WebQuest Lesson - Teacher Comments

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In partial fulfillment of

UNL Class CI 889

This document was last updated on 20 January 2016 (Ver. 1.6.6)

General Comments      Questions to Consider      The Big Question      Grouping the URLs

Defining the Learning Task      Use of Scaffold Thinking      Sources for Teachers

Nebraska's Water Rights - Issues and Activities

A WebQuest Lesson for Community College (Adult) Social Studies Instructors

( This is a work in progess ! )

This WebQuest lesson can easily be adapted to science, economics and other disciplines.

General Comments for the Teacher      WebQuest Lesson Template

Tom March's "Designing a WebQuest" served as a model in designing the form and process of this WebQuest lesson - Thanks to him for the inspiration. This topic was selected because of its inherent complexity. Water Rights has been an issue in Nebraska for over 100 years. Wars have been fought in the past for control of water and watersheds - will this be a part of Nebraska's future?

This issue can be chunked into sub-categories by clustering. Clusters in this lesson include :

  • Relationships with other topics - water relates to geographic (climate,
          hydrology) themes, economic (design and manufacturing of equipment, rural communities,
          transportation and commerce, agriculture (farming, ranching, industrial, residential)
          themes, cultural (lifestyle, oral and written traditions) themes
  • Controversial issues - how to allocate limited resources (water) to unlimited
          demands (agriculture vs. environmental, transportation and commerce vs hydroelectric
          power production)
  • Multiple perspectives - rural vs urban water users, individual land owners vs
          multi-national corporations, government vs. private enterprise, socialism vs. capitalism,
          dry land farming vs. irrigation
  • Changing beliefs - Corps of Engineers change philosophy regarding channelling,
          citizens' changing views on conversation, privitization vs. public ownership
  • Unknowns - as population along Colorado's front range continues to boom, how
          will limited water destined for downstream users in Nebraska be fairly allocated? How will
          increases in energy usage impact on water usage in the Platte River Basin? What role will
          technology play in agriculture?

    While designing this WebQuest Lesson, I used Allison Rossett's equation to measure the difference between an optimal learning outcome with an actual learning outcome. That difference becomes the learning gap which needs to be filled. The learning gap in this lesson involves filling holes in the students' understanding of the role of water in their lives and developing strategies by which they can contribute to change. I'll use the learning gaps while stating the Big Question and the Task.

    My perception of working with Community College students is that they lack the experience of developing critical thinking skills involving geographic themes. This lesson will also model several problem-solving activities, help students learn new information and, hopefully encourage them to be agents for positive change in their communities.

    The teacher may want to visit March's "Idea Machine" to collect and analyze materials currently available on this topic. It's important to keep an open mind in collecting and evaluating materials for a WebQuest lesson such as this. March's "Thinking thru Linking" models a strategy which will provide insight into the types of links to search for and how to use them.

    If the WebQuest lacks an answer to a higher order thinking skill question, it's not a WebQuest. On the other hand, if there's a clear and easily determined answer to the question, then it isn't a WebQuest lesson.

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    Here are some questions to consider in developing this WebQuest

  • is this a worthwhile topic?
  • is the level of potential student cognition worth the effort?
  • is a WebQuest the right strategy?
  • are you excited about the available resources (online as well as local)?
  • Does the Web offer so much that its use is warranted?
  • Does the Question ask something that people in the real world find important?
  • Is the answer to the Question open to interpretation / argument / hypothesis?

    If Yes is the best answer to these questions, then let's move forward with the lesson.

    The Big Question

    It may be impossible to define the Big Question until the lesson plan is partially developed. Write the Big Question to include the subtopics under which the students will function during their research process. If successful, the students will become more motivated because their activities cause their minds to open up and make new connections. They'll demonstrate their use of higher level thinking skills by developing a product which will answer the Big Question as posed in this lesson.

    In order to achieve success, we need to get from "Learning Inputs" to "Learning Outputs". The exciting part in between is called "Transformations" and it's the heart of a WebQuest lesson. We need to brainstorm all of the possible transformative cognitive tasks which are involved with the Question. If you'd like to find out more, read Bernie Dodge's Active Learning on the WWW for some ideas here. It's important to realize that not all web-based activities require transformative thinking. In some cases, the Question and the Task could prompt this kind of cognition in expert thinkers, but this kind of thinking is optional. Finding and retrieval of useful, even interesting information from the WWW is one thing. But what happens to that information? Asking students to test their learning in the real world is an important component of Tom March's model. He considers it a short step to make the WebQuest a truly authentic learning experience and therefore legitimize the students' work. One could have students write to an expert and request "everything you've got on the topic". This just doesn't work as a useful model for learning. Turn it around like this: Have your students recreate a product and then send it to the expert for feedback. People are much more likely to respond to a request knowing that serious thought and effort went into creating it. It's important to ask for opinions, as facts can be gained from numerous other sources.

    It is critical to discuss Copyright issues with your students, making them aware of the necessity to carefully cite each fact, quote, and illustration utilized in their final product. Permission in writing from the maker must be made before materials can be published.

    In Tom March's Searching for China 2.0 lesson, students are empowered to contact webmasters for their comments regarding an element (the product) generated by students during the lesson. Students are to ask permission from individuals listed on the websites, before actually sending them material (the product) for evaluation. Don't forget to include local, non-web based sources of material and experts when appropriate. Many "experts" are quite willing to get involved once they see the merit of the activity.

    Grouping the URLs

    To facilitate the research process, the links have been grouped into roles or Special Interest Groups (SIGs). As the topic of water rights has been a contentious issue for a long time, it's not difficult to categorize the links found on the WWW. As is expected, there is some overlap between categories and groups. March suggests another strategy for chunking out groups is by perspective or viewpoint. Sometimes, chunking takes place along jobs or tasks.

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    These are the major SIGs into which the URLs have been grouped (see above for group names)
  • Group 1: Politicians and policy-makers
  • Group 2: Federal and state agencies
  • Group 3: Consumers
  • Group 4: Power Generation groups
  • Group 5: Irrigators & Center Pivot Manufactures
  • Group 6: Environmentalists
  • Group 7: Farmers and ranchers

    Once the sources have been categorized, then consider the students' background knowledge
        of the topic. To ensure that all students are "up to speed" on the topic, do one of these :
  • use a non-WebQuest activity to prepare fundamental knowledge of the topic.
  • give each role at least one link which provides good background.
  • engage students during the WebQuest activity by a "background for everyone" activity.
       As much as possible, select WWW material which is roughly equivalent in its rigor.

    Defining the Learning Task

    In order to measure learning, a behavior or process must be observed, or a product created. It's important to decide in what form the final product will appear. Will it be HyperStudio stacks, a newsletter, a poster, a letter to a decision - maker, or perhaps a play? There are many ways in which learning can be demonstrated. Be creative in your guidelines for students. In completing this part, it's important to answer these questions in the affirmative :
  • does what's emerged from the Web resources address the learning gap?
  • have specific higher level thinking skills been transferred to the learners?
  • has the technology played a supportive role in terms of comfort and time?
  • is there sufficient material on the web to support the roles?
  • does the Task mirror real world activities?
  • is this a WebQuest or just another format?

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    The next step is to publish the WebQuest live on the internet, to the unsuspecting world. This sounds scarey, but it can be very satisfying, as this is where you get to show off what you've created. There are heaps of ways to get the WebQuest onto the WWW. You are invited to visit March's WebQuest Design Flow for important considerations. It's important to engage learners in the WebQuest activity and get them to consider the value of their work and their opinions. Remember that learners will complete the cognitive link back to the initial thinking if we discuss the transformative thinking and how the process worked (or didn't work) for them. Be sure to have them consider how what they've learned will apply to other topics. If the students can internalize and transfer these skills to another setting, then the WebQuest has been of great value.

    Use of Scaffold Thinking

    The Big Question must prompt transformative thinking. Clearly lay out the instructions for the phases on learning background information and developing expertise in the roles. For younger, less mature students, have those with similar roles work together. For older, more mature students, keep the students and their roles separate, as it promotes a variety of interpretations.

    When promoting higher level thinking of one's students, March suggests that it's easy for their teacher to say, "Get back together and come to a common answer." This rarely happens, and when it does, where do the minority opinions go? Instead, focus on a visual organizer, which serves to illustrate the "playing field" on which solutions must fall. By juxtaposing conflicting interests, students are helped to see the relationship between their solution and its opposite. Another strategy is to use a Venn Diagram to illustrate questions and guide students to define critical attributes of the topic under investigation.

    In order to evaluate higher level thinking, keep this question in mind while designing and teaching the WebQuest lesson : What's going on in the minds of the Learners? If this question can be adequately addressed, then you as teacher will make sure that the Task elicits the desired cognition and addressed the learning gap identified early on in the process.

    After teaching the WebQuest lesson, be sure to debrief the students. Find out what worked and didn't work for them. We're trying to plant the seeds to grow thoughtful, rational citizens armed with effective cognitive strategies for independent thinking.

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    Sources for Teachers

    Bernie Dodge's WebQuest   He'll be speaking in Nebraska, April 2001

    Open Colleges (Australia) Webquests Intro       or Anatomy of the New WebQuest Templates

    Tom March's "WebQuests for Learning"      and his "Working the Web for Education"

    CurriculumQuest "A WebQuest for teachers who want to integrate the internet into their curriculum." by Shannon Dangl

    Assessing WebQuests by Tom March   <=== Check them out ===>    More Rubrics by Bernie Dodge

    What is 'Dimensions of Learning' and How is it Used? by Robert Marzano

    Internet 101 (c) 1997-2001 by Scott Cottingham

    Conflict Resolution and Social Change Conflict Resolution Center International, Inc.

    Cultural Solutions helps communities, government, tribes, industry, and non-profits apply cultural knowledge to solve practical problems. Since 1982 Cultural Solutions has worked to utilize the insights of local communities; resolve the conflicts and disputes that arise between diverse cultural perspectives; and assist organizations to work effectively and imaginatively in a multicultural environment.

    Terminology Used in this Lesson

    URL - Universal Resource Locator, an internet address

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    (WQteachcom.html)gen 21 May 2001