ... gasp ... dial up a phone number to get to it), I spread the word that it was up and ready. The very first person to call was Al Rogers, who would later skyrocket to fame as Mr. FrEdWriter and then Mr. FrEdMail.

So it didn't amaze me at all that the first person to hit QuestGarden after I threw the switch Thursday night was again Al Rogers.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

QuestGarden Goes Public

At a wonderful event hosted by the Educational Technology Department of San Diego Unified School District, at 4pm today I demoed QuestGarden at its new, post-beta-test URL: http://webquest.org/questgarden/.

It was a great venue to be in, as I spent many hours with the group in the early WebQuest days helping with the Triton and Patterns projects. Some of the teachers and leaders from back then were in the room, along with telecommunications legends Al Rogers and Yvonne Andres, and four former presidents of San Diego Computer-Using Educators (including two Dodges). Lots of old friends and some new ones. Got great questions from the group and a list of new ideas for features and partnerships. They're archiving the presentation for later streaming.

There's an overview of QuestGarden here.

The baby is born. Now on to version 1.1.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

QuestGarden Unveiled

Had a sitting-on-the-floor turnout for my session here at NECC, Overcoming Obstacles to Quicker WebQuest Creation. Seems as though much of it resonated with the group. The basic message: creating a great WebQuest the usual way takes too long. We need a better way. So I showed the new authoring environment that will be generally available on September 1. Lots of interest generated. I think I'm on the right track for once.

Powerpoint slides are available here. The archived webcast will be available here tomorrow, they say. People are blogging the conference here.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

WebQuests and Time

For the upcoming NECC conference, I'm going to be presenting an analysis of
what the time-consuming parts of developing a WebQuest are and what
shortcuts people have devised to speed things up. The session will take
place on Tuesday, June 28 at 11am in PACC114 and I hope to see some of you
there. It will also be webcast and archived in case you can't make it.
Here's the session description.

I've been grappling with ways to speed up the development process since the
beginning, ten long years ago. For the last six months I've been working on
a system that I think will make it much easier to create great WebQuests,
and I'll be unveiling it at NECC. I think you'll find it useful.

As part of that session, I'd like to validate my assumptions about where the
bottlenecks are in creating a WebQuest. I've put together a short survey
aimed at educators who have completed the development of a WebQuest. If
you're in that category, I hope you'll take a few minutes to fill it out.
I'll summarize the results in the presentation and make them available on
the NECC site after the session.

Please take a look at the survey and feel free to pass the URL on to others
you know who have created their own WebQuest. The survey can be found at

Thanks for your help and your ongoing enthusiasm!

Friday, March 25, 2005

WebQuest vs. Kleenex

It's amazing to me how much the word WebQuest has entered the lexicon in just 10 years. Google is one gauge of how widely used a word is, so I decided to check out just where it stands compared to other education terms. Here's what I found:
# PagesTerm
1,340,000lesson plan
469,000standardized test
427,000cooperative learning
402,000multiple intelligences or multiple intelligence
398,000problem-based learning
129,000high-stakes testing
53,300Bloom's Taxonomy

It would be fallacious, of course, to claim that WebQuests are more than an order of magnitude more famous than Bloom's Taxonomy. Since WebQuests are a web-based format, they're going to be over-represented on web pages compared to paper pages (or in the meat-based minds of educators). Pretty impressive number, though. I decided to see where WebQuests lie within a short list of other items of popular culture and got this:

# PagesTerm
773,000David Letterman
304,000Clark Kent

Of course, this is small potatoes when you consider that there are close to 44,000,000 pages with the word "iPod" on them, and Britney Spears has over 14 million, but still... not bad for a word I pulled out of the air in 1995.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Making WebQuests more Exciting

Thanks to Technorati, I've got a pretty far-ranging radar that tells me when anyone writes something new with the word "WebQuest" in it. Here's a quote that caught my eye today:

Blog, Blog, Fo-fog, Banana-ana-bo-blog, fe-fi-mo-mog....BLLLOOOOGGG: Webquest for the holy grade.: "Here I am sitting at work, getting paid to blog about webquests. Exciting, isn't it? Anyway, what is there to say about webquests? Personally, I am not a huge fan of webquests. To most webquests are just electronic busy work. While some are very beneficial, most that I have experienced are lacking something. I don't know what it is for sure, but I think that they are all kind of boring. With a name like WEBQUEST, I expect some kind of adventure. What do I get? Overly structured clicking and reading. Maybe my distaste for webquests come some being raised in the generation of lights, sounds, and video game violence, but when I look at webquests I am looking for an actual quest. I do still understand the practical nature of the webquests, but consider them to be a less-than-desirable alternative to hands on learning. To appeal to the future masses of students I believe webquests need to drastically change. To excite is to entertain, to entertain is to captivate, to captivate is to inspire, to inspire is to teach."

Spoken like a true millennial learner, I suppose. It's true that most WebQuests are boring, but I think that's because they aren't really well designed, not because they don't have flashy graphics and interactivity. I'd like to think that getting engaged in a problem that requires synthesis and problem-solving is motivating in a deep and useful way that goes beyond Prensky's arcade-game type learning. And given that right from the start the goal was to develop a lesson format that any teacher could author, there's no way that WebQuests can look like Halo 2.

But what can be done to make WebQuest cooler? Any ideas out there? Please add your thoughts to the comments.