There seems to be a fair amount of confusion about the definition of a “Webquest.” Bernie Dodge, who originated the model in 1995, described it like this in a comment on this blog last year:
“A critical attribute of a WebQuest is that it engages higher level thinking, the upper part of Bloom’s taxonomy. Things like creativity, analysis, synthesis. judgment…. A WebQuest is also wrapped around a single challenging task, not a sequence of separate activities A WebQuest isn’t a scavenger hunt and it isn’t a worksheet with links.”
Here’s an additional helpful comment Bernie added to this post:
“A WebQuest is centered around a challenging, doable and (ideally) authentic task. Examples of WebQuest tasks might include: writing a letter to the mayor taking a stand on whether a new landfill should be opened; writing a diary as if you were living in 1491; designing a travel itinerary for geologists visiting Italy; or creating a commemorative mural celebrating space exploration. A WebQuest is never about answering a series of questions. Even though a scavenger hunt might require some analysis or problem solving, it’s not of the same intensity of higher level thinking that a good WebQuest entails.
Obviously there’s a place for both WebQuests and scavenger hunts, but they are different places with very different goals.”
I can empathize with his desire to make the distinction clear between a scavenger hunt and a webquest. As readers know, I was a community organizer for nineteen years before becoming a high school teacher, and I’ve been amazed at what some people will describe as community organizing when, in fact, it’s something far less. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, just as an Internet Scavenger Hunt isn’t bad. It’s just better for everybody to keep distinctions clear.
Given that, however, we all live in the real world where ambiguity reigns supreme. So, for example, I believe that a simple Internet Scavenger Hunt can also include elements of “creativity, analysis, synthesis. judgment” without necessarily being a full-fledged Webquest. Though I promote a lot of activities in my classroom that encourage higher-level thinking, it’s not unusual for me to quickly put together a scavenger hunt for students to use in the computer lab that functions — more or less — as just a change of pace and another opportunity for small group collaborative learning. These kind of hunts will often include a few interpretative as well as factual questions.
I’ve divided this “The Best…” list into into a few sections. The first ones include tools to create activities that are more akin to “Internet Scavenger Hunts,” as well as some good examples ones that others have created that are a bit more involved, while the later section is focused on “Webquests.” The resources I share about scavenger hunts specifically related to English Language Learners, while the Webquest ones are more applicable to all students.
Teachers can use the tools I share in the first section to very quickly put together an accessible group of websites where students can find the answers to a list of factual questions (for example, about the American Civil War) and get some needed background to answer more interpretative ones (If you were the President of the U.S. at the time, how would you have treated the South after the Civil War and why?).
I usually either have a list of questions on a sheet of paper that students need to complete, or have them posted on a class blog where students can then copy and paste them onto a Word document and then print-out, or put it on their own individual blog.
I can design a simple scavenger hunt in about twenty minutes. In addition, and for an even better activity, I have student groups design their own scavenger hunts that they then exchange with other student groups, particularly after they’ve done a few of mine.
You can also find additional resources on my website under Webquests.
TOOLS TO CREATE SIMPLE INTERNET SCAVENGER HUNTS:
There are several simple web applications that teachers can use to easily have a list of websites where students can go to find the answers to specific questions on a scavenger hunt. The ones I list here are particularly accessible to English Language Learners because they provide screenshots of the websites as well as their url addresses, and they also don’t require a teacher to register to use them, either. They include:
I just learned about Edcanvas from Diana Laufenberg. It’s a nifty tool that lets you very easily add videos, images, website snapshots and files to create a grid canvass for students to access (teachers can also create virtual classes so that students could create their own). You can also type text on top of what you drag into the grid boxes — for example, instructions. A particularly nifty feature is that it provides a search box so you can search for videos, images and websites right from within the application.
SQWORL: Sqworl is very, very similar to MinMu.
Weblist is similar to the previous four apps.
Bundlenut lets you collect several links — along with your comments on each one — and puts them all on one link.
Bit.ly, the wildly popular application that shortens url addresses, has just introduced “Bit.ly Bundles.” All you have to do is copy and paste several url address into the box on their site, click “Bundle,” and it will give you one url address that shows screenshots and descriptions of each of the url address you pasted in — in one url address. You can add your own descriptions, as well as rearrange their order. The only negative I see is that, in order to use it, you have to actually register with the site (which takes seconds). You don’t have to register if you just want to use their regular shortening service. This kind of feature makes it ideal to create Internet Scavenger Hunts, with teachers listing questions they want teachers to find on each website. It’s similar to other applications on this list that don’t require registration. Bit.ly’s advantage, though, is that it is probably more financially stable than these others and is more likely to stick around.
CITEBITE: Citebite is another tool that is ideal for English Language Learners, especially Beginning and Early Intermediate ones. It allows you to highlight specific areas of online text and then gives you a specific url linking to what you’ve highlighted. For example, instead of asking my students to find answers to some questions by reading an entire New York Times article on how immigrants can protect themselves from fraud (which I did last week), I can now highlight specific parts of the article for my high-beginners and early intermediate students to link to. I could have my more advanced students still link to the entire article without the highlighted parts. It’s a excellent tool for differentiated instruction. You can use the url’s of the Citebite excerpts in the previously mentioned tools.
In Focus lets you, without any registration required, literally “highlight” a section of any webpage and provides a unique url address linking to it. It’s very familiar to CiteBite. The primary difference between the two is that with CiteBite, you have to copy and paste the text you want highlighted. With In Focus, though, all you have to do is drag a box over on it, which makes it a bit easier to use.
Fur.ly is a new tool that lets you combine multiple links into one. It’s a little different from others I’ve posted about — they show you visual snapshots of each site that you can then click on one at a time. Fur.ly, on the other hand, shows you the first link in the collection and you can then click on arrows to go review each one.
It’s always nice to find a web tool that can be used for a number of purposes, and David Kapuler (whom I have previously nominated for an Edublogs Award) has found one with MentorMob. It lets you very easily create a slideshow. Webpages, videos and photos can be grabbed from the web and added, along with notes. It’s easy to use, very intuitively designed so just about anyone can figure it out, and attractive.
The “stack” feature at Delicious can be a useful way to create a scavenger hunt.
Minilogs is a new web tool that lets you group multiple url addresses into one short one. There are actually quite a few others that do the same thing (and you can find them at The Best Ways To Shorten URL Addresses). However, Minilogs stands out because in addition to showing all the url addresses, it shows you a thumbnail image of the site and, more importantly, lets you write notes next to each one. It would be useful for teachers or students who want to create an Internet Scavenger Hunt.
You can also just create one on a Word document and upload it to the Web with Txtbear.
Gibbon lets you easily create what they call “flows,” which are basically lists of web resources with instructions written by the flow’s creator.
I think Gibbon has ambitious plans but, for teachers, it’s an easy tool for teachers to create Internet scavenger hunts for students and for students to create them for their classmates.
EXAMPLES OF INTERNET SCAVENGER HUNTS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS & OTHERS:
Here are some excellent examples of activities that might better fit the definition of “Internet Scavenger Hunt” instead of “Webquest.” One of the key cautions with using these kinds of already-made activities, though, is that links quickly become outdated on the Web. You want to check for dead links before you use these sites with your students.
Good examples include:
These Explorer Internet Scavenger Hunts are accessible to English Language Learners, and perfect for World History classes. Before you assign them, though, teachers should review the site carefully. In addition to creating the hunts to learn about explorers, the site’s creators have also included some “tricks” to help students learn to double check the facts they find on the Internet.
WHAT IS A WEBQUEST? There are several places to learn background information on Webquests. They include Webquest.Org, Kathy Shrock’s overview of Webquests, a Webquest Taskonomy from San Diego State University, and The Learning Power of Webquests from Tom March.
HOW DO YOU CREATE A WEBQUEST? Quest Garden is the site created by Bernie Dodge for teachers to use for creating Webquests. It costs $20 for a two year subscription. Zunal is a free and easy way for teachers (and students) to create webquests. Zunal also acts as the host for the webquest or scavenger hunt after its been created. Creating a Webquest comes from Education World. Webquest 101 comes from Teachers First.
WHERE DO YOU FIND WEBQUESTS? Webquest.Org has a ton of free webquests. Another great source is Edu 2.0, The same caution I offered early about being on the “look-out” for dead links applies here as well. A third source is the University of Richmond. The nine national museums in Great Britain have a nice collection of webquests.
The Natural History Museum has a number of webquests.
WebQuests – the best way to foster critical thinking, social skills and problem-solving? is from Teaching English With Technology.
As always, feedback is welcome.