I am not a fan of WebQuests. They were something that had a grandiose allure during my first few years of teaching but that’s when I grappled for lessons and thought, ‘might as well stick them in front of a computer so they don’t have to face me!’ I created one for Día de los muertos a while back but the links are dead and I haven’t updated it. At all. It was actually sitting below a pile of papers in my file cabinet. That’s right, I didn’t have that drawer organized with little nifty hanging folders; everything has been haphazardly tossed in and the drawer quickly slammed shut.
Back to the Quests. Even the name sounds so…pirate. “I bequeath you to explore the ravages of the Web in my QUEST.” How lame! I’m not discrediting Bernie Dodge’s life work on this stuff, but I just don’t think they are worthwhile activities, not when the advent of technology is proclaiming that we do so much more in many different ways.
An issue I often find in even sitting a child down in front of a computer to do a search (whether WebQuest-related or not) is that they
always, always, ALWAYS type the URL in a search box. They hardly never actually click in the address bar to begin the assignment. It drives me up the wall and I wonder who ever taught them their introductory lessons on using the Web. It’s almost as if there has been this culture of helpless spellers that’s evolved from middle school and the results are what I see in high school. They don’t care to ensure accuracy of the letters they type so they’ll click through the links from the results of a Google search until they see the same visual site as the teacher (me) showed them before going to the lab. I saw this with Dropbox. DROP.BOX. It’s not hard. Yet I saw every single screen with the glaring Google search results and they clicked through everything from YouTube tutorials to the actual signup page. Infuriated is not the word to explain how I felt on the inside but I am a master of composure and held it together.
Last time I tried doing a WebQuest with any students was at least four years ago. I watched as they aimlessly Googled the title of the Web page as I had it typed out and would raise their hand to tell me they couldn’t find the page. This is even when I had a simple URL available right next to the title. I think I ended up doing that WebQuest twice and have stored it carelessly in my file cabinet ever since.
For reasons unbeknownst to myself I decided to register on the official page for such activities, QuestGarden. It was there that I actually found a minute amount of Quests that I quickly put into a .zip file to store for later evaluation. While scrolling through the myriad of titles and examining those that seemed remotely interesting, I couldn’t help but notice just how verbose these activities were! I mean, the layout itself seems simple: Intro, Task, Process, blah blah blah. It was clicking through the Task and Process part that I really felt like a student drowning in the Comic Sans (I HATE that) font, with an obliteration of details and instructions in paragraph form. If I were lucky there was a picture or two somewhere in the whole thing to spice it up a bit, but not really.
Who are these WebQuests for? What are they teaching? It’s almost an exercise in reading comprehension for the instructions, let alone doing the actual research for the content. The assumption is that the students know how to wade through the pages they are visiting, especially those being brought to Wikipedia, so that precious class time is not wasted with kids squinting trying to find a few site words or the “right answer.”
In my experience there is SO MUCH more to the digital classroom than to do a WebQuest. It will be something I use only if I cannot articulate or present the information well enough to meet my own objectives. If that’s the case, God help me that I have the patience to tolerate myself during WebQuest instructions, processes, and evaluations.