Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Creating a WebQuest

The Grade 5 team has begun planning our next unit of inquiry under the transdisciplinary umbrella of how the world works. A heavily science-based unit, which involves investigating the ways humans use scientific principles of matter and materials as well as how matter undergoes changes.
The unit will be presented to the students as an inquiry into:
- how we use the scientific principles of chemistry (concept: function)
- the challenges/benefits that can result when we change matter to create materials (concept: causation)
- what causes changes in matter to occur (concept: causation)

For the students' summative task, in order to demonstrate and apply their understanding of what we've learned throughout the unit, they will do a guided inquiry in the form of a WebQuest. For this task, I've decided to learn about designing WebQuests from scratch, in order to create a product that is authentically formulated and connected to this unit of inquiry, specifically. I began my research at WebQuest.org the ultimate birthplace of the WebQuest.

Your first question may be, "What is  WebQuest?" From the website you will discover that a WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented, constructivist lesson format that involves completing an interesting and doable task that relates to a real life activity in which most or all of the information that learners work with comes form the web. The model was created by the legendary, Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University.

A WebQuest allows students to take on certain roles and often work collaboratively in the classroom to complete the assigned task. There is a high level of ownership over the learning process and project process, while the teacher can step back, observe, evaluate and assess where students are in their learning journey. The growth and development becomes experiential, as students have a road map of the required learning, but do not know the best route or what the destination actually looks like until they get there. 

So my learning journey about designing and developing our very own Matter & Materials WebQuest, could actually be looked upon in the same way as the students setting off on their own WebQuests. I used the WebQuest.org website to find everything I needed to understand the design elements and structural considerations, including a 30-day trial to QuestGarden: Where Great Quests Grow. Here, I was blown away by the amazing amount of resources and guidance that the site delivers to its users. Take for example the page about choosing design patterns, which outlines that templates can be organized in terms of the dominant thinking verb that underlies them. The fives thinking verbs which inspire higher-level thinking, derived from Bloom's taxonomy, are: design, decide, create, analyze and predict.  

If you're an educator who is interested in using a WebQuest with your class, this is the place to start. If you're an educator who is ready for the challenge of creating your own WebQuest, this is the place to start. I will include a link to my WebQuest once it's fully active, so you can see the results.

Monday, September 27, 2010


As a special event in our current unit of inquiry, this morning we welcomed a guest speaker (and school parent) to tell us about a project that he has been involved in for the past 2 years, called Intersect! For their summative task, our students are creating a new invention in the realm of communication technology. In this project they will demonstrate their understanding of how communication technologies function in society, as well as how they connect people and their audiences, thus becoming a tool for self expression and the sharing of ideas and information.

To kick off the presentation, our guest speaker, Mr. Stacey Baird, showed us a quick video introduction to Intersect! To my surprise and delight it was a scribed animation clip, not unlike the RSAnimate ones I blogged about yesterday on the LEARN portion of this blog. This is really catching on.

Intersect! is still in beta development and is worth checking out. It rivals Facebook as a way to connect people and communities through multi-layered stories, intersecting space and time, creating a collection of shared memories and experiences.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How We Express Ourselves with Communication Technology

In my classroom, 5D, we’ve kicked off out 1st unit of inquiry of the year. It is a unit based on the transdisciplinary theme, How We Express Ourselves and the central idea is, “Changes in communication technology create different types of connections between people and their audience.” 

This is a very exciting unit for this grade level, because within the first week of school all of my students receive their very own macbook pro which is part of a 1:1 learning and teaching technology program designed to integrate technology into our IB curriculum. The computers stay in specialized cabinets where they can be charged and locked at night.

As an integral part of this unit, we began learning about blogs. Blogs are a fantastic way for people communicate their ideas to a global audience. My class will soon start their own student blogs and we will continue to use our classroom blog to share what's going on, start conversations, ask questions and eventually strengthen our school community by giving everyone a platform for their voice as well as an audience to receive them.

This week we dug more deeply into our unit of inquiry. We are creating time-lines of important changes in communication technology throughout history as well as learning about ways that communication technology connects us to people and communities around the world. The 5D DJs have begun a journey into the wonderful world of PREZI an online presentation maker program.

Another great inspiration came from watching the following TED talk by Pranav Mistry about his ideas for the future of technologies that allow humans to interact with their physical environments in different and new ways. Although some of the ideas here seem far fetched and hard to completely comprehend, the students drew out many ideas and inspirations for their summative task for this unit. They will have to invent a communication technology of the future, demonstrating their understanding of what a communication technology is, how it can be used by people around the world and how it creates connections between people. There should be some fantastic projects that come out of this working task and who knows, maybe even the next big ideas for an invention in communication technology will be born in the 5D Disco!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Welcome to the 5D Classroom

Welcome to our Grade 5 class! We are in an International Baccalaureate school in Hong Kong. As an outdoor and experiential-learning educator who dreams of a classroom with no walls, but is currently confined to small spaces, I inspire my indoor teaching and learning with a fierce passion for technological integration which can help dissolve the physical confines of space. Our classroom is a high-energy, differentiated, culturally diverse, internationally-minded, inquiry-based, typhoon of learning and growing.