The sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff: Should this be regarded as a War Crime?

by frances 29. January 2009 11:22

The ABC Radio National Program, Late Night Live (LNL), has during this summer being replaying some of its extraordinary broadcasts, and, this week, LNL, replayed The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff  f

I was listening to the program, and, again realised that this would be an excellent WebQuest topic!

"In this program, three survivors, a historian and a shipwreck photographer tell a story of immense human drama, and explain why this remains a little known tragedy. Guests on this program: Leigh Bishop, Deep sea diver and shipwreck photographer; Eva Rothchild, Wilhelm Gustloff survivor; Horst Woit, Wilhelm Gustloff survivor; Inge Roedecker, Wilhelm Gustloff survivor; and, Claes-Goran Wetterholm, Shipping historian & author.

Leigh Bishop's photos of the Wilhelm Gustloff wreck.


Dodens Hav ('Sea of Death'), Author: Claes-Goran Wetterholm
Publisher: Prisma, Sweden, 2003 (in Swedish only)

The Damned Don't Drown, Author: Arthur V. Sellwood
Publisher: Naval Institute Press (USA) Reprint edition, 1996.

The Cruelest Night, Author: Christopher Dobson et al
Publisher: Little Brown, 1980.
Crabwalk, Author: Gunter Grass
Publisher: Harvest Books (English edition), 2004." (Source: ABC website) 

On researching, I found the following information:

"The Wilhelm Gustloff's final voyage was during Operation Hannibal in January 1945, when she was sunk while participating in the evacuation of civilian refugees, German soldiers, and U-boat personnel surrounded by the Red Army in East Prussia. She was hit by three torpedoes from the Soviet submarine S-13 in the Baltic Sea on the night of January 30, 1945, and sank in under 45 minutes, taking an estimated 9,400 people with her. If accurate, this makes the sinking of the Wilhem Gustloff the largest known loss of life in a single sinking in maritime history......Many ships carrying civilians were sunk during the war by both the Allies and Axis. However, based on the latest estimates of passenger numbers and those known to be saved, the Wilhelm Gustloff remains the largest loss of life resulting from the sinking of one vessel in maritime history. Günter Grass, in an interview published in The New York Times on Tuesday April 8, 2003 said, "One of the many reasons I wrote Crabwalk was to take the subject away from the extreme right... They said the tragedy of the Gustloff was a war crime. It wasn’t. It was terrible, but it was a result of war, a terrible result of war." According to the Soviet propaganda version, more than a thousand German officers, including 70–80 submarine crews, were aboard and died in the sinking of the Gustloff. The women onboard the ship at the time of the sinking and were described, perhaps falsely, as SS personnel from the German concentration camps." (Source: Wikipedia )


This sounds like a real messy problem to solve and suitable for students studying World War II in Years 11 - 12.
More Resources to use if you are creating a WebQuest:

The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff
Marcus Kolga's "Sinking the Gustloff" by Herwig Wandschneider (a review of the Film).
"In the film, Dr. Alfred de Zayas, Legal Expert on Displacement (Vertreibung) and Ethnic Cleansing, Retired Senior Lawyer with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Professor of International Law in Geneva assessed the torpedoing to be a war crime." (Source: website)

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Ideas on how to use News topics as WebQuests

Italian query: Questionnaire on WebQuest didactic methodology

by frances 28. January 2009 13:10


I received this questionnaire from Evelyn De Conti, who is studying at Udine university, Italy. She requested that teachers who have made a WebQuest, or, who have used them in their classroom fill out the following questionnaire (it is only 6 questions in length) and send it to her for her thesis.  Her email address is:

Questionnaire on WebQuest didactic methodology

Keeping in mind your WebQuest experience:

1.Which channels were responsible for your approach to this didactic methodology?

2.WebQuest has been conceived by Bernie Dodge in 1995 in the State University of San Diego. In what year have you first experienced the WebQuest?

3.In what class/es and in which disciplinary context/s have you used the WebQuest methodology?

4. Please point out which were the positive aspects in your experience with WebQuest (in the planning, realization and use of the WebQuest; positive feedbacks of this methodology from the pupils from a didactic, social, motivational, interest, participation, learning and applyment point of view).

5. Please point out which were the critical (negative or 'not so easy') aspects in your experience with WebQuest (eventual problems and difficulties in the planning, realization and use of WebQuest; negative feedbacks of this methodology from the pupils from a didactic, social, motivational, interest, participation, learning and applyment point of view).

6. Has your whole WebQuest Experience had positive results to the point of being repeated once again in the future?

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China, Tibet, and the strategic power of water

by frances 27. January 2009 13:54


Source: Circle of Blue
"The Chinese Academy of Social Sci­ences estimates that the glacial area on the Tibetan-Qinghai plateau, the world’s largest ice sheets outside the poles, is shrinking about 7 percent each year." (Source: Monitor, Jan 2009 )
This is another great story involving a messy, authentic problem that could be used as a WebQuest.  It would be a terrific Geography WebQuest!
For some time now, China has been investigating the diversion of water from Tibet to mainland China (a lot of which is desert). With Global Warming, Tibet's water flow is slowing but this area also feeds some of the biggest rivers in the world.  
Students could hold an UN Summit to discuss the issues involved and play the roles from various countries discussing the needs of their countries for water and Water Trading!

"Jewish leaders condemn Pope over Holocaust bishop"

by frances 27. January 2009 08:27

"Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday, in the middle of the Jewish Sabbath, lifted the excommunications on four bishops of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X, including the English Old Wykehamist Bishop Richard Williamson. In an interview broadcast on Swedish television last week, Bishop Williamson said: "There were no gas chambers." He also stated that he did not believe six million had died, and the number was between 200,000 and 300,000. In the past, he has endorsed the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. "(Source: Times Online, UK, 26 January 2009)

"The four bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent _ a move the Vatican said at the time was an act of schism." (Source: The Huffington Post, 26 Jan 09)

What a great scenario for a WebQuest!

Bishop Richard Williamson, Holocaust Denier,
Reinstated by Pope


1. The Pope has reinstated these 4 Bishops as the world, this week, celebrates the Holocaust Memorial Day! Is there more than a sensitivity issue here?
2. Are these "Bishops" bishops?
3. Should the church promote the ultraconservative view of the Mass (these bishops conduct the Mass in Latin)?

4. What about Holocaust deniers - what do they based their ideas on?

Roles: the German Pope (who was in Nazi youth), 4 excommunicated and now re-instated Bishops (are they bishops??? - where are their dioceses?); Jewish Leaders; Holocaust survivors! 

To read another viewpoint, click here - ABC's Unleashed.

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Ideas on how to use News topics as WebQuests

"Men in Danger"

by frances 23. January 2009 08:27

I was watching a repeat on SBS TV "Men in Danger", yesterday. It was fascinating! As usual, I thought about how you could use this topic with Biology (Life Sciences), or, Chemistry with students in Years 11 - 12, or, Biochemistry students at university as a WebQuest.  


Here is a review of the program: "This is a program which looks at some of the factors which may explain why sperm production in males has dropped 50% in 50 years, and explores an important question currently facing scientists; could chemical molecules in our environment be affecting our ability to reproduce?

Aside from the huge drop in the amount of sperm production over the last five decades, scientists have also recorded a dramatic rise in the number of testicular cancers and a disturbing increase in the number of congenital malformations in male reproductive organs - two trends echoed in wildlife studies. This suggests the cause is environmental and not genetic. For Niels Skakkebaek, Danish doctor and researcher, the male reproductive and infertility problems we are currently facing are 'as important as global warming.'

All these findings suggest chemicals being used in agriculture and the manufacture of everyday products such as toys, packaging, clothing and cosmetics are capable of producing effects in the human body, similar to the effects of oestrogen. Substances such as DDT, phthalates and pesticides can be particularly dangerous during pregnancy and if they reach the male reproductive system, can result in the feminisation of male embryos.

As Professor Shanna Swan, an Epidemiologist at Rochester University (U.S.A) states "In our modern world we have 85, 000 chemicals in commerce - most of which we don't know anything about. We don't know their carcinogenic potential, their reproductive potential, their effect on our immune systems, on our metabolisms and so on. So we need to get busy, and start understanding what we're being exposed to because we're all in this massive experiment."

Men In Danger looks at bizarre and worrying findings and events which no one thought - or dared - to connect to each other in the past. From the swamps of Florida to the sophisticated laboratories of renowned biologists, the documentary shows the human face of research, where important discoveries are often made by accident and good luck. (From France, in English) (Science)
(Source: EnhanceTV)

This program showed that there could be a great WebQuest around this topic - there was conflict with the pharmaceutical companies; conflict between scientists; and, concerns about what could be seen within the vertebrates in wild populations and the effects of plastics and phthalates, in particular, on humans as endocrine disruptors.

Some readings:

Effects of Pollutants on the Reproductive Health of Male Vertebrate Wildlife - Males Under Threat.

Males of All Species Are Becoming More Female.

Speer and Hitler - On SBS, Sunday 18th January

by frances 15. January 2009 15:44

SBS is showing a documentary - Speer and Hitler - this Sunday night. Here is the information from the SBS website 

Germania The Madness - This three-part series blends historical footage, re-enactments and interviews with key witnesses in order to paint a picture of architect, Albert Speer. Speer was a cultivated intellectual who allied himself with the 20th-century's most horrifying embodiment of evil. In a series of flashbacks, using old newsreels and films, it looks at Speer's rise to power. Appointed initially just to design a set for a Nazi party rally, he won favour with Hitler who appointed him his Chief Building Inspector and charged him with rebuilding Berlin. In 1942 he was made Armaments Minister and oversaw a huge rise in production. Speer's children provide their reflections on how he changed overnight from a respected father to a war criminal. Directed by Heinrich Breloer and stars Tobias Moretti (Kommissar Rex) and Sebastian Koch. Interviews with historian Joachim Fest and film-maker Leni von Riefenstahl are also featured. (From Germany, in German, English subtitles) (Docu-drama Series) (2005)

This documentary video can be used to introduce students (in Years 11 - 12 studying Modern History) to Albert Speer and his role in Nazi Germary. You might then want to use a WebQuest created specifically for NSW HSC syllabus, by Susan Barrett, a Teacher Librarian at McCarthy Catholic College in Tamworth.

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Ideas on how to use News topics as WebQuests

Problem Based Learning - PBL

by frances 14. January 2009 13:09

Talking with a colleague, Scot Aldred (PBL guru from Central Queensland University), this morning, reminded me to go and have another look at his blog. We have been working together for some time now (WebQuests are a sub-set of PBL) introducing teachers and administrators this pedagogical theory and practice.

In a recent article, Scot points to George Lucas' video clip - it is excellent.

I had added this video (from 2007) hear in case you haven't seen it yet at Lucas' Educational website,

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Radio National: Summer Program

by frances 13. January 2009 15:40

Recently, while driving to Sydney, we were listening to a podcast from Radio National, The Ark, that had been broadcast back in April 2008 about The Man behind Vinnies. This program was about the 19th century champion in Australia of St. Vincent de Paul (a Catholic chartiable society whose main aim is to look after the poor) an eminent architect and politician, Charles O'Neill.

The Broadcaster, Rachel Kohn, was interviewing the author of a book about Charles Gordon O'Neill, Stephen Utick. To read the full transcript of this program, click here.

This program was fascinating in lots of ways but the part that I found particularly interesting was Utick's describing how O'Neill was collecting notes about the gold discoveries, particularly in Victoria and how he was very much taken by the prosperity of old colonial Victoria. Kohn adds: "Well that was certainly a boom and bust time, and one of the issues he seems to take up is the unfair taxes on gold miners. And also the rising number of orphans in a society in which men often ditched their wives."
How often do we think of the different perspectives of the Gold Rush here in Australia?
If you are considering having your students study the Gold Rush this year [and we know that most students in Years 5 - 6 study the Gold Rush at some point!], think about creating a WebQuest that has the perspective of an orphan, or a deserted wife, or a charitable worker! This book and the following website links may help:

If you want to read more about Charles Gordon O’Neill, go to the Australian Biographical Online

To read about "Orphans in Victoria", go to the PROV record.

Aside from the Gold Rush, you might want to create a WebQuest on Religious Thought and "Abundance Theology" for students in Years 9 - 12. Charles O'Neill life and actions could form the basis of this WebQuest. You might like to read an article by Brian Coyne, Editor of Catholica.

If you want to read this book by Stephen Utick, you should be able to find it from the following information:

Title: Captain Charles: Engineer of Charity
Author: Stephen Utick
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2008

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Ideas on how to use News topics as WebQuests

Comment on an article: "Summer School for Teachers Lesson One: The WebQuest"

by frances 8. January 2009 20:13

Summer School for Teachers Lesson One: The WebQuest by Phebe A. Durand, June 23, 2004.

An oldie but a goodie! Well worth a read if you are about to create or develop a WebQuest!

This tutorial (101) is a great start to learning about WebQuests! Durand follows Project-Based Learning Principles and so captures the very essence of wonderful, motivating and challenging WebQuests!

This entails having a messy problem for the students to solve, having collaborative process (team work) in place, and, the WebQuest scaffolding (Introduction, Task, Process, Resources, Evaluation, Conclusion, and, Teacher's Guide).

Durand describes the process of developing a WebQuest:

1. Brainstorming the topic.
Durand suggests using other lessons developed by other teachers and provides sites to look at.

This is a great idea - if the topic is one that you have to cover with your students! Also try to think of the topic that you have found, in the past, that was either "flat" or didn't motivate the students at all. This is the topic that you should consider to make a WebQuest on.

It is extremely important that you think of a messy, authentic (real) problem for the students to solve and provide them with mechanisms to undertake group work!

I would also suggest that you look at other great WebQuests that are now only in the Internet Archive and use them to "kick start" your own WebQuest (always acknowledging the original author, of course). At WebQuest Direct, our team has identified thousands of WebQuests that are now only in the Internet Archive and given them an educational rating based on the Higher Order Thinking Skills promoted and the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) strategies used.

2. Developing an Unit Outline - Teacher's Guide.
Durand lists the ideas to cover: Core Concepts; Main Topic; Guiding Questions; State Standards Addressed; Guiding Questions Support; Key Learning Area (KLA eg. Mathematics); Summary of the WebQuest; Summary of the Project (are they different?); and, Website Resources.

Lots of time, teachers don't concentrate on this step - but it is crucial! I think it is also important to provide teachers with this information when you are publishing a WebQuest in a "Teacher's Guide" page. It allows other teachers to effectively use your WebQuest! This is important, as teachers we have to adopt the philosophy - "Let's Stop Reinventing the Wheel" and share resources with each other.

3. Rough Draft.
Durand suggests paper and pen and writing down all your brainstorming ideas.

This is effective for some people, others might want to write up the WebQuest completely using Word or better still Notepad (as it strips the code from Word).

4. Use a Template.
Durand provides a template that teachers can use, modify or adapt.

Unfortunately, this template requires HTML code and the use of FrontPage (now superceded by Microsoft Expression Web) or Dreamweaver. I suggest that you use a FREE template like we have developed - Short-cut WebQuest Authoring Tool where you can easily make a WebQuest without knowing any code AT ALL. We have over 50 design templates that you can choose from.

There are other Templates at:
a. Bernie Dodge's
Quest Garden (for a small fee)
Zunal (free, some restrictions on design)

5. Developing Content.
Durand expertly describes each section - from the idea of the Title to the Conclusion. Her description of the Introduction, Question and The Task (including roles or perspectives); The Process; Evaluation; and, Conclusion. 

Durand "nails" it when she describes the idea of roles or perspectives to solve the messy problem. These roles encourage students to use their emotional intelligence and reflect what occurs in their communities.

The section on Resources needs more explanation - it is extremely important that as teachers you provide all the Internet resources needed for your students to undertake the WebQuest. A badly designed WebQuest states something like: "Go to Google, Yahoo, or another Search Engine to find resources". This is the case regardless of the age of students - surfing the Internet is a waste of student time! This Resource section can take the longest to create as you need to have numerous resources for students to explore and, this also ensures that if a website is broken, it doesn't disrupt the learning process. Resources also need to be "quirky" - left-field and reflecting the views and attitudes within the community.

Also, in the Conclusion, I usually tell student-teachers to take the issue that the WebQuest explored and get the students to focus on this issue at a local level (they have already explored the Global issue).  

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When is a WebQuest, a WebQuest?

by frances 6. January 2009 17:25

What is a WebQuest? 

Before we can look at the Essential Components of a WebQuest, we need to understand the basics of a WebQuest!

Basics of a WebQuest:

“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.” (Source: Bernie Dodge, Creator of the model of WebQuests)

While this definition has been bandied about, many teachers have interpreted this definition to mean Web-based activities from Scavenger Hunts (find the answers to questions from websites), to activities (and problems) that used to be (and still are) in textbooks that are now transferred to the Internet. In other words, teacher-centred activities! As a result there are a plethora of "Research Assignments", "Find and Tell" activities, "Scavenger Hunts", and even "Essay topics" all masquerading as WebQuests!


To see what I'm talking about, visit the following "Find and Tell" activity:

"Welcome to Korea" asks students to find out about the country of Korea, its climate and culture and then give a presentation! How boring!

WebQuests are a whole lot more than Web-based activities!

They should be about Problem Based Learning (PBL) (see Scot Aldred's site - a leading expert, at Central Queensland University)


and contain:

A. A messy real problem has to be presented to the students - one that needs to be solved! This can be in the form of a scenario and/or a Big Question or Focus Question.

B. Group work (collaboration) that involves roles or perspectives where the student represent different [sometimes antagonistic] viewpoints within the community and use their emotional intelligence to engage with the roles

C. Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) – activities that encourage HOTS; and, enough time for the students to do this deep thinking. 

D. A Process where the students are given a lot of scaffolding [step-by-step instructions] so they can solve the messy authentic problem

E. Web resources, quirky if possible, that encourage thinking and provides students a diversity of thought by all sorts of people.

The best part is that WebQuests motivate students to solve problems while learning a range of skills and knowledge in the process.

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What is a WebQuest?


<<  September 2014  >>

View posts in large calendar

Other WebQuest & Educational Blogs

As I come across other WebQuest Blogs (& Educational ones), I will list them here.

Jane Hart's Blog (Jane is a Social Technologies Guru in UK)

Scot Aldred's Blog (Colleague at Central Queensland University and guru on Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

The Innovative Educator

Digital Education Blog

Blogging Corner Carnival

eLearn Magazine Blog

Dr. Lisa Neal Gualtieri, Editor-in-Chief, eLearn Magazine

Primary Blog

Charlie Sullivan - Charlie does a fantastic job collating websites for Primary schools.

De Tools Blog

This blog by and for online educators and features free web based tools applications and resources. Author: John Goldsmith.

Bright Ideas: a blog by the School Library Association of Victoria

The Book Whisperer

This blog is written by Donalyn Miller, a 6th Grade teacher in Texas, who is reknown for encouraging students to read!


Clustr Map

Created WebQuests

Champions of Justice
Gold Force
Community Shopping Centre Planner
Can you get the party started?
Reminders of our moral conscience
The Petrov Affair
My Business Rules
Pluto's planetary status