Educational technology holds great promise to transform the role of the teacher from the "Sage on the Sage" to the "Guide on the Side". The big challenge for teachers is in creating structured activities that keep the students engaged in meaningful learning using the medium of technology. One of the oldest methods to accomplish this is through the WebQuest.
The WebQuest is an inquiry based learning activity where students use the Internet to find much of the material to complete a task. One can find information about WebQuests here. Typically, WebQuests introduce a problem, state a task students have to accomplish, describe a detailed process students should follow to accomplish this task, include resources with suggested weblinks and other online documents that students can use in the course of their research, and end with a rubric for evaluation and a conclusion.
Students following a WebQuest obviously require a computer with an Internet connection. This can be done in class with a mobile laptop cart or by moving the class to the school library or computer room. I also recommend the teacher include a small library of books for students to use to supplement their Internet research when completing the task. Because all of the resources to complete the task are available to the students through the list of websites in the quest supplemented by a small library of books chosen for this activity, students are actively engaged in constructing meaning and often can create products in the form of painting, dioramas, PowerPoint presentations, or brochures that indicate a deep understanding of the material.
WebQuest Design Patterns is a site that I have found to be invaluable in creating my own WebQuests. It includes over two dozen pre-made templates for various types of WebQuests. For help in creating rubrics both for WebQuests and for student projects and performance based assessments in general, I highly recommend Rubistar. In Rubistar, the teacher chooses the type of project such as oral project, multimedia, art etc. and which areas she would like to focus on in grading and the site automatically generates an editable template containing detailed descriptions and ratings for each area.
If you are still unsure about where to begin in creating your own WebQuest, first start with a worthwhile WebQuest that has been created by others. The first WebQuest I ever did with a class was created by Shalom Berger of the Lookstein Center on Kaf Tet November. You can view many examples of WebQuests for Judaic subjects created by Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, a visionary in this area, at http://jwit.webinstituteforteachers.org/~naphhoff/webquests.htm.
Here is a list of number of WebQuests that I have performed with my students over the years based on the WebQuest Design Patterns templates and Rubistar rubrics:
- Jewish Monarchy On Trial
- Be the Prophet: Learn one of the Visions of Amos
- Create a Guide to a Jewish Wedding
- Moab Rebels: A WebQuest for Kings II Chapter 3
- Navigate the Layout of a typical page of Gemara
One final issue to consider when designing one's own WebQuests is where to host it.
- A WebQuest can be simply a Word document based on the templates above that is emailed to students or posted on the school homework site.
- A bit more sophisticated solution would be to create a Google document and publish the link online to share with students.
- In the past, I used free online websites like the now defunct Geocities. Today, one could use Google sites for a similar purpose.
- My favorite venue for WebQuests is to use a wiki which is more powerful and a bit more sophisticated but still very easy to use. As I have described in previous blog postings, Wikispaces offers free, password protected wikis for K-12 schools.
Enjoy the quest!!!