Sunday, March 6, 2011

Are Webquests Dead?

I made an offhanded remark some years ago during a professional development session I was giving that Webquests were so Web 1.0.  It's been a statement that I have actually regretted making ever since.  It keeps resonating in my head.  Namely, because my work has typically been in a high school setting.  And quite honestly, if your students don't know how to effectively traverse the web and analyze good information by the time they are out of Junior High - they're in trouble.  But, I still feel webquests add value to younger students who are just learning about cyberspace. With guidance to various websites and effective questioning, these students can start to sense what good information reads like.  But I never liked the whole idea of a paper worksheet to make this happen - hence the Web 1.0 reference.
As I was pondering this dilemma, I discovered a suite of tools from 4teachers. I'm sure I will be revisiting some of those tools in the future.  But for today, I want to focus on TrackStar.  This site asks you to fill out a very basic form to create an online webquest.  Creating the quest is than as easy as giving each page in the quest a title, providing the link to the page and then asking the question you want the students to respond to based on the information provided within the page.
What I like about TrackStar is that it keeps the students grounded within the pages you want them to see.  Everything happens within a frame on the Trackstar page.  So, the students aren't off on their own finding information you might not want them finding.  Additionally, you can lock down the quest with a password.
Take a look at the Webquest I created in a matter of a few minutes on the History of Chicago. (The password is 12345).  Obviously, this is not a complete webquest and not the best example - but I wanted to give you an idea of how webquests could still be used effectively in an elementary school setting.
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