Tools and Tips for Creating Relevant, Authentic & Dynamic Webquests

Webquests, originally designed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March of San Diego State University, are web-based projects in which students take a predetermined journey across the net to learn about and synthesize their knowledge on a specific topic. Usually these journeys are preceded by a hypothetical or real world problem or issue that motivates and engages students while providing authenticity and relevancy to the learning experience.

Why Webquest?

Webquests make learning more interesting for your students. Using the power of the internet you can tap the resources of almost every library, school, museum, and laboratory in the world! You can take your students on a journey, to anywhere. Webquests allow students to explore content in more depth, but within boundaries that you have selected. This makes them ideal for classes which combine students with different ability levels.

Because webquests are completely web-based, they are flexible. Your students can complete them independently or in cooperative groups, in one session or numerous, and in class or as homework. Webquests are by nature very interdisciplinary, and offer a unique way to incorporate research in your classroom.

How to Create a Webquest

Looking through sample webquests online or in school you may have seen or read about the 6 building blocks of webquests:

  • The Introduction 
  • The Task 
  • The Process 
  • The Resources 
  • The Evaluation 
  • The Conclusion 

These are ideal for teachers when planning a Webquest, but – to be honest, I personally hate when I come across webquests that are so obviously designed this way. Your students do not need to see all these stages on their screens. Think about it. When you plan a lesson do you students see all of the steps along the way?

Webquests should be easy to use, put learning into context, age and ability appropriate, and highly visual. If your intended audience is teachers, then albeit – include all these stages. Otherwise, I suggest taking a little bit more user friendly approach in your final product.

Joseph Abruscato’s Three-Pronged Approach

The Challenge – This can incorporate the introduction, the task, and the process all in one. Be sure to hook your students by linking learning and research to a real world problem if possible; otherwise link the journey to something relevant such as a potential career or cause students may find interesting.

Here’s a short example: An explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico led to an oil spill that has become the greatest environmental disaster of our time. Scholastic Kids has hired our class to create a 30 minute new special on the effects of the oil spill. This news will give viewers information on the impact of the oil spill.  To complete this task, you will each assume one of the following roles: the reporter, a scientist, a member of the clean up crew, or an environmentalist.  You will work together to create a presentation in which you will share your knowledge of oil spill and inform viewers.

The Journey – This is the resources section of your Webquest. Before sending your kids on the journey, plot their course! Find visually stimulating resources, from a variety of types of sources, for your kids to research, read, and synthesize.

The Report – I don’t necessary like the use of the word report in step 3. I would rename it, the product. This is the evaluation and conclusion piece of the Webquest. Your students do not need to always create a written report. In some cases, you can let your students choose how they will demonstrate their learning. Get creative and let your students use web 2.0 tools. In other cases, you may consider creating a rubric with specific learning outcomes outlined.

Tools to Make Creating Webquests Easier and Faster

Beyond planning and writing a meaningful and effective webquests, there are two parts that may seem a little intimidating, especially if you aren’t so tech-savvy: Plotting the journey for kids and creating a website to host your Webquest.

Plotting the Journey with Jogs, Tabs and Tracks

The following websites allow you to organize your websites and resources for your students’ journey.

Jog the Web

Jog the Web is a free online tool that allows you to create a guide to a series of web sites. Allows the author to annotate and ask guiding questions for each page.

Sharetabs

Sharetabs is similar to Jog the Web. It allows you to share your links as tabs and personalize your url.

Trackstar

This is a more advanced program that allows you to collect and organize websites and add annotations for your students. You can search the thousands of educator creator tracks by subject, grade, or theme and standard to get started.

Fast, Free and Simple Website Creators

Once you have your journey plotted, you will need a website to host the stages of your Webquest – the challenge, the journey including the jog, track, or tabs you created above, and the explanation of the product or link to a rubric.

Blogs

Blog websites are fast and easy ways to get words and links on the web. Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr are free and easy to use. Blogs work wonderfully for hosting and archiving your webquests.

Schoolrack

Schoolrack provides teachers the ability to easily and affordably build colorful, customizable websites featuring a blog, classroom calendar of assignments, files, clip art, and more – all with no advertisements. This is an excellent place to host your Webquest.

Web Poster Wizard

Web Poster Wizard allows you to create and publish very simple websites, including links, images, and blocks of text. This easily integrates with trackstar above, but can be used for organizing any type of links.

Further Reading

3 Types of Web-based Instructional Activities (w/ examples)

5 Reasons to Integrate the Internet into Your Classroom

5 Questions for Planning Successful Web-based Activities

Creating a Webquest – it’s easier than you think

Free Educational Resources by SmartTutor.com



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