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					Encouraging the Use of Technology in the Classroom: The
WebQuest Connection
Anne D’Antonio Stinson

When I first began teaching the Literacy Strategies for Content Area Teachers course, I
was convinced of the importance of the integrated unit of study, but not always pleased
with the units my students developed. More often than not, their lessons were
developmentally inappropriate for the teenagers with whom they would be working.
Because our secondary education program offered them no opportunity to observe and
study the content area learning of younger students, the preservice teachers in my course
would, for example, write lessons about the solar system assuming that 14-year-olds in
high school had never heard of the moon. Determining how to deal with my students’
misconceptions concerning the level of expertise adolescents have in the various content
areas and the wealth of content area experiences they have enjoyed over the course of
their education became an important goal for me.

Three years ago, I learned that our office of student affairs was offering small
(US$500.00) grants to instructors who infused service learning into their courses. I hoped
to secure funding to create a partnership between teachers at a local elementary school
and my university classes. Bridging the physical distance between the school and our
campus provided a wonderful opportunity to use technology (in this case e-mail) in a
very practical way. Thus was born “The E-mail Connection.”

Beginning in Spring 1999, students enrolled in my developmental reading course would
design integrated units of study for 9- to 11-year-old fourth- and fifth-graders at a local
elementary school. The preservice teachers worked in groups, according to their content
area specializations. In order to ensure that the lessons would be appropriate for the target
audience, each of my students was assigned two or three “keypals” at the school. The
students and their key pals were to converse, via e-mail and journals, concerning the
younger students’ various content area assignments. I hoped that my students would
benefit from this glimpse into the content area learning process, and that the younger
students would benefit from the opportunity of “write to learn,” a popular goal of many
literacy programs at this grade level. In order to present their lessons to the elementary
school students, my students would volunteer their time at the elementary school, thus
serving the purpose of the grant and gaining experience in real classrooms.

The project was a flop.

Well, not a total flop. The younger kids did write a lot. Unfortunately, they wrote in the
flashy university notebooks I had purchased for them and not on their classroom
computers. A typical pen and paper note from a fourth- or fifth-grade student went
something like this:

I’m sory I diden’t Email you yet. But I will Whan my dad has time.
One would imagine that a school e-mail project would actually involve using e-mail at
school, but such was not the case here. The teachers at the elementary school were
reluctant to allow their students time to work individually at the computer because most
were unable to do so independently. Additionally, due to equipment restraints, teachers
were not successful in scheduling or teaching group lessons in the school’s computer lab.
Because I had made the materials available, the teachers opted for the children’s use of
more traditional dialog journals. Carting four crates full of spiral notebooks back and
forth between the elementary school and the university campus was much more difficult
than herding a class of kids into the computer lab, but tradition has a certain appeal in our
business, and it appeared that teachers were willing to lug those journals around in order
to avoid something so new and seemingly unwieldy. It became obvious to me: The
journals had to go. I planned simply not to buy them the following year.

However, The E-mail Connection was not the only difficult thing to manage that first
semester. The university students were having a hard time arranging their schedules in
order to visit the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms. They complained -- legitimately so --
that it would not be fair to reduce their grade on the assignment because their and the
elementary classroom teachers’ schedules were incompatible.

I found the solution to these problems at the National Educational Computing Conference:
WebQuest!

The WebQuest Project

Originally developed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March and described at a website
housed on a server at San Diego State University (Dodge’s institution), WebQuest is “an
inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn
from the Web. WebQuests are designed to use learners’ time well, to focus on using
information rather than looking for it, and to support learners’ thinking at the levels of
analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.” In the fall 1999 semester, I abandoned the integrated
unit and The E-mail Connection project in favor of a WebQuest project. Now, groups of
students would design integrated lessons to be delivered via the World Wide Web in the
form of WebQuests. Teachers at the elementary school were asked to provide a list of
topics that their students would be studying during the first half of the school year. E-mail
would continue to be a tool for checking on the appropriateness of the lesson designed by
the preservice teachers, but there would be no journals and no juggling of schedules. My
students were given the option, however, of sending a representative from their group to
facilitate the use of their WebQuest by the fourth- or fifth-grade class they had written
their lesson for. The service learning grant provided each group with a US$25.00 budget
for supplies to be used when preparing or presenting the project at the elementary school.

I wish I could report that the project went off without a hitch, but that was not the case.
To begin, the e-mail communication between my students and the elementary school
students continued to be almost nonexistent. Even though the journals were not an option,
teachers were still unsuccessful in planning and implementing lessons in the computer lab.
My own university students experienced a great deal of anxiety over this fact: If there
was no e-mail, would their grades suffer? Additionally, there were more than a few
problems with the hardware at the elementary school, which made coordinating visits
from my students difficult, if not impossible.

The biggest hurdle to overcome, however, was transferring what my students had written
into hypertext documents for posting on the Web. At the start of the project, this was
beyond my capabilities, so a great deal of the credit for the eventual success of this
project must be given to the staff at my university’s Instructional Technology Research
Center. This highlights an important point: While many students come to us with
impressive knowledge of technology, many others are as helpless as I was. This project
allowed those who did have advanced skills to share them with their classmates; it
afforded others a safe venue for acquiring and developing those skills. It is important to
note that these students were overwhelmingly pleased with the project, especially for the
insight it gave them into building and posting an actual webpage. Additionally, students
were able to see the potential usefulness of WebQuests in their own classrooms. This is
especially important for students majoring in subjects not traditionally considered to be
text or technology oriented -- physical education, for example.

The Webquest Connection

As the fall semester came to a close, my own level of comfort with the WebQuest project
grew, and the hardware problems at the elementary school lessened. Beginning in the
Spring 2000 semester, the project became known as “The Webquest Connection.” The
one remaining problem -- how to increase e-mail communication -- was solved by
reconfiguring the connection: There was no longer an e-mail partnership between
university and elementary students, but instead between groups of university students and
individual fourth- and fifth-grade teachers. I provided the groups with e-mail addresses,
and they took it from there. They were simply to keep records of their correspondence.
This they could manage. The resulting project was a relative success.

Although the revised WebQuest Connection did not encourage writing to learn in the
form of direct communication between the university and elementary school students,
both groups of students did experience the practical use of technology in the classroom in
a form actually more likely to be employed by elementary classroom teachers. Unlike the
original e-mail connection project, which was extremely difficult to coordinate, the
revised project allowed teachers more flexibility, and students were therefore offered
greater exposure to the technology.

My university students visited the computer lab at the elementary school on a volunteer
basis when groups of fourth- and fifth-grade students were scheduled to work with the
individual WebQuests, so the children did experience some one-on-one attention.
Eliminating the requirement that university students visit the elementary school made for
much better student morale. It also allowed the spirit of volunteerism to flourish, as those
students who visited the school did so because they wanted to volunteer, not because they
had to in order to pass the course. Finally, as with the original project, the revised
WebQuest Connection also allowed preservice secondary teachers first-hand exposure to
the development of content area knowledge of elementary students, a primary goal of the
project.

The Future of The WebQuest Connection

The WebQuest Connection was a relative success, but more work has been done since its
inception and even more remains. To begin, moving the partnership up to the middle
school level, where the slightly older children are more independent with computers has
resulted in increased success. Also, I have recently begun using a WebQuest designed to
introduce teachers to WebQuests. “A WebQuest About WebQuests” (see an area of The
WebQuest Page at webquest.sdsu.edu/materials.htm or Dodge, 2001, online document)
allows my students to anticipate what types of things might give children trouble as they
complete the WebQuests created for the course. In addition, students can visit my course
WebQuest page to examine and evaluate WebQuests designed by students in the previous
semester.

As technology use continues to expand in secondary classrooms, it becomes increasingly
important that new teachers be comfortable with new uses of that technology. As teacher
educators, we are in a position to provide instruction and experiences that result in that
comfort. The WebQuest Connection, a project that could be replicated in virtually any
teacher education program, allows preservice teachers to become comfortable with
aspects of technology within the context of their preparation for the profession of
teaching. These teachers will be assets to school districts that encourage the use of
technology in the classroom.

References

Dodge, B. (modified by Byles, B., & Brooks, S.). (2001). A WebQuest about WebQuests.
Available (retrieved March 1, 2003): www.memphis-
schools.k12.tn.us/admin/tlapages/wq_wq2.htm
Back

Duhaney, D. (2001). Teacher education: Preparing teachers to integrate technology.
International Journal of Instructional Media, 28(1), 23-30.
Back

Willis, E., & Raines, P. (2001). Technology in secondary education. THE Journal, 29(2),
554-559.
Back
    Technology in the Classroom can open many
minds using interesting computer lesson plans.
 Technology in the Classroom Offers Much More Advantage
                        to Children

       There was a time when children were well prepared if they had a slate board and a
       slate pencil for school. Now learning is very different and the access to technology
in the classroom offers much more advantage to children. Learning is a process that can
benefit from teaching aids and support for the lessons. Technology in the classroom has
provided many new tools to assist the teachers. The equipment that can be used in a
classroom can bring far more information and understanding to any topic. Visual aids and
any thing that can help clarify the point will make teaching the lesson easier for the
teacher as well. No one misses the old days of slate boards and pencils.

Technology began to creep into the classroom as soon as it was available. Projectors were
one of the first tools early teachers found helpful. Tape recorders were also found to be
beneficial and brought excitement into the lesson plan. Overhead projects brought with
them the chance for teachers to display difficult concepts more easily to the whole class.
All of these tools made learning easier and more interesting for students and teachers.
The introduction of computers and computer lesson plans has exploded the amount of
information available for students with access to the Internet.

People all learn in different ways and technology in the classroom has brought more
options forward to help students. The details they are learning may be the same but the
ways they are receiving it can now vary to meet more learning needs. Speeding the
learning process is never a bad thing to strive for.
REVIEW of ARTICLE#1
       As technology becomes more available in classrooms, it is increasingly important
that new teachers be comfortable with new uses of that technology. This article tracks the
evolution of “The WebQuest Connection,” a cooperative effort between children and
teachers in a local school district and university students enrolled in a secondary reading
methods course. The project, which could be replicated in virtually any teacher education
program, allows preservice teachers to become comfortable with some aspects of
technology use within the context of their preparation for entering the education
profession. I enjoyed reading this article; I found it to be extremely interesting.




REVIEW of ARTICLE #2
         Times have changed so shouldn’t the approach of teaching change as well? This
article discusses the advantages of having computers in the classroom. It’s believed that
it offers much more to students and is an advantage to students as well. Not only are
computers beneficial to students but they are to teacher as well. Computers bring more
information and understanding to the students and teachers. It is my belief that children
are more eager to learn when they can incorporate technology into a lesson. Computers
are the next step in having a more modern classroom and making teaching easier and
more enjoyable for everyone. All people learn differently and computers are just another
option to help students. I strongly agree with the views of this article.

				
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