The basic premise of a webquest is to create a scenario to capture the imagination of students while they embark on a "quest" that involves research and discovery:
A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. The model was developed by Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University in February, 1995 with early input from SDSU/Pacific Bell Fellow Tom March, the Educational Technology staff at San Diego Unified School District, and waves of participants each summer at the Teach the Teachers Consortium. [source]The web 2.0 world is much more friendly to the creation of Webquests than it was when I was in college. My new favorite tool for the creation of web quests and other web-site projects is Google Sites, part of the Google Apps for Education suite.
Google Sites is flexible enough to allow someone like me, with above average knowledge and skill in web-design, to create attractive, dynamic sites, while having a simple user interface that won't overwhelm even the most novice user.
This past year I piloted a web-quest-like project with my 9th grade biology students. They were asked to form groups of four and select an biome to study. Each person within the group took on a different role: botanist, zoologist, ecologist, or environmentalist. Each person was required to research specific things related to their ecosystem.
The culmination of the project was the creation of a Google Site highlighting the various aspects of their ecosystems. I allowed students to take full advantage of Google Apps for education by including custom Google maps, documents, drawings, and presentations into the sites.
A lot of students wanted to include video into their sights. My school blocks YouTube, so we had to get creative. Through the use of a site gadget, some groups iFramed in video from National Geographic, ARKive, and other video sharing sites.
Here is what some of my students had to say about the Biome Webquest:
A lot of planning, preparation, and research was completed before each group began building their site. To facilitate this, I created several Google Documents which I shared with each group. These documents included research questions which each person was responsible to answer before they could begin building their site. By using the collaborative power of Google Docs, each group was able to simultaneously edit one document. Because their roles were interrelated, students were better able to collaborate because of our ability to work together on the same document.
Here are links to the planning documents that we used:
Once each group had completed their research, I gave them access to the Google Site template that I created. The template contained all of the required pages and standard site structure for the project. After creating a copy of the site, one person shared it with the rest of the group members and they began copying and pasting their research into the appropriate sections.
The students had a great time customizing the look and feel of the site to match their chosen biome. Some of them got a little crazy with the colors!
Google Sites is an excellent platform for a WebQuest. It is easy to use, provides solid structure, but allows for endless customization. My students began using Google Sites with very little formal instruction on how to use the tool.
Please feel free to re-use any of the templates that I have shared here. Most of them can be easily modified for other topics and disciplines. I would love to hear how you have used Google Sites in your classroom.