Long before Wikis, Blogs and Twitter; WebQuests were the buzzword surrounding internet use in education. Somehow I missed out – joining the technology train long after the WebQuest was so “yesterday.” I was thrilled to discover in this module that WebQuests are in many ways the digital version of my resource based research group projects, often used to introduce topics or culminate learnings, going beyond the limitations of these paper heavy projects. However, do WebQuests constitute authentic learning? According to Diane Oblinger’s whitepaper “Authentic Learning for the 21st Century” available on EduCause, learning by doing is the best way to learn. Internet technologies are providing new ways to communicate, stimulate, visualize and create. WebQuests are a way of creating a virtual environment wherein learners can assume roles and responsibilities which replicate real life scenarios and allow them to learn while doing. Oblinger outlines this as one of the 10 key design elements which foster authentic learning. The other 9 include: ill defined problems which contain tasks and subtasks; sustained investigation; multiple sources and perspectives; collaboration; reflection; interdisciplinary perspectives and finally, integrated assessment. Well constructed WebQuests contain all of these elements and remain perhaps the most relevant and important applications of authentic learning in virtual environments.
To read more Authentic Learning check out the White paper by Marilyn Lombardi and edited by Diane Oblinger as featured on Educause.
My own experience with WebQuest was a rich and rewarding one. I quickly realized that WebQuests, although well established as an internet learning tool, remain one of the most pedagogically sound mediums of instruction. Not only does it focus the learner, but as outlined above, it ticks all the appropriate boxes for authentic learning. To design a WebQuest, the educator must really start with the end in mind – the outcomes – and use backward planning designs to create the task and subtasks which direct and engage students in their learning leading them through the process of learning as the reflect upon their own learnings in the product. I found Quest Garden to be an easy to use tool and a quick and easy way to design and store WebQuests. My group WebQuest: The Circle of Learning: Exploring First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Perspectives and Ways of Knowing is a cross-curricular lesson targeting the grade 8 curricula of social studies, ELA, mathematics, and health education. It was a way of exploring this broad understanding and throughline embedded in all Saskatchewan curricula and pairing it with a model to develop values in youth.