Developing Critical Thinking: What is a WebQuest?

by frances 12. January 2010 09:20

I came across the following website which is an exercise for Teachers on how to Develop Critical Thinking within their students. The site has been developed by the NSW Country Areas Program (CAP) and uses Global Warming as the vehicle to engage Teachers.

There are 3 Steps listed including Developing Powerful Questions! Well worth a look!


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What is a WebQuest?

Higher Order Thinking Skills & Primary WebQuests: What is a WebQuest?

by frances 11. January 2010 23:41

Middle, Secondary, Business and Tertiary WebQuests can have Higher Order Thinking Skills encouraged in their tasks but what about Primary WebQuests?

Have a look at this outstanding Primary/Elementary WebQuest: Where has all the water gone?


Key Learning Areas: HSIE / SOSE / Social Studies
Key Competencies: Collecting, analysing and organising information; Communicating Ideas and information; Planning and organising activities; Solving problems; Using technology; Working in a team
Tasks: Analytical; Compilation; Design; Persuasion; Research; Science
Grade Levels: Primary / Elementary; Middle
Country: Australia Australia
Language: English

Designed for students in Years 6 - 7 (Queensland, Australia; or, Years 5 - 6 in most other Australian States).
Students are given the following scenario: "Our town is running out of water. Our Mayor has approached our school for some creative ideas to come up with for a long term solution to our town's water problems. As a member of this taskforce your team will investigate the issue and design a plan that will seek to resolve the water issues in our town. The Mayor has asked our school teams to present their plans to the local council using a ten minute multimedia presentation that will quickly and easily make your plans understood to all council members. There will then be a five minute time allocation for questions from the councilors. Your team will need to look at a lot of competing interests and different points of view, in order to come up with a plan that gives everyone enough water now and in the future. You will share your research with others on your team to develop a plan, but you will need data to support your plan. The solution does not have to be one that is currently used. Think creatively; original ideas are encourage. Good luck with your challenge, our town is counting on you."
Students, in groups of four, are to take on the roles of different Hydrologists: Hydrologist 1 is to investigate alternative sources of water supply; Hydrologist 2 is to investigate alternative water solutions; Hydrologist 3 is to investigate creative ways for reducing the use of water consumption; and, Hydrologist 4 is to investigate alternative products used to help create a sustainable water supply for the future.
They are to individually analyse the data for their particular area of expertise and report back to their taskforce group. Together, they are to create a multimedia presentation in which they are to present their ideas on how to save the town's water supply. Using DeBono's six thinking hats, students are to evaluate their action plan (multimedia presentation) before giving their 5 minute presentation.
Resources: while this is a generic problem throughout most of Australia, the comprehensive resources given are specifically for Queensland. Evaluation rubric is provided along with peer assessment rubric. Conclusion asks students to complete two activities: "Your team is to design a water audit plan to be distributed to students in your school. They will have one week to complete their home audit and return the survey to you. Once you have collated all your data you will write a report analysing the results. These results will then be published in the school newsletter. Your group will then design a poster showing water saving ideas that can be photocopied and placed around the community." Teacher's Guide is comprehensive and contains Curriculum Standards [Learning Outcomes]; some Implementation Advice, and, Duration: 90 minutes/week for 10 weeks. Design and Layout: simple and easy to use navigation; and, lots of images to aid learning. Last updated 2009.
Any problem or issue that is authentic and messy [having multiple viewpoints] can be made into a WebQuest and encourage Higher Order Thinking Skills regardless of age! WebQuest Direct & other WQ Directories have thousands of Primary WebQuests with HOTS in their tasks.
Make the benchmark higher and see the results of your students thinking!!!

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What is a WebQuest?

Constructivist theory: What is a WebQuest?

by frances 3. January 2010 22:16

Constructivist theory is an important underpinning concept when thinking about using or creating a WebQuest.

(Source: Constructivist Theory)


An important part of Constructivism is that the student will construct meaning especially if they are given the chance within a group to talk about their ideas. An excellent paper by Prof. George E. Hein, Lesley College. Massachusetts USA, [The Museum and the Needs of People] explains the Principles of Learning and lists the following:

"1. Learning is an active process in which the learner uses sensory input and constructs meaning out of it

2. People learn to learn as they learn: learning consists both of constructing meaning and constructing systems of meaning.

3. The crucial action of constructing meaning is mental: it happens in the mind. [Although with young children and even adults, hands-on activities help the mind].

4. Learning involves language: the language we use influences learning.

5. Learning is a social activity [

6. Learning is contextual [in a WebQuest, the problem has to be authentic]

7. One needs knowledge to learn: it is not possible to assimilate new knowledge without having some structure developed from previous knowledge to build on. The more we know, the more we can learn.

8. It takes time to learn: learning is not instantaneous.

9. Motivation is a key component in learning." (Constructivist Learning Theory)

ALL these elements are important in a WebQuest!


Constructivist Learning Theory by Prof. George E. Hein

Constructivist Theory

Constructivist Theory


University of Adelaide: Constructivist Theory of Learning

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What is a WebQuest?

by frances 8. December 2009 14:21 "We Let You Loan to Low Income Entrepreneurs".....Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

The people you see on Kiva's site are real individuals. When you browse entrepreneurs' profiles on Kiva, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else." will allow students to participate in micro-credit and carry on the work of Muhammad Yunus, the Noble Peace Prize winner. Or they can investigate Yunus' ideas on social business through his website.


If you are creating a WebQuest around Poverty, Economics, or Commerce consider using this Resource!

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In the Classroom

Southern Bluefin Tuna

by frances 27. October 2009 10:29

This issue is a "Hot" topic within the news at the moment and provides teachers with an outstanding start to a WebQuest.

The Commission for the Conservation of the Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) 2008 Advice as cited by Dr. Campbell Davies CSIRO (ABC Oct 16 Fishing puts southern bluefin tuna on the brink)  "The 2008 advice from the CCSBT Scientific Committee (Commission of Conservation for Southern Bluefin Tuna) is that spawning biomass of SBT is likely to be less than 10 per cent of the unfished level. This level is below the level of many nationally and internationally recognised limit reference points for fisheries management." Commission is made up of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other Asian countries with an interest in the fish. About 90 per cent of Australia's SBT comes from Port Lincoln in South Australia.

News Stories about the SBT:  
Crean backs Japan to police tuna industry (27th Oct 2009)

Industry anger at bluefin tuna cut (27th October 2009),25197,26264637-2702,00.html
Voice of America: 26th October
Quotas Cut as Scientists Warn that Southern Bluefin Tuna stocks close to collapse.
Pacific tuna industry says reduced quota raises illegal fishing

Australian Government: Australian Fisheries Management Authority: SBT Fishery (Map)
Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
Perspectives that could be taken:
Port Lincoln Mayer Peter Davis
Fisheries Minister Tony Burke
Commissioner at CCSBT representing Australia
SBT Fisherman
CSIRO Scientist
This WebQuest could be covered in Science, Biology, Ecology, Geography, or even Economics! Students from Years 5 - 12 could explore this issue.
If you would like to create a WebQuest around this topic, consider using our free Short-cut WebQuest Authoring Tool (SWAT).  

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Ideas on how to use News topics as WebQuests

James Cook University and WebQuests

by frances 10. August 2009 18:03

On Friday, I gave a lecture to 3rd and 4th Year Student Teachers at James Cook University Cairns studying under Professor Neil Anderson.

It was a wonderful experience with enthusiastic students all ready to make a substantial WebQuest as part of their assignments in their course. It will be great to mentor them and have another lot of Australian WebQuests for other teachers to use.


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News & Events

Forgotten Whales

by frances 27. June 2009 14:26


(Source: IWC)

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has heard reports about the smallest cetaceans: Dolphins, porpoises and small whales from the WWF, the news report cited

The Australian Minister for the Environment, Peter Garratt, said to the IWC meeting in Portugal that Whales were worth more alive than dead as the Whale watching business was worth around $3Billion worldwide.

On the other hand, European countries are set to increase their whale quota - to that above the Japanese scientists!!

This is a typical scenario for a great WebQuest:

  • It involves a real life situation that is "messy" and involves Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
  • antagonistic yet legitimate views are held by different perspectives or roles
  • collaboration is required to obtain an outcome
  • emotional intelligence is used
  • Higher Order Thinking Skills of Analysis, Evaluation, Creativitiy [Synthesis] have to be used to work out a solution to this messy problem

I love the fact that you can bring real life and important events into the classroom while exploring the curriculum. In this case, the curriculum could be Ecology, Biology - particularly Diversity of Species, Political Sciences, Philosophy for Children (P4C), Values Education, Economics, or Geography.



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Ideas on how to use News topics as WebQuests

Devil in the Detail - Should we bother?

by frances 26. June 2009 15:27
This is a great website showing
  • the contagious cancer inflicting the Tasmanian Devils;
  • Cedric the first Devil to have immunity to several strains of this disease;
  • efforts to prevent extinction;
  • offers to sequence the Devil's genome from Dr. Vanessa Hayes,
  • and, lots more.

This would be a great topic for a WebQuest especially for those students who are interested in Biology, Ecology, or Molecular Biology.


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Ideas on how to use News topics as WebQuests

What is a "real" WebQuest?

by frances 20. June 2009 10:36

I have been coming across some really terrible "WebQuests" lately!

They have been mostly a series of web-based activities around a theme rather than a REAL WebQuest!

What is a REAL WebQuest?

Here are some pointers.........

  1. The WebQuest should incorporate Problem-based Learning (PBL). So there needs to be a messy, authentic problem to solve. This is usually in the form of a Big Question (Focus Question, Essential Question).
  2. It should incorporate Collaborative Learning Principles - group work.
  3. There needs to be roles or perspectives that reflect the society's values. For example, if the problem was around the big question: "Should the International Whaling Commission [IWC] ban Whaling?";
    the roles could be:
    • A Green Peace representative
    • A Japanese Scientist
    • An Indigenous representative, representing those Indigenous peoples whose tradition is to undertake whaling
    • A Whale Watching Entrepreneur who has developed a business around Whale Watching
    • An Historian or UN Lawyer who researches the past decisions around Whaling.
  4. These roles can be antagonistic [as the above example] - where different alliances are formed! But they are NOT to be research roles or reporting roles!

  5. The activities MUST promote Higher Order Thinking

  6. The scaffolding - Introduction, Task, Process, Resources, Evaluation, and Conclusion are present.

  7. The Conclusion calls for further action on the part of the student.

Below is the Criteria that WebQuest Direct uses to provide an Educational Rating for each WebQuest they review:


Section Content Score/135
Home Page
This is to be like a book cover – intriguing and interesting.

There should be a hook here to introduce the students to the big question (has to be an open ended question). 

Images are important here and throughout the WebQuest to enhance visual literacy.
Introduction Catchy Title

Introduces a Real Messy Problem to be solved.
Task Point Form summarising the tasks that the students have to achieve

Background for Everyone

Higher Order Thinking Skill Activities present
Process Interesting and complex (messy) and real problem to solve

Higher Order Thinking Skill (HOTS) Activities present: This is essential!
o One
o Two
o Three
o More
 Perspectives or Roles present – hopefully antagonistic and reflecting the “real” world. These roles should NOT be research roles only.

Team work – Cooperative Learning

Steps showing students what they have to do – clear, concise, sequential,
/35 (of which 15 points will be assigned to the Messy Problem and 15 points
will be assigned
to HOTS)
Resources Relevant to student age, readability, and, role


Quirky – giving students different perspectives
Evaluation Rubric showing all the tasks that the students are to undertake for assessment

Optional: peer assessment
Optional: self assessment
Conclusion Encourages local and/or further action – another activity that is to be assessed.

Real World Feedback

Reflection of Learning

Is NOT a motherhood statement or platitude eg. “Congratulations, you now know about....”
Teacher's Guide Learners – Age, State, Country,
Curriculum Standards Addressed – listed and linked

Duration – number of lessons (if below 4 lessons, this will be considered a research assignment only – as not enough time has been given to Higher Order Thinking Skills).

Process – Lesson Plans (or, any ideas for other teachers to consider)

Resources – any resources that could be used by the teacher in preparation for this unit of work

Visual Impact/Use of Audio Appropriate Template/Design used on Home Page and subsequent pages

Images or graphics used to aid students

Layout and Design – font size appropriate to target audience; colour of font; navigation; placement of images
 Use of audio especially for students in Pre-school or early Primary/Elementary years.
Use of Technology Technology Skills developed or Technology used eg. Kids Pix; iMovie; Zoomerang; Kahootz; animation; PowerPoint; Wiki; podcast; Inspiration; Mind Mapping; Venn Diagrams /10
  Total Score /135

 Star Rating 

<10 – 19 points = 0 star

20 points = 0.5 star

30 points = 1 star

40 points = 1.5 stars

50 points = 2 stars

60 points = 2.5 stars

70 points = 3 stars

80 points = 3.5 stars

90 points = 4 stars

100 points = 4.5 stars

110 points + = 5 stars

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What is a WebQuest?

Adding Podcasts to WebQuests

by frances 10. June 2009 14:49


Adding any technology tools, videos, wikis, blogs, and podcasts enhances student learning! These are the 21st Century tools of Education!

The Department of Education, Western Australia, has a wonderful page full of information and help about: 

  • how to create a podcast,
  • the educational value of podcasts,
  • where to go to get educational podcasts,
  • how to get started,
  • where to host it for free, and,
  • more importantly examples of how teachers are using them in the classroom.

Worth a good read!

Two other outstanding websites are: 

  • University & College Podcasts - Free Educational Podcasts: This website contains links to the podcasts of lectures of numerous Universities around the world from Harvard to Oxford, to Stanford to UCLA.
  • Podcast Directory: This is a huge directory of Podcasts that can be used within the Classroom! This site allows you to Add a Podcast, Remove a Podcast, and, Search for Podcast by country or topic. Teachers would need to use this directory themselves as there is inappropriate categories listed.

All WebQuests can use Podcasts within their Resources area. As teachers, you can create your own podcast, host it on a free website, and then link to it within a WebQuest. This allows students to listen to the information on their MP3 players at their leisure. Great for students with enhanced Audio intelligence. 

Enjoy Podcasting!

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Videos, Wikis, Blogs, Podcasts


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Tag cloud

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