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Research and Creativity

WebQuests are a possible way to work combining research and creativity, two features any eTwinning project needs. Using specific Internet tools, the WebQuest technique suggests a new method of working, based on the constructivist idea of students designing their own knowledge through personal effort, a model of searching the Web space, which includes at the same time the elements of learning through cooperation . The technique was developed and implemented in 1995 in the U.S. by Bernie Dodge and Tom March, professors at State University of San Diego. There are a number of references (mostly web references) that try to define the WebQuest model and various ways of organizing it. Dodge defines the WebQuest like this: „A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web”. At the same time, he gives at least two distinct levels of an organization WebQuest:

Short Term WebQuests

A short term WebQuest aims to the acquisition and integration of knowledge. At the end of implementing such a project in a short period of time, the student has gathered a significant amount of new information and proceeded to its in-depth understanding. A short term WebQuest can be completed in one to three-hour time.

Long Term WebQuest

A long term WebQuest aims to enlarge, structure and refine the knowledge. After attending a long term WebQuest, the student has processed and analyzed the accessed information, transforming it to a certain extent. Finally, he demonstrates knowledge of the material by creating a product to which the others are expected to respond on-line or off-line. A long term WebQuest is normally completed with one class during a one week up to a month period.

Regardless of the duration (short-term or long), a WebQuest must be created in such a way as to organize the student’s learning time as well as possible. Therefore, a WebQuest must be efficient and to clearly state the purpose for which it was created. „WebQuests are designed to use learners time well, to focus on using information rather than on looking for it, and to support learners thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.” (Bernie Dodge). Therefore, the teacher must rigorously organize the tasks, the steps to be made and, most importantly, to choose and recommend to the students those sites from where they can take their best information. The more numerous, diverse and offering a wider range of information the sites are, the more the student has the opportunity to know more and set up an interesting final product.

The WebQuests are usually group activities, often include motivation elements by providing the learners with a scenario or a role to play and can be within a single subject or interdisciplinary. There is a "formula" to be respected when designing a WebQuest in order to achieve efficiency. This should include the following sections:

• The introduction – gives the student some background information, orientates him and makes him interested;
• The task - which describes the activities that will lead to the final product; it should be clear and interesting.
• The process- which explains the steps of the strategies that the student must use to fulfil the task;
• The resources -the sites, books, databases etc. that the students access to fulfil their task;
•The evaluation - which measures the results of their activity;
• The conclusion - a summary of activities that encourages the students to reflect on the benefits of the course and the results they have obtained.

The required thinking skills for a long term WebQuest include:comparing, classifying, inducing, deducing, analyzing errors, constructing support, abstraction and analyzing perspectives.
Dodge suggests that the tasks should form three groups: Input (this area should contain articles, images, news, music, reports, data that pupils get directly from the Web in order to process), Processing (transformation of the input data in order to obtain a final product), Output (the initial data are turned into results that can also be the starting point of other learning processes). Moreover, the adequate tasks according to the WebQuest taxonomy could be: information rendering, compiling, problem solving, design, creative tasks, reasoning, analysis, assessment, scientific tasks or tasks related to journalism and so on.

Complete information about creating a WebQuest, as well as examples, templates and other useful resources on http://webquest.org/index.php

Irina Vasilescu, School no. 92, Bucharest, Romania