Saturday, May 25, 2013

Considering WebQuests

Photo from
When I think about doing WebQuests in my own classroom, I keep coming back to an observation from that states, "The amount of information available to everyone will grow at an accelerating pace; much of it will come directly from a growing number of sources without filtering or verification."

This is a fact that continually resurfaces in my Journalism and Media Studies courses. Media corporations tend only to be concerned about their bottom lines and the need to fill space. So they pitch endless amounts of information and title it "news." This is what Drew Curtis likes to call "Fark," passing off crap as news. (A cautionary note: the Fark site is quite "blunt" in some of its language.)

I could see the potential of developing a WebQuest where students would be challenged to read through information from various sites and try to determine what they think is newsworthy, what they see as purely "fark" and what they consider somewhere in the middle. The introduction to the webquest would provide information on the terms "hard news" versus "soft news" along with information on determining the reliability of websites and news sources.

Scaffolding could occur by providing students with more challenging sources and perhaps even have online discussions over what they see as news versus "fark." A final concluding activity could involve students collecting their own sites which they can categorize as reliable news sources or not. Or students could also be challenged to create their own blog or website as a parody to crap news or "fark."

I think one of the greatest difficulties in such a WebQuest would be the reading stamina of some students. As stated from, "WebQuests also require that students have a certain level of reading ability...this means it's harder to create a good webquest for children younger than the third grade or for those with language or reading difficulties."

However, one possible way to overcome this is to also blend in the use of Video News Releases which we can find in broadcast news. Similar to "fark" and sometimes referred to as fake TV news, students could be challenged to view various online news videos and complete activities where they have to determine what they think is real news footage versus what has been provided to the media corporations.

I think I would have difficulty implementing the use of WebQuests in my writing class. While there could be some potential for its use in exploring some concepts, I do not think it would be worth the time taken from the writing process, including collaboration, editing and revision. In this learning setting, I think the approach of directed instruction of material over inquiry or constructivist is a better approach as it allows students to spend more time on writing, which is, essentially, the purpose of the course.

Perhaps, however, I am being close-minded in this area. Yet, I think webquests could potentially be very powerful in some learning settings, but the time required for students to participate in WebQuests has to be balanced with other learning activities as well. Further, the use of the WebQuest format, according to, is for "topics that are less well-defined -- tasks that invite creativity and problems with several possible solutions." Such topics allow for open-ended questions and entice and challenge the students to find answers. I think trying to apply some concepts or practices that are more fixed into a webquest would come off as contrived or forced and this would disengage students.

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