What is a WebQuest?
According to WebQuest orginator Bernie Dodge, 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, optionally supplemented with videoconferencing.’ In other words, a WebQuest is a task set by the teacher and can be conducted both inside and outside the classroom providing there is easy Internet access in your school. It can be an inquiry into a state of affairs, a social concern in the community your learners live in or a problem which students solve by consulting the web pages in any given area at their disposal. In class I have asked students to research a country or a tribe which has appeared in a unit of book in preparation for the following class. This exercise could be extended and made into a WebQuest task. The aim of a WebQuest is for learners to have a clear objective and interest in their topic as well as a final product to show for all their research. All too often students mindlessly and blindly search for information and produce a piece of work which reflects little or no engagement. The focus of a WebQuest is for students to use and therefore engage with the material at hand.
Why use WebQuests in language learning?
– Students will be researching their topic in the target language. This will provide them with plenty of authentic reading practice as well as digital literacy skills such as analysing and evaluating information – important skills we need in the real world. – Students will be learning about diverse areas of study through English. This cross-curricular approach to learning is important in the current climate of teaching. – Students can report back to their classmates in small groups. Students will thereby be improving their presentation skills. As with any task we set in the classroom, the key to its success is the clarity of the instructions. If you include the following stages in your WebQuest instructions, your students should be clear on what they have to do and stay on task.
Here, state the task and the results you hope your students to achieve. For example, find out about tattoing through the ages. Include the origins and the symbols of these tattoos in different communities around the world.
Here you can guide students in their research by giving them useful sites where they can go to carry out their research.
This will be for teachers and learners. A table containing the components of the assessment will show students what they need to achieve in order to meet the task requisites.
Students will need to summarise their findings in a report or a presentation in order to inform or persuade their classmates.
Ideas for WebQuest topics
You can integrate WebQuests into any topic dealt with in the coursebook. Here are a few areas and ideas for possible WebQuests:
Students can carry out research with a view to create a new art exhibit for their local museum.
Literature / History
Students can follow a factual reader and research the historical characters as they appear in the book.
Students can research an environmental issue in order to solve any major problems in their community.
Students have to showcase a unique animal for an important visitor who will be making a tour of their local zoo. It is their goal to design an animal that in order to survive has adapted well to its environment and to convince the visitor of the zoo that your animal is the most unique and is worthy of investment. This idea was originally taken from the web quest site written by Tom March. The Internet provides an almost interminable source of content. WebQuests are a great way of sharpening students’ critical thinking skills by getting students used to processing, analysing and being selective with information. They are engaging, authentic and adaptable to any content area. They have been a big hit with my students, which isn’t too surprising… after all, who doesn’t enjoy a good quiz?
Here are Kate’s top WebQuest sites:
Kate Browne is Director of Studies and a teacher trainer.