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Part II: Tips to help you create an original WebQuest

By Sheri German

See also Part I

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

In the first part of this series you learned what a WebQuest is and how to reconstruct our sample WebQuest “Time Machine MTV.” You are, however, probably eager to create your own original WebQuests. It is not that hard—especially if you use a template—but there are a number of “gotchas” and technical aspects to keep in mind as you develop your “lesson in a Web page.”

Strategies for developing your WebQuest content

You’ve got a great idea for a WebQuest, but don’t know quite how to begin. Here are a few strategies to help you develop a great lesson for (or with) your kids or students.

Images for your WebQuests

Web pages are pretty dull unless there are images and media. Everyone knows that all you need to do to make any Web image your own is to control-click on it (right-click on a PC or with a two-button mouse) and choose “save image” or “download to disk.” And if it’s for educational use, you don’t have to worry about copyright issues, right?

Wrong! If your WebQuest never goes beyond your own computer, and no one sees it but you, it is probably not going to be a problem if you take any and all images. The minute you upload the WebQuest to the Internet, share it at an open house, or make it public in any way, you become a party to copyright infringement.

“ Educator World” offers this online article about copyright and fair use in education: http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/curr280.shtml. Fair use does not mean you can take anything you want and all you want. For instance, for audio clips, fair use in education states that you may use 30 seconds or 10%, whichever is less. You might also want to read “10 Myths of Copyright Law” at http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html.

You can circumvent the problem and use one of the many Web sites that offer free images. Usually in these cases, the site asks only that you give it credit. It is not that hard—the easiest way to keep track of where your images come from is to keep a word processor running in the background. When you find an image you would like to use, download it, then copy the Web address to your document. Type a short description of the image so you’ll remember which one goes with each address.

If you are visiting a Web site that offers free images, look for a statement of use. Free for personal or educational use usually means that you can use the image on your personal Web page or in a school project. You cannot resell the image or use it in a commercial product without paying for the right to do so. I mention this because I have heard of students creating project CDs that they then sell to their peers—and then get caught using copyrighted images!

Web sites that offer free images

Here are some good places that teachers and students can find free images for use in their WebQuests. “Pics for Learning” is a particularly good education resource.

Free images of composers: http://www.8notes.com/pictures/performers.asp
Pics for Learning: http://www.pics4learning.com/
Image Library: http://www.multimedialibrary.com/FramesML/
Free Stock Photos http://www.freestockphotos.com/
Free Foto: http://www.freefoto.com/index.jsp
MorgueFile Free Stock Photos: http://www.morguefile.com/ver3/
Geek Philosopher: http://www.geekphilosopher.com/MainPage/photos.htm
Free Graphics: http://www.freegraphics.org/
Free Holiday clipart: http://www.myfreeclipart.com/
Web graphics: http://www.htmlgoodies.com/freeimages/
Education Clipart: http://school.discovery.com/clipart/

Evaluating Web Pages

Another important part of the WebQuest is developing a good list of links for the guided research. There is no quality assurance department running around the Web putting stamps of “accurate information” or “a load of garbage” on Web pages. How can you find the best information on a topic? When assessing Web pages, ask yourself lots of questions.

  1. Who is the originator of the page? Is it personal? Is there a tilde in front of the name? You’ll often see personal sites on geocities or yahoo. Does this mean that the information is not valuable? It is possibly excellent information, but you do need to ask more questions about such pages.
  2. Look for what the URL tells you. What is its domain? .gov? .edu? .com? .org? Government and education sites usually take extra care in assuring that their information is accurate. Organizations are often experts in a topic, but you do need to be careful that there is not a particular bias.
  3. Have you ever heard of the group who sponsors the pages? We all have heard of “The Washington Post” or “The Kennedy Center.” We have our personal views on the legitimacy of any information we glean from such entities.
  4. Is there a date on the page that indicates if it is current? If you are investigating copyright and fair use in education, you do not want to rely on a page that is dated from 1997. Look for “last updated” on the pages you are considering using.
  5. Does the author have credentials? (Check the “about” or “resume” sections to find out more about the author.)
  6. Are there related links or footnotes? Check to see if other reputable sites link to the pages. If you are researching dance and go to “The Maryland Council for Dance” Web site, you’ll see a long page of other dance links. These links are included after the board studies them to make sure they are appropriate. This should give you a good sense that MCD is a central dance site, and its information is probably pretty accurate.
  7. Use Google for a link search. (Type link: then the address of the page.) If lots of other sites link to a particular site, it often indicates that the pages are considered a good source of information on a particular topic.
  8. Are there lots of dead links on the pages? This indicates that the information is probably old, the site owner is not working on keeping the site up-to-date, and you should probably be wary of the information you find here.
  9. Is this source as good as what you would find in the library? Find the best links on a topic. Otherwise, it is probably more productive to stop in at your local library.
  10. Evaluate the page’s purpose. Is the page objective? Or is the page a barely disguised attempt to advertise? If so, be careful about using the link for your WebQuest’s guided research.

Here are some respected academic research sites to help you find great links for your WebQuests:

Roadblocks on the Super Highway

Making a WebQuest is pretty easy when you use a template, but there are some common problems that many beginning Web page developers experience.

Sharing your WebQuest

After much care and hard work, you’ve done it. You’ve created a great WebQuest that helps students or families productively use the Internet to learn more about a subject. What are some ways you can share your WebQuest?

I hope this series has given you some ideas for creating great WebQuests for, or with, your family and students. If you do create an original WebQuest, I would love to hear from you. Drop me a line at germans@trinitydc.edu.