“Answer that and stay fashionable” -an argument for WebQuests

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Until approximately four days ago, I was under the impression that a WebQuest was some kind of jargon related to computer coding that did something clever that I probably didn’t understand. I learnt, however, that this is not at all what a WebQuest is. A WebQuest is in fact, quite simply, a quest through the Web! In a language learning context, this means getting learners to use their target language to search and explore topics and complete tasks. Pretty simple, right?

I have to admit though, the example we looked at in class this week was a little retro, which made me wonder if WebQuests were in fashion anymore. I took to Google and found there are still WebQuests in the world! Furthermore, there’s still research into what WebQuests can do for learners, such as boosting motivation and exposing learners to new cultures (Renau & Pesudo, 2016)

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Take a look at this WebQuest via TES. It could do with a little reworking to make the task, process, and evaluation clearer, and I don’t see any resources for the students, but it has all the groundwork to be a great task! More importantly, it was a relevant topic at the time. Learners would be likely to hear something about the Olympics in the year they were being held.

Why don’t you try creating your own WebQuest with the above example as a template? Not very tech savvy? Not to worry! You can create a really simple WebQuest with Microsoft Word. The only extra skill you might need is hyperlinking (linking the website to the text you have written). This is done as simply as right clicking some text and selecting “hyperlink”. There are more options out there and you could even integrate a WebQuest into a class blog in the same way you’d hyperlink in a Word document. Many websites exist that allow for easy creation of free websites. A seemingly popular choice for WebQuest creation is Weebly. There are tons of how-to videos for Weebly on YouTube, but the interface seems pretty straight forward with a simple a drag-and-drop menu.

I came to realize that, with WebQuests still in existence two decades after their emergence in the world of language learning, we can be assured that, unlike tape recorders and static web pages, WebQuests won’t be as quick to go out of fashion. It’s almost a certainty that we haven’t yet reached our pinnacle of technological advancements, but whatever comes next is likely to only further widen the access we have to knowledge. This means great things for WebQuests, which centre around using the resources to expose oneself to authentic and useful input.

I’m going to go out on a limb and announce my support for WebQuests. I like that the possible issue in CALL of isolation of learners is circumvented in part by a focus on group work. There’s also a great variety of skills being trained and improved on through these kinds of activities, including things like critical thinking, looking at authentic use of grammar and vocabulary, making learners use both active and passive knowledge to complete tasks, and, of course, teaching learners how to carry out research! These are all worthwhile skills for learners to focus on and there’s the added benefit of getting vast amounts of input, and output, in the target language.

I think, by and large, I’m all for WebQuests. They aren’t perfect. Above all, we all know the Internet is a bottomless pit and once your attention is distracted, it can be hard to refocus. There’s also some pressure to find meaningful and beneficial topics to study, as well as keeping tasks varied enough to captivate your learners. As with any group work tasks, we also need to make sure everyone is doing their part and getting everything they can out of the task, not simply staring into space while somebody else does all the work. Perhaps we should be careful, therefore, in how much we employ WebQuests.

Let me hear what you think about WebQuests! I’m particularly interested to know how many of you knew what one was before the class on Tuesday…


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3 thoughts on ““Answer that and stay fashionable” -an argument for WebQuests

  1. It does all depend on the student, and the situation in which the teacher works. I was thinking about WebQuests, and how difficult it would be to run one back in Japan. Not because the children wouldn’t understand, because they would! But for the simple fact there are no phones in the classroom! Technology was a big no-no! Students were expected to make use of traditional methods in the school. Such as getting a book!

    But then, what is a WebQuest at its heart? Simply a treasure hunt, for me. And it was something I never really considered back in Japan. Maybe I should have. WebQuests can be fun, and it would not take a lot of work to run one which works by scouring information from actual books!

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  2. Well, I did not know about it at all before the class. Your suggestions for creating the WebQuests in Microsoft Word and in Weebly are really helpful. Thanks.

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