Authentic education using Web Quests

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Web quests are designed to be an inquiry based activity geared towards generating a context for the information student s are exposed to. Most often the design of the web quest places the student at the fore front of their experience. As a part of the design, information breadcrumbs and multiple pathways of concept attainment can be achieved through careful planning and web quest design. Web quests help to reduce student search time by aggregating sites and content for student exploration. I believe web quests can provide authentic student exploration and learning. Upon researching the different learning theories it appears several theories overlap and work in support of one another in web quest design. I see a lot of Connectivism learning theory underlying the web quest concept. Connectivism, is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, complexity and self-organization. In Connectivism learning is a process that happens within an ever-changing environment of shifting contexts. Connectivism is based on the concept that students knowledge attainment is evolving from an ever-changing source of knowledge and developing the skill sets to recognize variations as information changes and its subsequent impact on the current knowledge structure is essential. (http://clipmarks.com/clipmark/461BD5DB-517C-48D7-B6B1-5932B7451930/) As much as Connectivism plays a role in web quest design so too does Constructivism. Constructivism states learning as an active, contextualized process of constructing knowledge rather than acquiring it. Knowledge is constructed based on personal experiences and hypotheses of the environment. Learners continuously test these hypotheses through social negotiation. Each person has a different interpretation and construction of knowledge process. The learner is not a blank slate (tabula rasa) but brings past experiences and cultural factors to a situation. (http://www.learning-theories.com/constructivism.html) This is quite evident in web quests as one of the main design functions is to place students into roles that allow them to take on personas of experts in particular fields. Each student will bring with them prior knowledge and a goal for knowledge attainment, although students may not be as aware of the latter. While reading Brenda Mergel’s paper “Learning Theories & Instructional Design” the section about meaningful effects caught my attention. “Meaningful information is easier to learn and remember. (Cofer, 1971, in Good and Brophy, 1990) If a learner links relatively meaningless information with prior schema it will be easier to retain. (Wittrock, Marks, & Doctorow, 1975, in Good and Brophy, 1990).” The meaning and connections within knowledge generated by students is a deigning factor of web quests and works to combine Cognitive theory and Connectivism as key elements of the web quest design in student concept attainment. Without the interplay of these two theories we would not be able to see the lager construct of the instructional design. As stated at the beginning, I believe web quests are a way to provide authentic concept delivery as their nature of inquiry based learning with the foundations of Connectivism, Cognitive, and Constructivism (only to name a few) provide a means by which to engage various aspect of knowledge interaction as well as associations to prior knowledge. Knowledge is built within an every changing stream of updated concepts and new discoveries. I believe web quests can be an instructional tool utilized in the classroom helping students to engage in meaningful and authentic discourse on various topics as they take on the role of researcher and expert. Just as educators can layer the content of the web quest so too are the learning theories interconnected strengthening the web quest value in the classroom.

If you have some time I highly recommend listening to Ed Tech Talk presentation of  Web Quests.

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