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Using WebQuests for Constructivist Learning
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Using WebQuests for Constructivist Learning

The WebQuest Story

WebQuests are currently the most structured, accessible, and promising application of constructivist thought in the field of online education. Created by Bernie Dodge and Tom March at San Diego State University in 1995, the WebQuest model of "inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet" has generated considerable activity in school districts and graduate schools of education. To my knowledge, the most notable university applications of the WebQuest model thus far have come from Indiana University, Bridgewater State College, Louisiana State University, New Mexico State University, San Francisco State University, University of Maine, University of Richmond, and, of course, San Diego State University. A great deal of WebQuest support and design advice has also been issued by the design group at Pacific Bell. Underscoring the meaning of "distance education," Tom March of Ozline fame has moved his instructional design capabilities to the Australian Southern Highlands. He has created a fee-based WebQuest service called Web-and-Flow.

Inspired by these efforts, I count myself as a “convert” to the WebQuest cause and am looking forward to making a contribution to this burgeoning online community. For starters, WebQuests will be a central focus in my graduate course in modern educational practices to be offered this fall at Monmouth University, New Jersey. (I teach this online course from my home in southcentral Pennsylvania.) I hope we can add to the rich collection of WebQuests already available on the WWW.


From Now On: The Education Technology Journal (Jamie McKenzie, editor)

Understanding Filamentality

WebQuest Examples

Constructivist Inquiry

Institute for Learning Technologies, Columbia University

Search Engines

Evaluating Internet Information

  • Evaluating Information Found on the Internet (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Evaluating Quality on the Net (Babson College)

    Quotations on WebQuests

    A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web. WebQuests are designed to use learners' time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

    -- Bernie Dodge

    Basically, a WebQuest is an inquiry activity that presents student groups with a challenging task, provides access to an abundance of usually online resources and scaffolds the learning process to prompt higher order thinking... The reason the Web is so critical is because it offers the breadth of perspectives and viewpoints that are usually needed to construct meaning on complex topics. Students benefit from being linked to a wide variety of Web resources so that they can explore and make sense of the issues involved in the challenge.

    -- Tom March

    Putting a WebQuest together is not much different from creating any kind of lesson. It requires getting your learners oriented, giving them an interesting and doable task, giving them the resources they need and guidance to complete the task, telling them how they'll be evaluated, and then summarizing and extending the lesson.

    -- Bernie Dodge

    If you've attended any professional growth in-services or college of education courses in the past ten years you'll be familiar with the following phrases of teacher-speak: critical thinking, cooperative learning, authentic assessment, and technology integration. You may even have bumped into cognitive psychology with its schema theory, scaffolding, and novice/expert models. How about constructivism? If you're like most educators, you get excited about new ideas for helping students learn and grow, but then feel your chest tighten or your spirits sink when you remember your already bursting curriculum requirements and the logistical demands of classroom teaching. With everything else that must be taught, how can we add these new and important strategies? WebQuests were designed to address this dilemma by bringing together the most effective instructional practices into one integrated student activity.

    -- Tom March

    A well-written quest demands that students go beyond fact-finding: It asks them to analyze a variety of resources and use their creativity and critical-thinking skills to derive solutions to a problem. The problem is often “real world”—that is, one that needs a genuine and reasonable solution.

    -- Maureen Brown Yoder

    Quotations on Constructivist Learning

    Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us generates our own "rules" and "mental models," which we use to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is simply the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences.

    -- Funderstanding

    The educational landscape is littered with the wreckage of (well intended) progressive experiments in student research which foundered because students were set free to wander about with too little structure. The Open Classroom movement of the late 1960s is a case in point. There was a tendency to trust students' native abilities to find their way toward Truth and Insight without providing the scaffolding which would have helped them find their way and use their time productively. While some students managed to thrive in such unstructured environments, many students floundered and frittered. Eventually the parents demanded that we put walls back into open spaces and go "back to the basics." ... Today we see a return to the progressive agenda in the form of constructivist initiatives which hold more promise that the Open Classroom and Inquiry approaches of the 1960s because there is a growing respect for the structures which guide students through the research experience with some efficiency and productivity.

    -- Jamie McKenzie

    Once you have learned how to ask relevant and appropriate questions, you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.

    -- Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner

    ... Newer understandings of how people learn present a conception of teaching that focuses on "thinking" students who understand and can use what they learn. This conception is termed "constructivist" because it sees learning as a dynamic internal process in which learners actively "construct" knowledge by connecting new information to what they already know, rather than as a process in which learners are passive recipients ...

    -- Beverly Falk, "Teaching the Way Children Learn"

    The question is the answer.

    -- Jamie McKenzie

    Other Worthwhile Sites

    Dr. Bill Martin
    Monmouth University

    Page Launched in March 1999. Last Updated 12-10-99