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Collaborative Projects and WebQuests
by Nellie Deutsch


A collaborative project is a problem-based task that requires at least two people to research, resolve, and document. The team collaborates by using Microsoft applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Publisher or FrontPage or the traditional paper and pen method to write their findings.

Collaborative projects are a wonderful way of developing team spirit, critical thinking, and creativity that goes beyond the member's individual work. Teamwork develops as members get to know one another, learn how to solve problems, and reach decisions.

Collaborative projects that use technology in the classroom involve an ongoing learning process for both teacher and student. WebQuests are collaborative projects that facilitate the process by providing easy-to-follow steps that require very little computer knowledge: They are an ideal way of combining meaningful learning tasks, teamwork, and the use of technology

Bernie Dodge defines a WebQuest as "inquiry-oriented, based on a doable, engaging task [that] uses pre-defined resources from the Web" (Dodge, 1998).

  1. What is involved in a WebQuest?
    A WebQuest consists of 6 major parts: introduction, task, process, resources, evaluation, and conclusion.

  2. Student work features
    Here are some features of student work on WebQuests:
    • Students generally work in teams.
    • Each student has a role, or a specific area to research.
    • Students are often involved in role-playing real-life situations of professional researchers or historical figures.
    • A very important aspect of student learning: Students tackle problems that encourage higher-order critical thinking. By breaking the tasks into meaningful subtasks and solving or resolving problems, students experience learning as a process of discovery.


  3. What are the characteristics of quality WebQuests?
    There are many WebQuests on the Internet but not all of them are quality WebQuests. As a matter of fact, Tom March does not consider them "real WebQuests" at all (March, 2003). He claims that a good WebQuest must be able to "prompt the intangible "aha" experiences that lie at the heart of authentic learning"(March, 2003, p. 42). Tom March defines a quality WebQuest as follows (2003):

    A real WebQuest is a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the World Wide Web and an authentic task to motivate students' investigation of an open-ended question, development of individual expertise, and participation in a group produces that transforms newly acquired information into a more sophisticated understanding. (p. 42)

    WebQuests are not just activities which utilize the Internet. They are more than that. Students must experience both individual and team learning, and produce an authentic end product that is creative and applicable to real life. WebQuests must be "real, rich, and relevant" (March, 2003, p. 45). Through student teamwork, cooperation and collaboration, students learn to access information and "use the acquired information and expertise in a new way" (March, 2003, p. 46). This leads students to use their higher thinking skills for a "deeper understanding" (46) and more independent learning. As a result they become responsible for their own learning.

  4. Organization and scaffolding
    In order to achieve these educational goals, a quality WebQuest must be well organized and scaffolded so that it provides students with clear guidelines on what to do. In addition, it must have thought-provoking questions in the task that clearly lead to independent and critical higher order thinking.

  5. Fostering teamwork and collaboration
    In order to foster teamwork and collaboration-necessary elements of a WebQuest--making decisions is an important aspect. A quality WebQuest should clearly state in the process how the team members' tasks will be divided. Each team member has a role for which he is responsible. Team collaboration helps students learn how to share information and ideas and be accountable for their own learning, and for the team's effort.

  6. Evaluation rubric
    A quality WebQuest must have an evaluation rubric for each stage, not only for the end product. Some elements of the evaluation might include whether students present their work in a creative and interesting manner, and whether they use multimedia and other visual aids.

  7. Student feedback and reflection
    Finally, a good WebQuest should have a feedback questionnaire or a reflection page for students to add their feelings and comments not only at the end but throughout the project. I would add a working file journal to the WebQuest so that information could be documented. Feelings and ideas should be recorded at all times. This would add to the students' learning experience.

    Before introducing a WebQuest to students, teachers should evaluate it to see whether it is organized and easy to follow. The hyperlinks should all work and be appropriate for the tasks. I have created two literature based WebQuests, one that deals with health, and one that I collaborated on with four other teachers (Deutsch, 2004). Check them out and see if they follow the criteria of a good WebQuest.
References
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