Web-based Activities, Projects, and WebQuests
Besides computer software and mobile apps, many learning opportunities are available through web-based experiences.
Go to Writing With Writers. This Scholastic project provides an opportunity for young people to work with authors, editors, and illustrators to learn the writing process and create polished projects. Also check out the Write It project.
As you seek out instructional materials, look for electronic materials that bring learning alive. For instance as students read The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett, they often have questions about Frank Lloyd Wright, mystery writing, and mathematics that naturally connect to the K-12 curriculum. Use web-based resources to make these connections more concrete.
Skim STAR Ideas: Simple Technology Application Resource Ideas by Annette Lamb.
There is more to integrating Internet student learning than simply finding information. The effectiveness of a student's project will depend on the attitude you have about technology. Are you teaching hardware, software, or content? Are you thinking “Let’s use our new iPads”, “Let’s explore Internet” or “Let’s do inquiry”? Start with an educational objective, not an activity. Your objectives might include all three areas, but start with the curriculum guide.
Ask yourself, is this activity to learn about a concept related to a subject area, or to learn about search strategies? Teaching the use of search strategies is a worthwhile goal, but we’ve found that it’s more meaningful if students are applying its use to a meaningful project. The project doesn’t have to be hard or high level, but it should serve some purpose other than “busywork.” For example, rather than asking students to list the name and dates of supreme court decisions, direct them to select a judgment and debate both sides of the issue.
If you’re exploring a music resource, don’t just copy a favorite song, do something with the lyrics. Maybe you could have students compare and contrast two songs written by the same composer. The point is to make the project useful. It’s okay to start with “treasure hunt” type activities to become familiar with a resource, but transfer is more likely to occur with more meaningful activities.
Now ask yourself, is it worthwhile to go online? To address your content objective, a book, video, or hands-on experiment may be the best resource. When you figure out the time it takes for all the students to get “logged on” and begin exploring a site, you might be done with a paper and pencil activity. Would print resources be easier or better to use? Would traditional resources such as a video be as or more effective?
Let’s say you’re working with a teacher on re-designing a volcanoes unit. What concepts and generalizations do you want the students to be able to express? How can we gain student interest in volcanoes? What resources do you already have in your library to support the unit? What seems to be missing?
Good Topics for Internet
Look for information unavailable in print resources. Electronic resources may be more effective than traditional resources in many situations. As you determine whether to include online resources in your project, consider some of the following areas where Internet is a great asset.
The high cost of field trips and the sheer size of the earth makes it nearly impossible for students to physically explore the world outside their school district. You can’t physically take your class to visit the rainforest in Puerto Rico, but your students could interact with children living in San Juan and ask them to describe their experiences. Many experiments require data from a number of different locations. Your class can’t take soil samples in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Boston. On the other hand, they can collaborate with students at each site and share their findings. You can’t follow the migration of Canadian geese on foot, but you can trace it on a map with the help of children in the flight path.
Joining a virtual field trip is one of the best uses of Internet in the classroom. You can explore the materials from past trips or join a trip in progress. For fifteen years, students have been participating in the Jason Project exploring exciting locations such as the ocean floor, the volcanoes of Hawaii, and the polar regions. The project sponsors provide timelines, activities, and materials used by the scientists and explorers. There are opportunities to share ideas with the scientists, travelers, as well as other students during the expedition. Many virtual field trips provide daily updates with photographs, movies, sound clips, and journal entries.
Some virtual field trips are free, while others charge for participation. Many opportunities provide supplement materials at a small charge. You may want to start with an established project such as Journey North. Although all the materials are online, participants can submit their observations using the mobile app.
In addition to live, interactive virtual field trips, there are many opportunities to go on virtual visits to specific historical, cultural, and science museums. Visit the Smithsonian. You can visit zoos and aquariums such as the Sea World and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While there you can learn about animals and even see live cams.
The timeliness of information is another important concern. Working with the 1970 census data is useless if you’re looking for recent trends. Rather than reading an outdated book about a country, students can go directly to the country and city for information. For example, Lonely Planet is a popular website for country and travel information.
Exploring a book on the space shuttle with a 1983 copyright date would lead you to believe that there has never been a catastrophic shuttle accident. It’s difficult to study the most recent elections without resources. Up-to-date information is one of the most compelling reasons for using the Internet. The NASA sites, Weather Channel, and similar sites are updated regularly.
Remember however that not all resources on Internet are updated regularly. You need to check the date of publication to ensure the timeliness of information. If you want information on the most recent natural disaster, the Internet is the place to go.
Sometimes the school and public libraries simply don’t have the information you need. If you’re interested in the Indian mounds of the Ohio Valley, you might have a tough time finding anything on the topic if you live in Alabama. On the other hand, there are lots of resources online. If you want Cajun recipes, try sites in Louisiana. All of the states and provinces now have sites students can explore. Try the following trick in locating states. For example, South Dakota is http://www.state.sd.us/ or http://sd.gov. Replace the state abbreviation with another state and give it a try. Check out the California state page. Look for the education or kid’s page for good resources.
Although searching for information online can be slow, it may be faster than the OPAC then locating a book. Since the Web is set up as a hypertext environment, you can click on related words and find things you might not discover using traditional keyword searches. For example, there are dozens of sites that focus on poetry and the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. You can even read with works of people who have recently received the Edgar Allan Poe award.
Directories, indexes, hot points, and keyword searching of databases are all ways to find information. With all these tools, you can find information on almost any topic imaginable! You can also waste lots of time, so it’s a good idea to do some planning before you start using the Internet.
Websites often provide a high level of interactivity through their online projects. It can be as simple as clicking on a visual for information or as complex as the analysis of a math answer. For example, Franklin’s Lightning Laboratory provides a fun, simple, interactive page on the topic of electricity safety.
It’s hard to understand what a government policy or bill looks like without seeing a real one. If you're interested in the United Nations stand on an issue, go directly to the source. It’s hard to understand what letters written during the Civil War were like without actually reading one. Internet contains authentic documents on every subject imaginable. The government is rapidly transforming their stockpiles of print information into useful online resources.
See our resources that make use of primary sources. For example, CBC's The Halifax Explosion uses primary sources to understand this historic event.
Varied Information Types
School and public libraries are unable to keep up with the endless variety of information types. Not everything is available in a printed form or on a video. As a result, libraries are expanding their doors to web-based information resources. For example, if students are studying the Midwest floods from the early 1990s, some of the best resources are available online through the midwest agricultural co-ops. Bibliographies, poetry, short stories, novels, and historical documents are just a few of the written communications online. Many of the presidential libraries and national museums are beginning to place their holding on-line.
Go to Newseum to explore an interactive museum of news.
Students enjoy reading the fictional writings of other children their age. They can read the tall tales written by Texas children on their state history. Geographic, demographic, and all kinds of other data and statistics are also available. Students can download computer software, text, graphics, audio, video, and sounds.
When a student is working on a project, they don’t always need print materials. Maybe a video clip of a frog dissection or a color photograph of a color painting will add spice to their multimedia presentation. These resources may not be available in the school, but they may be online. If you want TV commercials, go to Ad Critic. NASA has an array of still and motion pictures. Visit the Louvre and download digitized copies of famous paintings. Through illustrations, animations, text, and audio narration, you can explore the world of the dinosaur or genetics at the American Museum of Natural History’s Ology website.
Using Internet is fun. From David Letterman, British Comedy, and Star Trek to scuba diving, travel, and cooking, there’s something for everyone. In addition because of the linking of resources students may end up in a “scholarly” site when they started off with a personal interest. Consider using fun sites as starters for academic projects. Students could visit new car sites and do math activities. They could visit the post card or virtual flower site and write a poem to a friend. For instance, they could go to author and illustrator Jan Brett’s website, complete a fun activity, and write a postcard based on a book character. Students enjoy visiting their favorite things online including movies and products. Check out the Disney website. Combine fun and learning with a website like The Fin, Fur, and Feather Bureau of Investigation sponsored by National Geographic.
Seek out interactives to bring your library alive. The Los Angles Public Library uses games to help young people learn about the library. Check out the Games section.
Inventing Creative, Technology-Rich Projects
Once you’ve explored the possible uses of Internet in the classroom, you’ll want to create projects that focus on information processing activities.
For decades, children have been given the same assignment, "write a paragraph about ..." For the same amount of time, students have copied information from the encyclopedia. With the introduction of word processing, copying and pasting has gotten even easier. How do you discourage this behavior? First, give students assignments that require them to use higher order thinking. Ask them to analyze, synthesize, and formulate new ideas based on their information. These types of reports can't be copied. Also, talk to students about the ethics of using the work of others. Discuss the term plagiarism and how to avoid it. Teach them how to properly cite their sources.
If you're concerned that students might be copying essays from the Internet, it's easy to check their work. Use a search engine such as Google to search for a sample phrase (put it in quotation marks) from the questionable student paper. There's a good chance the phrase will pop up. When the student project was on the topic of comparing the book Brave New World and The Giver, many identical papers popped up.
Rather than viewing free essay and quick content sites such as Cliffs Notes, SparkNotes, and others as enemies, see them as resources. For example, you might start with the character analysis of Call of the Wild at SparkNotes. Ask students to critique the review and share their comments in the discussion area.
Remind students to use a variety of resources for their project. For example, a student working on a project on the writer Maya Angelou will find biographies, poems, interviews, discussions, bibliographies, criticisms, as well as audio and video clips on the Internet.
When students use web resources, they need to remember to cite the materials they incorporate into their project.
Although there’s information on almost every topic, it’s sometimes difficult to locate. Don’t assume that students can always find the information they’ll need. Provide a starting place such as a sample site to begin their research, or provide a list of topics you know will be successful. For example, it's easy to find information about all kinds of animals.
Designing Internet Projects
As you design a web-based project, think about all the resources that could be used in the project, not just the Internet materials. Let’s take the topic of World War II. Start by brainstorming all the materials available including books, videos, live interviews, primary sources documents, and maps. You might find that the textbook is too difficult for some students, so bring in some other books such as Stephen Ambrose’s The Good Fight.
As you think about uses of the Internet, begin with your favorite educational starting points such as 42eXplore. The World War II page includes good starting points, activities, WebQuests, and resources by students and for teachers. There are also supplemental pages on key events and people. Next, think about the software you could use such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, Inspiration, and Timeliner. You might use the video camera to record oral histories.
Consider the visuals that could be incorporated including photographs, posters, maps, diagrams, charts, and videos. Use Internet as a tool to hold class discussions. For example, your students could read the book Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki and email someone who lived in a Japanese Internment Camp. There are a number of quizzes and WebQuests that might be helpful as a review activity near the end of your unit. Both teaching units and student projects can also be found on this topic. The options are endless!
As you design projects, keep these four questions in mind: Is it fun, realistic, worthwhile, and productive?
Is the project fun? Let students use the tools and resources they enjoy. Some students love graphics while others learn more from audio or text. Let students express themselves in fun ways. Also allow students to work on projects that have personal interest. If it’s science, can it be related to health or social issues such as AIDS or steroid use? History can be linked with music, fashion, and money.
Is the project realistic? Let’s make learning authentic, by associating learning with real-world problems and focusing on real-world audiences. Help students answer the question “who cares?” about the topic. Use real documents, pictures, interviews, and resources. Avoid contrived assignments with sterile results by encouraging student projects that have a real impact. Let students share their projects with others.
Is the project worthwhile? Match the lesson outcomes with the activities and the assessment. Give students credit for their progress as individual and team members.
Is it productive? Make certain that students have the time to work on projects, but try to limit the amount of time piddling with “dead-end” resources by providing lists of suggested sites to visit. Assure planning by requiring students to submit organizational tools they developed such as webs, charts, or timelines.
Internet is a great resource for teachers and children. Develop projects that use the unique types of information available on the Internet and remember to connect Internet resources with traditional resources.
Conversation, Cooperation and Collaboration
Electronic materials for youth are more than software and websites. Think of the valuable information that can be gained through interacting with others. It’s difficult to have a conversation with a book. It won’t answer your questions and is unlikely to provide more than you request. Internet allows “real-time” or slightly delayed interactions around the world.
With email or threaded discussions, students can practice their Spanish with a class in Mexico City. Children from a small rural town in southern Mississippi can communicate with students living in downtown Chicago. Young children can talk to older people about life in the Depression or same age children in the United States can talk to students in Croatia about war. Unlike snail mail pals that take a week or more to respond, with Internet children can engage in written conversations to share ideas, concerns, and insights.
Think of things that will get your youth moving. Some activities may involve reading and sharing books. For example, visit GoodReads and LibraryThing. These websites are intended to help you share your love of books with the world.
Collaborative, online projects are one of the most exciting ways to motivate students. Get students involved with posting projects on the web, emailing other students or experts, discussing issues on a threaded discussion, or holding a online chat. There are thousands of projects to join from travel buddies to data collection projects.
Read March of the Monarchs from Edutopia to learn about the famous Monarch butterfly project. Consider ways the school librarian could help with this type of project. What kinds of library activities could be designed in assocition with this project?
Before joining a project, you'll want to explore the possibilities. There are many different kinds of collaborative projects available. Judi Harris at her website called Virtual Architecture identifies three types of telecollaborative projects. The discussion below highlights Harris's categories and project areas. What kind of project would meet your need for interpersonal exchange, data gathering, or problem solving?
You've probably heard of projects where students around the global communicate through traditional mail, email, chats, forums, video conferencing or other means. By designing activities that match specific subject area standards, these projects can go beyond simple pen pal exchanges.
Keypals involve students in discussing a range of ideas and issues from book discussions to cultural exchanges. Try ePALS for bringing together cross-cultural learning partners and friends. Global classrooms encourage groups of students to share their ideas and experiences through a worldwide exchange of ideas.
Telementoring involves students and teachers in becoming coaches and mentors for others. For example, your class might teach another class what they've learned about electricity through a video conference demonstration.
Question and answer activities ask students to formulate both questions and answers as part of a content-rich activity. For example, one class may send a picture of a local plant and ask the other class to identify it and list possible uses. Math story problem exchanges are another popular question and answer activity. Many websites such as How Stuff Works have options for asking questions and sharing ideas.
Impersonations are a fun way to learn about people. Your class might take on the role of a character in a book and write to another class in that voice.
Book clubs are a great way to get your students involved with reading and sharing. Many students enjoy participating in book clubs and book review projects. The activities range from formal reading groups to informally sharing favorite books.
Read Methodology at Planet Book Club. Although this is a service with subscription and materials, there are still lots of ideas to get you started.
Go to Figment. This is a wonderful online community for readers and writers. You can even set up your own forum for your school or public library where youth can share their writing and ask for feedback.
Wouldn't it be fun to follow an engineer on the design of a bridge or assist a geologist in calculating some earthquake data? Many professionals welcome the opportunity to interact with young people. Try an "Ask the Expert" project where students contact a professional such as an architect or historian through email. At the low end, ask questions about their career. At the high end, become involved with a NASA mission, an archeological dig online, or an environmental activity. Youth find writing projects much more meaningful when they have an audience for their efforts. Get students involved with writing letters and email to real people.
Don't forget author and illustrator activities. Author visits are a great way to get your students excited about reading, writing, and illustration. Although it's great to host authors to your library or school, it's not always possible. You can also plan and participate in virtual visits. You can interact with authors through email and chats.
Electronic appearances often involve experts answering questions. For example, you might chat with an astronaut online. Although your youth may think you know everything, there are many times when students and teachers need information that goes beyond the expertise in the classroom. Many classrooms use “experts” websites as a way to locate people with a high degree of skill or knowledge in a particular subject. Try the Homework Spot: Experts page for ideas. Others make use of the “classic” websites sponsored by well-known organizations in each subject area such as National Geographic. Also, go to USA.gov and search for individuals in charge of particular agencies in government such as the superintendent of a national park or a representative from the EPA. Try the following websites for more ideas: AllExperts, Scientific American, Ask a Mad Scientist, Ask NASA, Ask An Astronomer, Ask an Astrophysicist, Ask a Space Scientist.
An Ask-An-Expert project is an excellent way to reach outside your classroom into the "real-world." You and your students can communicate with experts from around the world in every profession. Any successful classroom project takes planning. Use the following guidelines in planning your project.
Selecting a Project. Before jumping into an "ask-an-expert" project, consider the purpose of the project. Use experts to answer questions that would otherwise be difficult to answer. Think about when in a unit you might use an expert. For example, you might interview people as part of a career exploration activity. Students might use the information from the interview to decide whether they'd like to investigate further. Or, you might use the online discussion to generate problems for an inquiry-based project. Most classes use experts after they've studied a topic and they're ready to learn more. They've exhausted the resources in their classroom and library, but still have specific questions. Finally, some teachers use an expert as a sounding board for student conclusions. For instance, some science fair teachers like to send scientists the discoveries of their students and ask them to respond to the projects. Read the AskA Etiquette page to learn more about creating an effective a project.
Choosing an Expert. We've listed resources below that link to thousands of potential experts. How do you choose the best resources for your project? Start by examining the online resources about the expert. Read the background information provided. Some experts restrict the types of questions they will answer. Other sites only answer a sample of the questions they receive. Some websites will tell you how long you can expect to wait for a response.
Preparing the Expert. Many of the expert websites state that they can focus answers to a particular audience such as elementary or secondary students. If you're working with young children, you might want to send an introductory email to introduce yourself. Ask the expert if he or she feels comfortable addressing the questions of children. You might also ask about how long the expert usually takes to respond. If it takes two or three weeks, your unit may be over before you get a response. You might even want to give the expert a background on what you've been studying and the types of questions to expect.
Preparing your Students. Before starting an expert project, spend some time brainstorming with your students. Ask them about what they already know about the topic or profession. As a class, create a graphic organizer or chart to visualize these ideas. Consider questions that could be answered using traditional sources versus those that might need an expert. Focus on questions that relate directly to the topic or problem your class is exploring rather than general questions or personal questions. Some experts are willing to answer "get to know you" types of questions, but most prefer to stick to their area of expertise.
Designing the Questions. Whether you have twenty or one hundred and twenty students, it's probably not realistic for each student to submit a question. Develop a question collection activity that generates a list of questions. You might then categorize and combine questions. Then, ask the class to prioritize. If you will be doing expert projects throughout the semester or school year, you might assign a small group to make the final decision. They could also design the email communication. For example, you might try to submit one question a month, so each small group has an opportunity to submit a question during the semester. Focus on high-level questions that can't be answered with yes and no answers. On the other hand, you don't want questions that require lengthy responses.
Submitting the Questions. The next step is the creation of a short email message that provides a brief overview of the your class (subject, age of students, location) and reason for your submission. Next, include a question or short series of related questions that can be answered in a short conversational way. Number the questions and put a line between each question if you'd like a response to each question. Rather than using a teacher or student personal email account, consider a class email account. Put a student in charge of checking each day for a response.
Waiting for Answering. In some cases you can anticipate how long the response may take. It may take 3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months or longer. Some classes maintain a bulletin board in their classroom where they post a timeline and responses. Younger children have trouble waiting, so it's a good idea to select a timely expert. In some cases, students are waiting for a response for a project. Again, you might want to prepare students for the possibility that the expert might not respond.
Send Followups and Thank you's. When you get a response, be sure to send a thank you. If you have followup questions, it's a good idea to send them immediately and include copies of prior emails to remind the expert about previous conversations. Rather than sending a "teacher-generated" thank you, get your students involved. Some classes even send their artwork, final projects, or copies of videos as a thank you. Remember that most experts are volunteering their time and a nice thank you will encourage them to continue their contributions.
Beyond Web Experts. You don't have to use the expert resources provided. You probably have great parent and community resources in your own town or city. Make use of these resources too. If you can't find a resource for a particular area, try the web and do some "cold calling." In other words, most websites contain email lists of representatives that might be willing to answer students questions. Give it a try.
Information Collection and Analysis
Many projects involve the collection, analysis, and sharing of information. Consider projects that reach out to people and places that might have information unavailable in your area. If you live in a rural area, connect with an urban school. If you live in the mountains, exchange ideas with people who live on the coast. At CIESE (Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education), you can find lots of great data collection science projects. Mrs. Silverman has been sponsoring primary grade projects for many years. Check out her projects at Kids-Learn.
Information exchanges involve students in sharing all kinds of data. For example, students might exchange information about the cost of living in the place that they live.
Database creation asks students to collect and organize information in some way. For example, your project might involve the creation of a database of recipes from different cultures, books reviews, or recycling information.
Electronic publishing involves students in sharing information with the world through the creation of web pages and other forms of electronic publication. For example, you might create an online project where students share modern folktales.
Telefieldtrips allow students to share their real-world field trips with others who might not be able to experience a field trip. For instance, students visiting a local factory could take photographs and share these pictures with others on a web page. They might even communicate with other schools during the field trip through email or video conferencing. A class could also participate in an ongoing professional field trip such as a scientific expedition to a live volcano.
Pooled data analysis projects enable students to collaborate with others on social and scientific inquiries such as water testing, soil analysis, or local history. Information is brought together, analyzed, and shared. Go to Real Time Data Projects for ideas.
Book Review Sharing. Book reviews are a fun form of information collection project. The Internet is a great place to share ideas about books students are reading. Get youth involved with writing book reviews and sharing them online.
Explore some examples of book review sharing projects:
- BookHive - Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
- Teen Ink
- Teen Review - Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
In many projects, students are faced with a problem to be solved. In solving the problem, students may need to organize information into charts or graphs, make notations on maps, or analyze data. Classroom Anatomy involves human body science projects.
Information searches involve students in seeking out data in order to solve a problem. Students might ask questions, use websites, or collect data live.
Peer feedback activities ask students to collaborate through sharing ideas and providing peer review or clues in solving a problem. For example, one student might create a picture and another child could write a story to go with the picture.
Parallel problem solving allows students to work on similar problems at the same time and share their results.
Sequential problem solving involves students in a series of problem solving activities over time. Each problem may build on others. Some travel buddy projects involve sequential activities. For example, a stuffed bird is sent from place to place and students follow it's experiences.
Telepresent problem solving involves students working through problems live. For example, students at different locations may conduct the same experiment at the same time and share their results live.
Simulations let students have a virtual experience with a real world problem. Students explore real-world issues without the consequences of impacting the world. For example, they may pretend to experience an earthquake or other disaster. Or, students follow a reenactment of an Oregon Trail trip.
Social action projects let students have a real impact on the world. In the Grocery Bag project, students decorate paper sacks as part of an Earth Day Project. Grandparent projects might help seniors with a particular community problem.
As you explore a project, think about the time and activities that will be involved. Will the activities address your learning goals?
Rather than starting from scratch, use online resources to help you find good projects. Do a search for collaborative projects on Google. Try the following words: epals, collaboration, online activities, email project, Flat Stanley, travel buddy, key pals, conferenceing, online discussion, online book club, and data collection.
If you'd like to get on a mailing list that sends out new project listings, check out the Hilites List from The Global Schoolhouse.
Explore a few of the following projects:
- Birding Projects
- CIESE Collaborative Projects
- Collaborative Data Collection Projects
- Blue Zones - Secrets of Longevity
- Budburst - Record climate change data
- CIESE Online Classroom Projects
- CyberFair Projects
- Frogwatch USA
- Global Schoolhouse Registry.
- Great Backyard Bird Count
- Journey North - Track butterflies, robins, hummingbirds, whales, and other wildlife migration
- Ocean Explorer
- School Yard Habitats
- Wildlife Watch
- Flat Stanley
- Friends and Flags
- Iditarod Education
- Internet Projects
- JASON Learning
- Journey North
- Monster Exchange
- My Hero
- Nature Mapping
- Project Budbreak
- Wildlife Sightings
There are many online tools that can be used to facilitate youth discussions and conversations. Explore a few examples:
There are many types of online collaborative projects across all grade levels and content areas. Join an online collaborative project where you can share your data with others. For instance, help your students become citizen scientists through projects like the Lost Ladybug Project.
Select an Internet-based collaborative project. Ask yourself the following questions:
As you select a project, ask yourself. Why is this project important? What does this project do that can't be done in a traditional classroom? How does this project provide a unique experience for my students?
Global connections are one of the best examples of providing a unique experience.
Project Size. Is the project between teachers, classes, small groups, or individuals? Will many or a few schools be involved? Does the project size meet your needs? Is the project "doable"?
Project Length. Is the project a one-shot, short term, long term, ongoing, or flexible environment? Does the timeline and schedule fit the needs of your class? Does the length fit your needs?
Annual events are a great way to become involved with projects. Consider Banned Book Week, Groundhog Day, and International Games Day. Want to celebrate Math? Try Pi Day, Mole Day, Odd Day, and Square Root Day! Invent your own day like Ones Upon a Day.
Participant Background. Does the project include people from similar or different backgrounds? What about the location of the people? Are there other considerations such as socioeconomic, age, gender, and personal interests? Does the project fit your grade level? Are the materials and activities age appropriate? Will students find the project interesting and motivating? Do the participant backgrounds fit your needs?
Go to Kidlink Project and notice the different languages represented.
Content Area Focus. Does the project focus on your content area needs? Does it include cultural connections, scientific observations, real-world writing, multiple perspectives or other good reasons for an outreach project? Does the project match your learning outcomes? Are effective assessments included? How does the project disseminate information, share results, and discuss the project: email, web discussion, chat, video conferencing?
Social studies projects can involve cultural understanding, community, country, world, past, present, future, time, movement, people, places, ideas, and multiple perspectives. For example, students might exchange information about flags or manners. Discussions might be on topics such as war and peace, homelessness, intolerance, gangs, violence, drugs, or the digital divide. People projects can involve oral histories, famous local people, historic country leaders, unsung local heroes or biographies of pen pals.
Math and Science projects can involve topics such as life, physical and earth science, scientific inquiry, math in everyday life, weather watches (chart temperature, precipitation, humidity), share season and cloud pictures, or weather stories. Natural area projects might include native and nonnative plant and animals, plant and animal studies, and temperature and weather in local areas. Math topics include monetary systems project such as currency, money, barter systems, currency conversion, cost of living, and retail outlet exchanges.
Reading and Writing projects involve students in sharing book reviews, discussing chapters of books, and writing alternative endings. Students can collaborate on a wide variety of writing projects such as poetry pals, creative writing, and descriptive projects. Some projects cross content areas such as myths and legends which are often associated with history projects. Students study local myths and legends, then share their traditional or modern myths with global pals. For example, Cinderella Around the World projects are popular. Many teachers provide story starters such as "through my eyes" or "if I were a..."
Interdisciplinary projects are a great way to work with teachers within the building as well as around the world. These may combine subject areas such as the geosciences or reach outside the schools for community involvement like grandparent or recycling projects. For example, community projects may include cross-generations, parents, community workers, local experts, museums. After school projects might include pen pals, global friendships, homework support systems, and year-end reviews.
Technology. Do you have the hardware and software needed to implement the project (traditional mail, email, forums, chat, video conferencing, productivity tools)? Does the technology match the outcomes of the project? Does the technology make good use of time? What type of data would be collected and shared? Why? Is this a good reason for using the Internet?
Traditional mail projects involve old fashioned surface mail or snail mail. Flat Stanley projects are very popular. These are based on the story of a boy who is paper thin and can be sent through the mail. These projects have extended to include sending all kinds of things through the mail including stuffed animals, models, fossils, artwork, videos, and all kinds of other products and objects. Students often read books and write in journals before sending the materials to the next school on the list. Information is often posted on an Internet site so students can track the movement of the project.
Email is one of the most popular technologies used in projects. Although you may think of email as text, students can also send attachments including sound, graphics, and video files. Files made in Kidpix, HyperStudio, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and other formats are common. With the growing interest in digital cameras, you'll find increasing numbers of photos being sent over email. The Geoanimals project is another that involves sharing visuals.
Online discussions can be live or delayed. For example, chats and live video discussions are an excellent way to maintain the flow of a discussion, while threaded discussions and forums let students think about their responses. If you want to build your own threaded discussion, try Edmondo or NiceNet.
Video conferencing can bring both video and audio into your classroom through meetings and other events. You can include experts in your classroom activities from around the world. Consider holding online debates using this format or sharing live presentations, experiments, and skits.
There are lots of great online projects. Unfortunately, there are also many reasons why they might not work in your library. The timing might be off, the project might be at the wrong developmental level for your students, or the project might be focused on objectives you've already covered.
Consider taking an existing project and repurposing it. In other words, adapt or modify a project to fit your needs. If you use another person's project idea, be sure you give this person credit. You might even email them and collaborate on a future project!
Adapt for Resources. Sometimes a project concept is good, but the resources or information need to be modified. For example, you might use new data, websites, or books for an effective project. You might rewrite a project so it is more readable. If the project website has linkrot, you might include revised websites that focus on new perspectives or ideas. Consider adding new channels of communication such as audio, video, or graphics. Explore the Bird Sleuth project. How could you adapt this project?
Adapt for Best. There are sometimes multiple projects on the same topic. You'll want to examine each project and take the best elements in building your project. For example, most projects have an overview, timelines, guidelines, worksheets, products, and assessment elements.
Adapt for Level. Many times you'll find a good project that's at the wrong grade, ability, or interest level. Think of ways that it could be adapted for your class. For example, you might use a different example or scenario to guide the project. If the project involves reading a book, could your students read a different book? Maybe you could vary the outcome or rewrite the instructions for the reading level of your students. In some cases you need to revise the products to fit the hardware and software you have available.
Adapt for a Region. Some projects are created for a particular time or place. For example, the project may be based on a field trip to a particular museum. Can you revise the materials for your local historical or natural areas? If the project is on weather or geography, could it be adapted for the features in your area? What about connecting with another class with varied experiences. For example, if the project is about the coastline and hurricanes, could it be adapted for the plains and tornadoes. If it's written for a particular country could you add other countries to the project? Many Canadian projects talk about their provinces, could you adapt a project for the United States? The key is to brainstorm ideas and modify the project to fit your needs. If a project focuses on a particular author or piece of literature think about how these general ideas could be applied to other examples.
Extend a Project. There are many projects that appear as ideas rather than established projects. Think about finishing an incomplete project or adding breadth and depth to a project that was done last year. Maybe you could expand the project options of a one dimensional project or enhance the assessments in another project. The key is to update the resources to fit your needs. For example, there's a great project call TEAMS with many ideas to adapt.
Creating a Project
It's a good idea to start by participating in a project designed by someone else. This will give you a chance to practice applying the concepts and using the technology without having to focus on managing the project.
When you're ready to create your own project, use the following steps to design your project.
Identify a Project Concept
- Brainstorm possible topics with your students.
- Pick a topic that is appealing to students, meets standards, involves higher order thinking skills, and enhances learning for all participants.
- Choose a catchy theme and title.
- Match the project concept to curriculum outcomes and standards.
- Identify content, information, and technology standards.
- Match outcomes to specific assessments.
- Keep the project as simple as possible and practical.
- Focus on a few specific questions or problems.
- Develop a plan for sharing results.
- Set aside lots of personal time for planning.
- Be prepared ahead of the project start time.
- Identify the technology that the host and participants will need.
- Select technology for gathering, organizing, and sharing information.
Design a "Call for Participation"
- Build a plan and stick to it.
- Plan and try out all procedures,
- Create a list of requirement materials.
- Develop a set of project guidelines.
- Build a list of requirements for the program.
- Create a timeline, master schedule, and list of key dates.
- Anticipate problems that might arise and develop contingency plans.
Create a Timeline
- Identify registration open and close dates.
- Identify beginning and ending dates for the project.
- Develop a plan for participant contact and notification.
- Identify key dates and times within the project.
Create a Participant List
- Build a participant mailing list such as email, eboard, egroup, listserv.
- Create a separate host email account.
- Send weekly email updates for communication and epostcards for fun.
- Send reminders and thank you's.
Create a "Call for Participation"
Unless you plan to do the project on your own, you'll need some partners. Before you ask people to join your project, you need to do some planning. First, create a "Call for Participation" that provides potential participants an overview of your project. Second, develop the materials that you and your participants will need for the project such as lesson plans and project guidelines.
A "Call for Participation" should have the following elements:
- Content/Curriculum Areas:
- Target Audience, Ages of Participants:
- Timeline or Schedule (begin/end):
- Registration Information & Dates:
- Participant Requirements (location):
- Type/Level of Interaction:
- Technology Needed:
- (hardware, computer/student ratio, software, time needed on line)
- Format Used:
- (email, chat, video conferencing, forum, web, traditional mail)
- Procedure (project description and assessment):
- How to Participate:
- Contact Person:
A project should also have the following project materials:
- Project Materials
- Projects Guidelines
- Lesson Plans
- Activities (Observation, Discussion/Analysis, Creation/Synthesis, Exchange, Evaluation)
- Classroom Management Ideas
- Student Materials (such as worksheets, guidelines)
- List of Participants
Evaluate your "call for participation" and "project materials".
The Call for Participation
- Is the project title and theme interesting and reflective of the activities?
- Are the content and curriculum areas clearly stated?
- Are the content area goals and objective, outcomes, and/or standards clear?
- Do the outcomes match the activities and assessments?
- Is the project summary clear, descriptive, and concise?
- Are the activities including information to be exchanged detailed?
- Is the target audience, grade level and/or age of the participants stated?
- Is the timeline and schedule of the program clearly stated including a beginning and end? Are registration times included?
- Is the type and level of participant interaction clearly described?
- Is the technology required complete including hardware, computer/student ratio, software, and time needed on line?
- Is the format used for communication and information exchange stated such as email, chat, video conferencing, forum, web, and traditional mail?
- Are the procedures for the project clearly described and realistic?
- Are directions provided for registration and/or participation?
- Are the number of participants and size of the project described?
- Is contact information included?
- Is an email address and website addressed provided?
- Are the project guidelines comprehensive?
- Are the lesson plans complete?
- Do the activities describe what students will do (Observation, Discussion/Analysis, Creation/Synthesis, Exchange, Evaluation)?
- Are classroom management ideas included?
- Are student materials (such as worksheets, guidelines) age appropriate?
- Is a list of participants available?
- Are student assessments and project evaluations included?
Implementing the Project
After all the planning, it's finally time to implement your project. Use the guidelines below to get off to a good start.
Seven Safety Rules for Participants
- Use first names only
- Provide no personal information
- Never share a password
- Never agree to meet someone
- Tell a teacher about inappropriate messages
- Don't attach names to pictures
- Ask the receiver before sending attachments
Find and Recruit Partners
- Start small (someone across the hall or across town), then large.
- Post the project on websites.
- Find a teacher in town or online.
- Remember, if you send email, plan on only 10% of the people responding.
- When you recruit, use a call for participation.
- State specifics such as timeline, technology needed, and project goals.
- Keep the number of participants reasonable.
- If you get too many participants, chunk the project into pieces.
- Try the project out with one school first.
- Practice sharing files and information.
- Try out your procedures,
- Know your hardware and software.
- Test the system ahead of time.
- Anticipate problems.
- Connect with participants through email.
- Find help.
- Meet deadlines and send reminders.
- Provide help and encouragement.
- Stay flexible within your plan.
- Have fun!
- Design a project headquarters.
- Find the project and thank everyone.
- Share outcomes.
- Keep in touch with participant
- Keep a journal of what worked and what didn't work.
- Ask participants and students for help in evaluation.
Doing a Travel Buddy Project
In the book Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, Stanley is squashed flat by a falling bulletin board. Since he is now flat, he can visit his friends by traveling in an envelope. Classes send a paper cutout of Flat Stanley along with their writing by conventional mail or communicate by email. Sometimes pictures are posted on the web as Flat Stanley travels. Students plot Stanley's adventures on a map.
Check out some Flat Stanley Links:
Starting a Project. Select or create something to share through conventional mail such as a paper Flat Stanley, beanie baby, science equipment, fossils, or other objects. Put the sender's name and return address and email address on the object or the box. Create a list of participants. Or, select an address from the list of participants. Send an email to be sure that the school still wants to participate.
Mail the object along with a laminated sheet of directions, worksheet originals, a blank journal, a disposable camera, a book to read, or other interesting activity starters. You might include journal starters such as the weather, what we did today, what we learned. You may want to include return postage depending on the project.
Receiving a Travel Buddy. If the object is a Flat Stanley or stuffed animal, treat it like a visitor to your classroom. If possible, send an e-mail to the sender confirming that the mail has arrived and estimating a date of return. Have student volunteers take it home and complete the journal or activity. Be sure to send the object to the next person on the list or the sender as soon as the project is over. Consider including a souvenirs with the project such as a Tshirt, maps, stickers, pin, or photographs of the experience. Include photos or videos of the experience.
Tips for Success. Be sure to label your object before sending it out. Include your name, address, and email address. Figure out the most durable, but cheapest way to send your project. Priority mail is a good choice in the US. To save money, send your Flat Stanley as an email attachment and forget traditional mail. Only use student's first names in corresponding with other schools.
Think about how online resources can contribute to learning. How will students use the information they find on the Internet? Rather than giving students a traditional assignment such as “locate information about a topic and write a term paper”, take an inquiry-based approach to learning. Ask students to question the world around them. Design motivating activities with a meaningful task and specific products that ask students to apply Internet information to the production of a poster, brochure, demonstration, or debate.
You may not have enough computers for everyone to do everything all the time. Encourage collaborative projects using Internet resources. You may assign one team to work on the computer each day or each week. For example, your class might take the role of a government “watchdog” organization. In small groups, students could track a bill moving through Congress using the Congress website.
WebQuests: Definitions and Foundations
WebQuests provide an authentic, technology-rich environment for problem solving, information processing, and collaboration. This inquiry-based approach to learning involves students in a wide range of activities that make good use of Internet-based resources. Rather than spending substantial time using search tools, most or all of the information used by learners is found on pre-selected websites. Students can then focus on using web-based information to analyze, synthesis, and evaluate information to address high-level questions.
Bernie Dodge developed the WebQuest concept back in the mid 1990s. His WebQuest.org website continues to be a great source for ideas and examples. The QuestGarden is a subscription-based service that helps users create and share WebQuests.
Beyond traditional term papers and tests, WebQuests require students to connect their understanding of information to meaningful situations through original products for authentic audiences. The most effective WebQuest communication products provide students with opportunities to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information and alternative perspectives.
WebQuests are a learner-centered, project-based approach to teaching, learning, and information inquiry drawing on a variety of theories that include the following areas (Lamb & Teclehaimanot, 2005):
- constructivist philosophy
- critical and creative thinking, questioning, understanding, and transformational learning
- authenticity, meaningfulness, and situated learning environments
- cooperative learning
- motivation, challenge and engaged learning
Three Domains. Dodge identified three domains to assist in developing web-enhanced, information-rich learning environments: inputs (i.e., articles, resources, experts and other information sources), transformations (i.e., high-level activities such as analysis, synthesis, problem solving and decision-making), and outputs (i.e., products such as presentations, reports, and web publishing). He points out that students need scaffolding in each of these domains such as quality resource links, compelling problems, and production templates to assist in building understandings.
WebQuests: Evaluation and Use
Why reinvent the wheel? Start by exploring the WebQuests that others have created. You may find a WebQuest that fits your needs.
Elements of a WebQuest
WebQuests all share the same basic elements. Critical attributes of a WebQuest include:
- an introduction that sets the stage of the activity
- a doable, interesting task
- a set of information resources
- a clear process
- guidance and organizational frameworks
- a conclusion that provides reflection and closure.
Non-critical attributes included group activities, motivational elements, and interdisciplinary approaches.
Snakes Alive is a fun WebQuest for elementary science. The introduction explains that the famous herpetologist Professor Slither has been called to Africa and needs your class to take care of her four baby snakes. She wants to be sure that the children will make good snake sitters, so there are a series of tasks that students must complete to prove they’re ready. For example, students need to know the vocabulary, life cycle, and feeding patterns of snakes. Then, students will get to make a snake exhibit to share their snakes with others. During the process, students choose a specific snake and learn more about it. They also learn why snakes are important. Along the way, students use web resources and print resources. A rubric is provided for evaluation. A conclusion and followup activities are also provided. For example, students can read an online story called The Snakeman.
Let’s explore a few of sample WebQuests to give you a feel for the format and philosophy. What do you see as the main components of a WebQuest?
- Animal Life Cycles
- Around the World
- Changing Seasons
- Decomposers or Destroyers
- Endangered Species
- Frog Finds His Family
- Homeward Bound
- An Insect's Perspective
- Miss Spider's Tea Party
- Plants, Paper, Possibilities
- Realizing the Dream
- Spineless Animals
- Walk Two Moons. Notice that it's a Word document.
- What's It Like Where They Live
- Where do I Belong?
- Your Choice: EarthQuake or Volcano
- And Now a Word from Our Sponsor: WebQuest on Propaganda
- Fighting the Good Fight
- In Another Man's Shoes: Huckleberry Finn. Also, read the teacher's materials.
- The Last Spin by Ed McBain
- Mark Twain
- Museum of Romanticism
- Plan the Perfect Community. Notice that it's a Word document.
- Radio Days
- School Safety
- The Search for Absurdity!
- Study in Hyperrealism
- Wanted Good Scientists
- The Wicked Witch is Dead
Explore a few WebQuests on the topic of paper or plastic. They ask students to reflect on the question: Is there a correct choice to make when faced with the choice between paper or plastic bags? Try Paper or Plastic, Paper or Plastic 2, Should We...?, Should We...2?, and Recycling. Think about how these examples are alike and different. Compare them to the other WebQuests you explored.
Now that you're familiar with the elements of a WebQuest, it's time to begin judging the quality of a WebQuest. Just because a WebQuest contains the essential elements, doesn't mean that it's perfect for your classroom. Look beyond the structure and examine the effectiveness, efficiency, and appeal of the project. Ask yourself:
- Is it a quality project?
- Does it fit my needs?
- Is it a good use of time?
- Is it a good use of technology?
Use A Rubric for Evaluating WebQuests by Bernie Dodge to evaluate WebQuests.
Examine some of the sample WebQuests. Use the A Rubric for Evaluating WebQuests to evaluate the quality of the WebQuests.
There are thousands of WebQuests online. If you're interested in locating a WebQuest on a particular topic, use your favorite search engine such as Google. Use quotation marks to narrow the search such as "earthquake webquest" or "gold rush" + "webquest". You might also try different orders such as "tornado webquest" or "webquest tornado". Also consider search for a general topic of grade level such as "Kindergarten webquest" or "seventh grade science webquest". You can also use this approach to find WebQuests based on books such as "Hunger Games WebQuest".
Go to WebQuest.org for lots of examples.
Do a WebQuest Search to find examples.
Also, search the QuestGarden.
You might also look for recently published WebQuests. Keep in mind that not all of these examples incorporate all of the features of a quality WebQuest.
Find a few WebQuests you really like. What are the features of an effective WebQuest? How is a WebQuest different from an online scavenger hunt or traditional project assignment?
Some schools and libraries have created sets of WebQuest. Keep in mind that some of them haven't been updated recently. However they will provide the basic elements
Increasingly, WebQuests are incorporating elements of Web 2.0 technology such as blogs, wikis, and online discussions. For instance, The Giver WebQuest is built in Prezi. The Walt Whitman Webquest: Singing the praises of American life incorporates blog elements and the
Consider incorporating wikis into a WebQuest. For instance, a wiki is integrated into 18th Century French Painters.
The following WebQuests are wikis and incorporate wiki elements into the student requirements:
Effective Internet projects start with the careful selection of web sites. Use bookmarks to keep track of the sites that your class will be using. Consider creating bookmark folders for class periods, units, or specific activities. Once you get rolling, think about the development of your own web pages. You don't need a web server to run web pages on your own computer. You can simply make a page and open the document like you open a file in a word processor.
One of the biggest barriers to creating WebQuests is the maintenance. Consider providing all of the necessary documents and information. If you're using primary source documents, download them. If you're using multimedia elements, serve them yourself. Whenever you use links, you run the risk of websites being gone. Be sure you use well established web resources and permanent links.
My Naturescapes project is an example of a sustainable WebQuest resource. All of the reading materials are housed on the website along with the short, WebQuests. Although they're not as involved as some of the ones you may have explored, they meet a specific need. Explore some examples:
(Keep in mind that these are "mini" WebQuests and the one you'll be developing for class will me much more involved).
- Help the Bighorn Sheep
- Bison Bonanza
- Moving the Elk
- The Great Lizard Discovery
- Moose Mania
- Mustangs Run Free
- Skunks: Sweet or Smelly?
- A Walk in the Cactus
- I'm Not a Cactus!
- Save the Soil Crusts!
- Rock Varnish: Wanted Dead or Alive?
WebQuest evaluation and selection is only half the battle. Now, it's time to consider how this WebQuest fits into your curriculum, schedule, and library learning environment. Consider the following questions:
- What specific standards does this WebQuest address? Where in your instructional unit does the WebQuest fit? What resources (i.e., hardware, software, resources, materials, facilities) will be needed to implement this WebQuest?
- How would you introduce the project? Would you do a overview, provide background information, or distribute guides?
- How would you manage the time spent on the project? Would you print some aspects of the project? What about accessing the web pages?
- Would you use computers in your library or a lab? How would you schedule this? What other technologies would be needed such as Word, PowerPoint, or Internet?
- Would you organize your class into teams? If so, what's the group goal or mission? What roles will take place within the groups? How will information be shared among groups such as jigsaws or presentations? How would group members be assessed?
- Will your class have a project headquarters? If so, will it include notebooks, clipboards, or bulletin boards? Will the software Inspiration be used for planning?
- How will the process and products be assessed? How will individuals and groups be assessed?
Sometimes you can't find exactly what you're looking for in a WebQuest, but don't have time to create one from scratch. You may need to adapt the best elements of a number of WebQuests to create one that works for you.
Be sure to give credit for any ideas you use from other websites. You can place these at the bottom of the page or on a separate credits page. If you wish to copy elements, BE SURE to get permission first.
There are many ways to adapt a WebQuest. For example, if you're reading a book that includes a particular character, plot, or setting, you might be able to locate and adapt a WebQuest to fit your needs. Explore some examples of webquests that could be adapted. Consider some of the following areas when adapting a webquest:
- Deal with linkrot by identifying new links
- Mix and match the best elements from a number of WebQuests.
- Adapt a WebQuest for another level or purpose
- Adapt a WebQuest for a particular region
- Extend a WebQuest beyond it's current score
Make a content-area connection. Start with a book and seek out WebQuests on topics related to the book. Then, consider how the WebQuest could be adapted for use with the specific character, plots, or setting or your book. For example, take a science, social studies, or language arts WebQuest and adapt it for use with a piece of literature.
Consider the following areas when adapting a WebQuest. Re-examine a WebQuest you've explored and see if you can adapt it in some way. What modifications would you make to create a WebQuest that works for you? Consider ways to eliminate linkrot, adjust the level or purpose, adapt for region, or extend the scope of the project.
A common problem with WebQuests is linkrot. This occurs because many people don't update their WebQuests regularly. Most WebQuests are developed in college courses and professional development workshops, then forgotten. If you find a good WebQuest with broken links, create your own resources page.
Mix and Match
Often, you'll find elements of different WebQuests you like. For example, you might love the scenario in one, the resources in another, and the rubric in yet another WebQuest. Mix and match the best elements from a number of WebQuests.
Adjust Level or Purpose
In some cases you need to adjust the WebQuest to meet the standards you are addressing. This might involve adding higher or lower level activities. you might also change the reading level or development level of the assignments.
Adapt for Region
Sometimes WebQuests are designed for a particular region. For example, it might be intended for use on the shore or in the mountains. Or, it might have been designed for a particular state or province. In some cases you can just add an explanation about the particular region and use the WebQuest as it is. In other cases, you might want to use the same idea, but change the setting entirely to fit your needs.
Extend the Scope
WebQuests often stimulate great ideas. Sometimes you can expand an idea that a WebQuest starts. On other cases, you might use the basic design pattern and create your own WebQuest from scratch.
Explore the following WebQuests related to the book The Giver: The Giver, The Perfect Society, The Giver, The Giver, The Giver, The Giver WebQuest, The Giver WebQuest, Utopian Society, The Giver, The Giver, The Giver, Utopian WebQuest... you can find dozens more with a Google search. What elements could you use? What would you invent?
Now that you feel comfortable with using WebQuests, try creating your own! There are many options for creating your own web page. However, developing a WebQuest is much more involved than filling in a lesson planning form. An effective WebQuest involves creating an entire learning environment for your students.
Explore out The WebQuest Design Process by Bernie Dodge. This page provides a nice overview of the process.
Choose a Topic
How do you choose an effective topic for a WebQuest? Start with your standards. Ask yourself the following questions to help you identify a topic.
- What do you teach?
- What needs outside info?
- What needs shared?
- What needs thought?
- What's difficult?
Bernie Dodges describes the selection of a topic as a process. Not all topics are appropriate for WebQuests. Since WebQuest development is time-consuming, it's a good idea to carefully identify a topic and matching standards that will benefit from an inquiry-based, technology-rich project.
When designing WebQuests, focus on timely topics and issues that will bring standards and learning alive for children and young adults. Each of the following ideas begins with a book.
- Timely Topics: Climate Change by Lynne Cherry
- Use Google Earth to explore areas of the world experiencing climate change
- Vancouver Rising Sea Level Animation in Google Earth
- Read the Climate Change blog
- Focus on one example of climate change to share on a class wiki focusing on climate change
- Use the Inspiration Feature Story template for planning.
- Post to a class blog and comment on peer projects
- More Ideas at Nonfiction: Information Age
- Multiple Perspectives: Who Was First? by Russell Freeman
- Read a chapter focusing on a particular viewpoint
- Learn more about that viewpoint
- Create a Voicethread to share your perspective. Ask students to comment.
- Controversy: Evolution Revolution
- Explore background information
- Explore the controversy.
- Use idebate for lots of examples of controversial topic.
- Explain a controversial topic.
- Comparisons: George vs George
by Rosalyn Schanzer
- Model the comparison of opponents
- Pairs of students choose opponents
- Post bios on a wiki
- Use wiki discussion tab for interviews/debates
- Fact, Fiction, Claims, Bias, and Stereotypes: Lives of... Series by Kathleen Krull
- Read a chapter from one of the Lives of... books
- What's fact, fiction, claims, bias, and stereotypes?
- Create an interactive poster using Glogster separating the fact from the myth in one of these people.
- Check out the teacher wikispaces page on the topic of Glogster for ideas.
- Share the poster on the wiki and using the discussion tab.
- Complex Issues: When the Wolves Returned by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
- Identify a deep question with many perspectives.
- More ideas at Nonfiction: Inquiry
Read Selecting a WebQuest Project by Bernie Dodge (1999). This article discusses the process of selecting a WebQuest project including identification of standards, selecting a good lesson topic, making good use of the web, and focusing on transformational learning.
Select a Design
Once you've identified a topic and matching standards, it's time to consider the strategies that will be used to teach the skills and concepts. Educators can use the WebQuest Taskonomy to design a doable and engaging task that requires students to use information in thoughtful ways. These tasks include retelling, compilation, mystery, journalistic, design, creative product, consensus building, persuasion, self-knowledge, analytical, judgment, and scientific.
After analyzing a decade of WebQuests, Bernie Dodge has developed a set of instructionally solid lesson formats called WebQuest Design Patterns that can easily be modified for different content. These will help streamline the development process. You can even download a student and teacher template.
Each design pattern focuses on a unique instructional purpose and can be adapted for different subject areas. For instance, the “commemorative” design pattern directs students to decide on an appropriate way to commemorate an event or person. Sample topics include a Booker T Washington and W.E.B. Dubois project or a Monument on the Mall project. Other patterns include alternative history, analyzing for bias, ballot, behind the book, beyond the book, collaborative design, time capsule, comparative judgment, compilation, concept clarification, concrete design, exhibit, generic, genre analysis, historical story, in the style of…, meeting of the minds, on trial, parallel diaries, persuasive message, policy briefing, recommendation, teaching to learn, simulated diary, travel account, and travel plan.
Explore WebQuest Design Patterns by Bernie Dodge. This pages provides an overview of each design pattern and provides links to more detail and templates.
Choose Development Tools
Many tools are available to help you build a professional-quality WebQuest. It's up to you to determine what fits best with your skills and time.
Templates. Many ready-made WebQuest templates can be downloaded. You simply open the WebQuest template in a web development tool and enter your original content. Start at the WebQuest Design Patterns page to explore a variety of designs. Or, use the standard WebQuest Templates from Bernie Dodge. If you'd just like a sample page, go to WebQuest Template.
Services. You can use a service to house your WebQuest such as QuestGarden.
Your next step involves matching your standards, activities, and assessments. In other words, your activities must help students develop the proficiencies outlined in the standards and your assessments must determine whether students can performance at the levels you've established.
Use a rubric maker to help you develop an assessment for your WebQuest. Go to RubiStar from 4teachers.org or Scholastic Rubrics and create a computer-generated rubric for your project.
Remember, you can copy this rubric into your WebQuest or create a Word document or PDF file. Choose the format that works best for you.
Develop the Process
Once you've got the topic, standards, task, design, and evaluation tools identified, it's time to focus on the process. Students need good instruction, directions, and scaffolding to be successful in a WebQuest. Again, Bernie Dodge has developed many helpers to facilitate this process.
It's important to pre-select quality websites that will be useful for your students as they complete their tasks.
Learners need help in understanding and organizing information. It's essential to provide scaffolding to help learners such as handouts, tutorials, guidelines, and strategies.
Read Student Guides by Dan McDowell (1999). Then, skim the options for students guides. Consider which would be most useful for your learners in your WebQuest.
The Taxonomy of Information Patterns was created to illustrate different ways that information could be visualized. Types of information patterns included cluster, hierarchy, Venn diagram, timeline, flowchart, concept map, causal loop diagram, comparison matrix, and inductive tower.
Use the Process Checklist by Bernie Dodge (1999) to be sure that you've considered all the information and resources students will need to successfully complete your WebQuest.
Put It All Together
Your last step is to bring all the elements together into a polished WebQuest. Add an engaging Introduction and a dynamic conclusion. Be sure to include credits and a teacher section. Add graphics and other features that will appeal to your learners.
Read Fine points: Little things that make a big bifference by Bernie Dodge (1999). These ideas will help you make your WebQuest efficient, effective, and appealing.
Keep in mind that you're writing for a particular age group. Your use of volcabulary should be appropriate for that group.
Review the Elements
You'll want to review each of the elements of a WebQuest to be sure you have everything covered. Used the following activity to help:
Focus on Introductions. Think about ways to introduce the project. The introduction should motivate, set the stage, and provide background information. Consider situations, pictures, quotes, poems, and songs to establish the environment. How do the Dustbowl WebQuest do this?
Consider starting with a YouTube or Vimeo video, a preview of a Google Book, a map from Wordmapper, or an engaging visual.
How will you introduce your WebQuest to your students?
Create the Task. The task should be something doable and interesting. For example, it could be a series of questions, summary to be created, problem to be solved, position to be debated, or creative work. It should require thinking and doing such as the ChinaQuest example.
Create a short paragraph stating the task.
Information Resources. Your project should incorporate a powerful pathfinder. What resources will students need to complete the task? Select specific, appropriate resources such as web documents, experts available via Internet, searchable net databases, books and other documents, and real objects. There are different ways to format these links and resources. Compare the way different projects organized their resources.
Create a list of resources.
Processes. What process will students follow to complete the WebQuest? Will you provide them with a seuence of activities, timeline of events, description of roles, step-by-step instructions, or a timeline?
Create a step-by-step description of what you expect students to do during the project.
Learning Advice. Do you have any other advice for students? Do they need to know how to organize information? Will you give them guiding questions, directions to complete, checklists, timelines, concept maps, cause-effect diagrams, or action plan guidelines?
Brainstorm advice that might be helpful for students in completing the project.
Evaluation. How will students be assessed? Will you use contracts, checklists, or rubrics?
Discuss ideas for evaluation.
Conclusion. How will the project conclude? Will you remind learners about what they've learned or encourage learners to extend the experience?
Create an exciting conclusion.
Other Elements. What other elements will you include to expand the project? Consider roles to play, collaboration guidelines, and teacher resources.
Add an additional element to your project.
Evaluate Your WebQuest
Before using your WebQuest in your classroom, consider conducting some formative evaluations. Start with your own evaluation. Carefull review both the content and technical aspects of your project. Does it operate properly? Do the links work? How does it look on different computers? Then, ask a teacher to examine your WebQuest. You might also have some students look it over.
Use the Rubric for Evaluating WebQuests by Bernie Dodge to evaluate your WebQuest. You might also adapt the rubric to fit the needs of a younger student audience who might evaluate your project.
Building Literature-based WebQuests
Literature-based WebQuests make a great library connection. A literature-based WebQuest uses a book(s) as a focal point for activities.
You can create connections with literature across genres.
Historical Fiction. Explore issues of fact versus fiction. Think about other events having in the same place or time. Involve readers in creating timelines and maps. Ask readers to speculate on the future.
Realistic Fiction. Involve readers in learning about real-world issues and problem. Ask users to conduct polls, surveys, or interview. Go to Apples from the Desert for an example.
Critical Reviews. Involve youth in creating their own critical reviews or study guides.
Whether you're adapting an exisitng WebQuest or building your own, consider the following areas to bring literature alive for learners.
- Reflection of time & place
- Experiences & frustrations
- What would it be like to be?
- What if? Use characters as student roles
- Project Idea: Plan an event, party, dinner, or other events there the characters might interact. Write a skit or role play.
- Project idea: Create an oral history for a character.
- Same plot, different characters & setting
- Project Idea: Compare the events in the book to actual current or historical events.
- Project idea: Rewrite a scene using a different character, setting, or time period.
- Visualize setting - photos, drawings
- Create settings - drawings, models
- What if the setting…?
- Email visuals to other classes
- Project idea: Create a community, theme park, theatre, or other representation based on the book.
- Reading - The Lorax
- Writing - news article
- Science - cause & effect
- Provide examples & scaffolds
- Example: The Last Spin (High School)
- Compare books
Multiple Books, Multiple Books, Literature Circles
- Same theme, Same topic, Same author
- Are Chickens the Only Ones?
- Miss Spider's Tea Party
- Mystery, Mayhem & Mistletoe
- Penguins Are Cool
- The Realm of Fairy Tales
- Are Humans Animals After All?
- Birds of Another Feather: A Webquest for To Kill a Mockingbird
- Compare Poe
- The Crucible
- CSI: Lord of the Flies
- Digital Poetry: Thoughts in Motion
- Echoes of a Dream
- Frankenstein 2018
- The Perfect Society
- Gatsby Meets the Press
- The Giver
- Heart of Darkness
- The Inferno
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull
- The Last Spin by Ed McBain
- Of Mice and Men
- Of Mice and Men: Back in Time
- Selling to Spinelli
- Shakespeare WebQuest
- Short Story
- A Swiftly Tilting Planet
- Things Fall Apart: Understanding Context through Expert Interviews
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Tuck Everlasting: The Value of Life
- Walt Whitman Webquest: Singing the praises of American life
- White Water WebQuest
- William WIlson by Edgar Allan Poe
- A Wind in the Door
- A Wrinkle in Time