Going on a Webquest
By Ellen Ficklen and Carol Muscara
Doesn't it seem that sometimes technology provides us with just too much information? By now, most of us have had the experience of searching for information on the Internet, only to be presented with a list of 20,000,000 items (give or take a few thousand) that we can look through. But don't give up. Take the Top 10 approach. Usually, just checking out the first 10 items on the list provides the most relevant information.
And of course you don't want your students to be overcome with options, either. That's why teachers faced with the problem of information glut have begun to use teacher-built sites known as Webquests to guide their students' searches. These Web sites provide students with an exciting path through the seemingly countless possibilities presented by almost any topic. Webquests are like scavenger hunts—kids love them. And you will, too. To take advantage of many of the classroom-tested Webquests already in existence, you can start with the Webquest compilation at http://edweb.sdsu.edu/WebQuest/webquest_collections.htm.
Webquests aren't just for kids, though. A Webquest also can be a professional development tool for teachers who want to learn to use the Internet effectively. For an introduction to Webquests, try www.memphis-schools.k12.tn.us/admin/tlapages/quest.htm. Or to learn the components of a good Webquest so that you can evaluate the various possibilities out there, go to www.teachtheteachers.org/projects/LGurian3/index.htm.
A good way to start exploring Webquests for your students is to check out one of the many high-quality sites. For a Webquest journey to Ancient Egypt, suitable for elementary and middle school students, log onto www.iwebquest.com/egypt/ancientegypt.htm. You'll be greeted by a picture of the pyramids of Giza with links to various sources of information about Egypt—books about Egypt, graphics, archeology, Egyptian activities, and hotlinks (Internet links) to resources such as Egyptian folktales and music that can be played in the classroom. The links are followed by a list of six "missions," which ask students to explore various aspects of Egyptian life using materials presented on the Web site and via links to materials elsewhere on the Internet.
Mission 1 invites students to learn about the daily life of ancient Egyptians, including what they wore and what they ate. Mission 2, probably a very popular one, asks why and how Egyptians made mummies (questers are asked to imagine they are on a team responsible for mummifying the pharoah's pets). In Mission 3, students use archeological evidence—and this Webquest offers massive amounts—to decide which of several tombs is the one in which King Tut was buried. In Mission 4, they learn about Egypt's hidden tombs and what was discovered there, and as part of the mission, they decipher ancient hieroglyphics. King Tut is still giving us information about his life and times, and in Mission 5 students can connect with any of twenty Web sites to find out what he has told us. Finally, students who choose Mission 6 can learn to read an ancient hieroglyphics message.
A good way of using this Webquest—and most others—is to split a class up into small groups of students, with each group going on a different mission and then sharing what they uncover. This gives students plenty of experience in sorting out useful information from many sources and putting together a coherent package, as well as presenting it to a class.
If your classroom has a computer projection system, Egyptian questers can display some of the pictures that helped them draw their conclusions, and the class can solve a hieroglyphic message together. The Webquest glossary of Egyptian terms is a great resource for students to use when questions arise. All in all, this Webquest offers students a real opportunity to build their own knowledge. And there are many others of equal quality.
Ellen Ficklen has been an education writer and editor for more than twenty years; she lives in Washington, D.C. Carol Muscara, who has over thirty-five years of experience in educational technology, has developed and helped carry out technology plans in school districts nationwide, most recently in San Francisco. She is currently working with the New Jersey State Systemic Initiative to develop technology resources correlated with the state mathematics and science standards. She lives in Gaithersburg, Md.