Tuesday, January 29, 2013

WebQuest Evaluation

To start, I would once again like to address the issue of finding materials relevant to my teaching context.  I found the search options somewhat limited on the WebQuest.org page, starting with the fact that the text search option is indefinitely unavailable and continuing with that the curriculum with grade level matrix search returned no results for English/ Languge Arts plus either adult or grades 9 – 12.  Going into QuestGarden’s search page and using the Free Text Search function also brought back no results in EFL or ESL.  However, if I searched for reading, I was able to find nearly 800 results.  The problem here is that there was no apparent way to further define my search from there, or even to reorder the list of results.  This makes it kind of hit-and-miss and/or extremely time consuming to find anything which might be applicable to my teaching.
That said, near the top of the second page of results I found something quite promising called Reading and Discovery that is listed as both for college/adult level and in English/ Language arts.  This find lead me to wonder why this didn’t appear in the matrix search.  When I then examined it closely, it turned out to be less than I had hoped for, so I returned to the search results and moved on.  Further down the page I found Will My Life Be Better With or Without Reading?, which in spite of being listed as for grades 6 to 8 might be of interest to and applicable for my Japanese university first-year students.  Since this WebQuest is much more fully developed than the first one, I thought it might be useful to continue my approach from my last posting and compare the two of them in my evaluation.

Firstly, let me give a brief synopsis of both of these.  Reading and Discovery is intended for non-native speakers bound for tertiary education in an English-speaking institution and aims to develop their reading comprehension and vocabulary.  The author does not address particular curriculum standards, but does sate that he attends to “learning activities that incorporate multiple intelligences and practical or collaborative tasks” in the standards description.[1]  In contrast, Will My Life Be Better With or Without Reading?, the author hopes to inspire struggling students to appreciate the value of education and reading  through learning “what it takes to have the best paying, most interesting job later in life”.[2] Again, curriculum standards are not stated.

Secondly, I would like to discuss the pedagogy in both of these. Reading and Discovery does not seem to have any approach to actually teaching or supporting the learning of the students.  It is merely practice in reading, summarizing and discussing a journal article.  However, Will My Life Be Better With or Without Reading? provides a lot of scaffolding and support in guiding students to engage in a combination of compilation, design and self-knowledge tasks.  Learners are guided to gather information about themselves and jobs and critically evaluate this information before producing a pamphlet and engaging in a presentation and discussion session.  It appears that students are expected to make comparisons, analyze perspectives, and ultimately make an induction about the value of study and reading.

Thirdly, I would like to address the relative leveraging of technology in these two WebQuests.  Simply stated, Reading and Discovery doesn’t leverage technology.  I find it to simply be an electronic version of an assignment handout, without any added digital artifacts of any sort.  In reality, it would be better consolidated into one page in an electronic version or made into a handout with a URL or QR code for whatever journal article it would link to. In this respect, Will My Life Be Better With or Without Reading? is somewhat better than Reading and Discovery.  It leads students to an on-line job survey and provides links to other resources; while there is no actual link present in Reading and Discovery, the links in this WebQuest are active. It also provides a couple of attractive graphics on the pages.  However, other than having the links built in, this too could be done largely as a handout without any apparent loss in effectiveness. 

Fourthly, I would like to note that neither of these credit resources except for a comment on the latter one saying, “I adapted this webquest from Kimberly Vittitow, Bluestem Elementary Leon.”

Finally, I would like to assign both WebQuests total scores based on the Evaluation Rubric for Webquests which was linked in our CEP 811 course materials.   For Reading and Discovery, I would rate it 8/50 while for Will My Life Be Better With or Without Reading?, I would score it about 36/50.  As for how to improve these WebQuests, I think the former one would need a complete overhaul and is not properly called a WebQuest.  For the latter, making the research resources a little more defined and narrow, making pamphlet production into a group task where each individual brings their self-knowledge into a small group for comparison and they try to find common themes and negotiate a synthesis, providing links to an example video of the interview and to some pamphlets to help guide the students in what is expected in those steps as well as make them more engaging, and drawing some more clearly defined attention to the issue of valuing reading and education would perhaps all improve this WebQuest.

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