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.

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