Wednesday, 15 April 2009


This article from the MELTA News archive was written by Lucy Mellersh.

Dear Auntie Web,

What is a webquest and how can I use them in my teaching?
Love Quentin

Dear Quentin,
Webquests are tasks where students have to look in (usually pre-specified) web pages to find the resources for completing the task. A non-web version of this activity might involve bringing a pile of books and other resources to class, or taking the class into the library. Using the web is the modern equivalent and just makes the research a lot easier.

This sort of activity is particularly good for language teaching and provides lots of opportunity for authentic experiences with the language (particularly reading, but also listening). Of course, your students will need to have access to computers, either in a language lab (e.g. the Lernstudio at the Gasteig) or if they have their own computers, they could do the research as homework. And of course, you will have to have access to a computer to find appropriate websites that wou want your students to use when doing the task.

Webquest tasks can be created in any medium (a photocopy, a webpage, or just written on the blackboard). The results can also come in any medium (poster, speech, presentation, article, itinerary, play). The research should happen at least partly on the web.

For purists like the Daddy of webquests, Bernie Dodge, webquests should also fulfill various other criteria such as:
* The webquest should be based around one overarching task that is similar to a real-life task.
* This task should be gripping. There should be an introduction that catches your attention. Here are some task suggestions:
* Reproduce information (create a quiz for the rest of the class)
* Compile information (find out about something from various sources)
* Solve a puzzle or amystery
* Report on an event (write a newspaper article reporting on an event from history)
* Plan something (an itinerary for a trip)
* Create something (design a poster)
* Solve a conflict or find a compromise
* Persuade (design a marketing brochure)
* Analyse (give pros and cons)
* Judge (decide on judging criteria and choose a winner, giving reasons)
* The webquest should contain only open-ended questions.
* The activity should include face-to-face student interaction, preferably as group work. Students are often given specific roles within their groups (e.g. the business magnate, the town planner, the environmentalist).
* Students must be able to view the grading rubric (and there has to be one).

I often recommend using a free online tool called Trackstar for creating activities based around researching on the web. The advantages of creating an activity using Trackstar are: students see the real web page in a frame. The corresponding task or question is shown in an area above the page (this keeps them on-task). The student's next step is shown in a column on the left and accessed by a mouse click. This is comforting for non-techies, saves students from typing in web addresses or searching, and it keeps them in the right place.
The disadvantages of using Trackstar are: Some web pages refuse to be framed. Trackstar is as prudish as Americans can be (no mentions of sex, drugs or alcohol are allowed). Trackstar doesn't let you link to more than two separate pages of a particular website from the same track (this is for copyright reasons).

Here's an example of a very simple language-teaching webquest that I made in Trackstar. It's on the Internet and you're welcome to use it with your classes. The task is given verbally before they start:

TASK: "Your class has clubbed together for a treat for your teacher, you're sending her on an all-expenses-paid weekend to London. Money is no object. Choose the best itinerary."

PROCEDURE: Working at your own computer, go to Trackstar.
Click on "View in frames" to start. You'll see the first task at the top and the corresponding web page is in the middle.

When you've chosen something (hotel, restaurant, show) that you think your teacher would like, note it down (pen and paper!!) and click on the link to the next step in the sidebar.
Once you've chosen an itinerary for your teacher, discuss your proposal with your partner or group and come to an agreement on the ideal weekend. Decide which member of your group will present the revised itinerary to the class explaining why you think she would like each of the things you've chosen.

To create your own tracks in Trackstar, you need to sign up for free at
For more information about webquests, look at this rubric for assessing how good a webquest is
If you have time, you can explore more links about web quests on

Love from Auntie Web

PS: Can you share a webquest you made with your class with us?

1 comment:

vicki said...

I love task. Making it a weekend for your teacher adds a nice twist to the old classic 'plan a weekend together'
Ha! I do hope they planned things you'd like to do.