The question of whether or not the Internet negatively affects student growth is legitimate given the widespread use of the World Wide Web in classrooms. While it is important to consider the negative implications of schools being wired to the Web, it is seems more appropriate to consider the benefits given the reality that the Internet is here to stay. One of the many benefits of the Internet is the informative websites that students can use. However, teachers need to step in and help facilitate the use of these websites so that students will be able to use the Internet more efficiently and reap the academic benefits it offers. WebQuests are virtual assignments in which students are guided through a learning task by a website created by the teacher. A WebQuest is an inquiry-based activity that not only encourages cooperative learning but also allows students to analyze information rather than spend their time looking for it.
One of the most valuable assets of WebQuests is that they encourage higher order thinking. WebQuests can be viewed as a challenging game that requires students to use the Internet as a research tool in order to answer questions, pose hypotheses and form opinions. There is no such thing as copying and pasting answers in WebQuests. Teachers are instrumental in designing WebQuests that ask open-ended questions and raise issues and problems that students can explore. WebQuests allow students to go beyond fact finding towards an analysis of complex issues or events. For example, a WebQuest using the Globalization101 website asks students to consider issues such as human rights, the environment and trade.
Students must work together and use each other as resources to meet the objectives of a WebQuest. The value here is that the Internet is often used individually but WebQuests provide the opportunity to make it a collective experience. In addition, a quest has greater potential to be a meaningful activity than a teacher lecturing and students copying notes from the board. WebQuests especially motivate students who view the Web as a valued part of their culture. WebQuests teach students effective strategies for using the information found on the Internet. At the same time, students also need to be reminded to not take everything they read as fact. Teachers need to be a mediator between the Internet and students by helping students develop Internet literacy. Internet literacy consists of research skills, ability to shift through the plethora of information, as well as finding reliable sources. With the advent of blogs, it may be harder for students to distinguish between fact and opinion. Teachers need to keep these things in mind as they find the material on the Web to complement their WebQuests.
WebQuests support teaching and learning in Social Studies in a plethora of ways. While history textbooks only offer one perspective on a topic, a WebQuest with various links can offer students multiple perspectives. This is particularly advantageous given the fact that students of history are rarely exposed to a variety of perspectives that is essential to a more authentic study of history. Moreover, a WebQuest is an easy way to take students through a time machine. For example, students can journey back in time to the 1700s during the Colonial Days in America. In the process, they get to experience what it was like to be the first settlers of the original 13 colonies.
The possibilities are endless for WebQuests and teachers can customize them to fit the needs of their classes. Students have the opportunity to travel back in time with their classmates in order to come to a collective conclusion. WebQuests are a great alternative to traditional lessons involving history textbooks and not much imagination.