Reflective Learning

As I finished up the last couple weeks learning about the WebQuest concept, I began to reflect on the process of learning and teaching through this inquiry-based learning model. Through the guidance of the teacher, students use their creative thinking and problem solving skills to discover and create solutions. The teacher provides the information for the students to gather from and collaboration allows the formation of ideas and solutions.

From a student, to a creator of a WebQuest, to a teacher evaluating ‘students’ after completion of a WebQuest, I was able to see the WebQuest method from different directions.  I first learned of WebQuests through this class no more than a month ago, although it was developed in 1995.  As I browsed through the many examples of WebQuests that have been created over the years, I was a little disappointed in the look and feel of them.  They felt boring, and sad, with little to no pizzazz.  How would I get students to be excited over this if I wasn’t even excited over it?

I was able to get a better idea of how to personalize the WebQuest when the professor created an assignment that had groups develop their own WebQuest.  I find those types of assignments most difficult, when the topic is open and the subject matter is broad.  The question first became, what topic do we to introduce to the students that will be captivating and engaging?  Then more difficult decisions, what websites to lead the students to for their information? How will we evaluate the students on the topic?

I was quite overwhelmed because at the beginning of the semester I learned about ISTE Standards for Teachers and I scored myself very low on the scale for standards regarding facilitating and inspiring student learning and designing and developing digital age learning experiences and assessments.  This is the assignment that will test my ability to score higher in these standards.  Even though I had group members that were willing and able to handle the heavy decision-making I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to create such an assignment on my own, that I wouldn’t be effective in guiding the students to the topic I desired them to learn about.  I found repose after reading through websites that encouraged teachers to read through and use others’ shared WebQuests.  I would be able to use other WebQuests and perhaps add or change to my personal style without the stress of creating one from scratch.  This bit of information was just what I needed to relax and enjoy the process.

I had an enjoyable time participating in fellow classmates’ WebQuests.  I was able to participate from a student’s perspective and a couple I had a lot of fun on.  Even though some of the WebQuests were lengthy I still went through the process and participated as though I was an actual student.  The topics and introductions were a key component on engaging the student from the beginning, and I made a mental note that in the future I would have to find a topic that draws students in from the beginning.  Perhaps I would have to begin my WebQuest like a creative story, with a catchy first paragraph and maybe an onomatopoeia.  As a perspective science teacher I think I can find quite a few things to engage the students’ interests.

Another point of view I was able to take was that of a teacher evaluating the student’s performance on the WebQuest.  The performance statistics were not of greatest importance to me, as I was more interested in how I was able to evaluate the students.  Creating an assessment and then ‘grading’ the assessment became a separate task for me.  I found that to be quite fun as well, I was able to write comments on the answers that were incorrect.  Seeing how other WebQuests prompted student learning was interesting as well.  I don’t have to simply assign questions to be answered, a PowerPoint, or a presentation.  Student-made models, posters (digital, not poster board) and even videos can be the assignment.

Although I haven’t met the ISTE Standards yet, I feel that through this assignment of analyzing all aspects of the WebQuest concept, I was able to gain more knowledge and confidence in the areas I was lacking in.  Through the development of effective and engaging WebQuests I will be able to facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity.  Additionally I was able to, and will continue to, design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments.

One of the most important issues I have acknowledged since the beginning of this course is the importance of technology in education.  Student-oriented learning, especially inquiry-based learning, and not teacher-based instruction appears to be a more effective method of teaching.  WebQuests address both of these statements, combining inquiry-based learning with internet-based learning.  The teacher is the facilitator and guides the process while the students explore and discover answers using their imagination and skills necessary for effective communication.  I look forward to borrowing shared WebQuests to introduce my future students to higher level thinking.

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