A WebQuest About WebQuests

Elementary Grades Version

by Bernie Dodge
Ed Tech Department, San Diego State University
(used with permission)


Since early in 1995, teachers everywhere have learned how to use the web well by adopting the WebQuest (online) format to create inquiry-oriented lessons. But what exactly is a WebQuest? What does it feel like to do one? How do you know a good one when you see it? In the space of 90 minutes, you're going to grapple with these questions and more.

The Task

To develop great WebQuests, you need to develop a thorough understanding of the different possibilities open to you as you create web-based lessons. One way for you to get there is to critically analyze a number of webquest examples and discuss them from multiple perspectives. That's your task in this exercise.

By the end of this lesson, you and your group will answer these questions:

  1. Which two of example WebQuests listed below are the best ones? Why?
  2. Which two are the worst? Why?
  3. What do best and worst mean to you?

The Process

  1. First, each participant will have a hard copy of the worksheet. To answer the questions given above, you'll break into groups of four. Within the group, each of you will take on one of the following roles:

    The Efficiency Expert: You value time a great deal. You believe that too much time is wasted in today's classrooms on unfocused activity and learners not knowing what they should be doing at a given moment. To you, a good WebQuest is one that has a clear and uncomplicated task. The process must make it very clear to learners how to achieve the task.

    The Affiliator: To you, the best learning activities are those in which learners learn to work together. WebQuests that force collaboration and create a need for discussion and consensus are the best in your view. If a WebQuest could be done by a learner working alone, it leaves you cold.

    The Altitudinist: Higher level thinking is everything to you. There's too much emphasis on factual recall in schools today. The only justification for bringing technology into schools is if it opens up the possibility that learners will have to analyze information, synthesize multiple perspectives, and take a stance on the merits of something. You also value sites that allow for some creative expression on the part of the learner.

    The Technophile: To you, the best WebQuest is one that makes the best use of the technology of the Web. If a WebQuest has attractive colors and lots of links to interesting sites, you love it. You also want the learners to make effective use of ICT resources other than the Web while processing the information that they have found and when present ing their final output to the class.

  2. Individually, you'll examine each of the sites below and use the worksheet to jot down some notes of your opinions of each from the perspective of your role. You'll need to examine each site fairly quickly. Don't spend more than 7 minutes on any one site. Your instructor will keep time using this clock:

      Time spent so far:

    Here are the sites you'll be analyzing:

    A Stitch in Time Create a quilt the represents three cultures
    Bowhead Whale Hunting What restrictions make sense?
    Meet the Immigrants Analyze immigrants from different eras
    North Carolina Zoo Breakout What would happen if they got out?
    Ancient Egypt WebQuest Decode a message from Tut's tomb

  3. When everyone in the group has seen all the sites, it's time to get together to answer the questions. One way to proceed would be to go around and poll each team member for the best two and worst two from their perspective. Pay attention to each of the other perspectives, even if at first you think you might disagree with them.

  4. There will probably not be unanimous agreement, so the next step is to talk together to hammer out a compromise consensus about your team's nominations for best and worst. Pool your perspectives and see if you can agree on what's best for the learner.

  5. One person in each group should record the group's thoughts.

  6. When debriefing time is called, report your results to the whole class. Do you think the other groups will agree with your conclusions?


Ideally, this exercise will provide you with a larger pool of ideas to work with as you develop your WebQuest-making skills. The best WebQuest is yet to be written. It might be yours!

Last updated on February 28, 2003