Webquests - an experiment
by James Frith
What is a Webquest?
Bernie Dodge of San Diego State University was one of the first people to attempt to define this kind of activity. According to him, a webquest is “an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet…” (Dodge 1995).
He identifies two types of webquest;
SHORT TERM WEBQUESTS involve knowledge acquisition and integration.
LONGER TERM WEQUESTS involve extending and refining knowledge through analysis and transformation of that knowledge and demonstrating an understanding of the knowledge by creating something.
Philip Benz (2001) later refined these definitions. He describes webquests as; “a constructivist approach to learning (…). Students not only collate and organize information (…), they orient their activities towards a specific goal (…) often associated with one or more roles modelled on adult professions.”
Why Use Webquests?
- They are an easy way for teachers to begin to incorporate the internet into the language classroom, because no specialist knowledge is needed.
- They are communicative and encourage co-operative learning.
- They encourage higher level thinking skills and thus student investment.
- They are student centred, motivating and employ authentic materials around authentic tasks.
- They can be interdisciplinary and interesting
- They encourage self-evaluation and student autonomy
- I also discovered during the course that learning using computers aids focus on the task at hand
Structure of a Webquest
The Introduction introduces the theme, provides background information on the topic and offers key vocabulary and concepts the learners will need to complete the tasks.
The Task should be motivating, interesting and related to real-life situations. There should be clear goals.
The Process stage guides the learners through a set of communicative activities and research tasks, using a set of carefully chosen internet resources. This stage may also introduce or recycle lexical /grammatical areas essential to the task by integrating it into the task. There will usually be a product (e.g. a presentation or report) to be looked at in the evaluation stage.
The Evaluation stage can involve self or peer evaluation (with evaluation criteria), giving feedback on what students have learned as well as teacher evaluation.
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