On The Use Of WebQuests And E-Learning In The English As A Foreign Language Classroom
Are WebQuests A Modern Gimmick Or A Useful Method?
Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2018 17 Pages
1. Introduction - What is E-Learning? 1
2.1 Problems and Risks
2.2 Benefits and Possibilities
2.3 WebQuests and Media Literacy - MedienkomP@ss 2017
3. Example WebQuest: Research Center for the Life and Times of William Shakespeare
I. MedienkomP@ss 2017
II. WebQuest website (offline version)
1. Introduction - What is E-Learning?
It is surely true that the times of using only blackboard and video recorders or the TV are over in 2018 as studies showed that technology and Internet-based resources have impacted language teaching (comp. Kocoglu 2010: 3525). Being a modern (English) language teacher means to include the various forms of information technology (IT) available in the 21st century such as computers or even interactive whiteboards . Besides the vast amount of other useful features they contain, the connection to the internet might offer the widest range of possibilities. There is no doubt about the fact that “the integration of Web […] technologies into EFL teaching practice have led to new forms of learning“(Bakalo et al. 2015: 2). By means of it, teachers are not only able to show pictures, videos or other interesting material which might support the current topic within seconds; the internet also makes it possible to communicate and interact with, for example, native speakers even in real-time by using applications for video telephony (e.g. Skype).
What these examples all have in common is that the students learn by means of electronic devices so that researchers speak of e-learning. The e- learning environment is thereby characterised by unlimited space of communication, flexibility and integrity (comp. Bakalo et al. 2015: 2) aiming at the combination of software and hardware, classic and modern teaching tools in order to achieve the student’s “comprehensive development of informational, educational and foreign language communicative competence” (Bakalo et al. 2015: 2).
So just as blackboards, course books and tape recorders did some years ago, the different forms of IT can now add valuable extra dimensions to teaching English as a foreign language. Consequently, the usage of IT can definitely improve English language teaching for various reasons. Besides providing teachers with current material for every topic and easily overcoming geographical distance in order to observe relevant cultural aspects of the target language or to interact with native speakers, it is fun and therefore motivating for the students. Concerning teachers, E-Learning (or E-Teaching) also helps to “create exercises and materials that are easily reusable, thereby saving you time in the long run” (Baber/Smith 2005:11).
In the following, one of such an internet based activity, namely the WebQuest, is going to be observed by analyzing possible risks and benefits and its importance on the very relevant teaching aim of media literacy and competences referring to that, before coming to a concrete example of such a task and an overall conclusion in order to answer the initial question of this paper of whether the method of WebQuests is a useful one or not. Additionally, this paper justifies its relevance by the fact that WebQuests were not originally designed for language learning, so that creating one possibly is a challenge but the outcome will hopefully be supporting with regards to developing future WebQuests for the actual usage concerning me being a teacher.
“Language teachers actively seek to provide their students with classroom opportunities to engage in collaborative interactions” (Blake 2007: 76) and this is surely a desire WebQuests are able to fulfill. But what exactly are WebQuests? Solely from taking a look at the term itself one realizes that it consists of the two parts “web” and “quest”. Surely, “web” comes from the term “World Wide Web”, the full form of the abbreviation “www.” which we put in front of internet pages we want to visit. The second part “quest” can have the meaning of “task” so that we can understand this term as processing tasks in or by means of the internet. But nowadays students, depending on their age, connect the term “quest” with something else which often results in a high motivation on sides of the students in order to work on a WebQuest, and this is gaming. A study provided by statista.com1 shows that there are more than 30 million people in Germany playing video games with almost 6 million people who are between 10 and 19 years old2. So based on these studies one realizes that a lot of students are playing videogames. What is now important for the topic of WebQuests is, that in the majority of current videogames the players have to fulfill quests in order to improve and develop the character they are playing, so basically in order to develop their virtual self. The logical consequence of this finding is, that WebQuests can lead to a higher motivation on sides of the students as they can relate it to lifelike activities they tend to do in their leisure time.
The term WebQuest itself was primarily coined by San Diego University professor Bernie Dodge in 1995. According to him, WebQuests are an “inquiry- oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web [with] focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learner’s thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation”3. In order to clarify this definition it can be said that students basically have to work on resources on the internet in order to complete the task. So the main task for the students consists of gathering information and transforming it in a way so that they can finally produce some sort of output (comp. Baber/Smith 2005: 40).
The WebQuest that is going to be presented in this paper will be based on the model that was developed by Dodge and his colleagues which consists of five different parts the students have to work on in order to complete the task. The first part is the introduction. This part can be compared to the pre-phase in classic language lessons and therefore the goal of this section is to arouse the student’s curiosity, motivating them to work on the WebQuest. Also, the overall question of the WebQuest should be presented here but not what the students actually have to do. This follows in the second section which is the called task. Here, the students get to know what the output of the WebQuest should be, for example a summary, presentation or anything else which demands transformation of the information being given to them.
The third section is called process. The main point here is to tell the students which different steps they have to go through in order to fulfill the task. This section also contains all of the resources they have to use such as the hyperlinks to the websites where they find the regarding information. It is worth mentioning here that a WebQuest has not necessarily to consist of online-only sources. It can be absolutely suitable to also use offline sources such as textbooks, or even real persons, for example to ask for an interview with the city’s tourist centre.
A WebQuest also always aims for transparency. This is why the evaluation section displays the ways in which the teacher will evaluate the student’s performance. Here, a chart can be useful in order to show the students a scoring system on which the WebQuest might be based, which underlines the fact that they will receive more points for a specific area, for example vocabulary, in case they work more precisely or professional. In the example of vocabulary this could mean that they will receive zero points for “standard vocabulary”, two points for a more advanced one and maybe four points for vocabulary use consisting of technical terms, linking phrases, etc.
Lastly, the conclusion section concentrates on closure and should also encourage reflection (comp. Baber/Smith 2005: 45) on sides of the students. At best, it should also summarise what has been accomplished and in the end it should lead the learners to extend their thinking beyond the lesson.
2.1 Problems and Risks
Smith’s and Baber’s (2005: 11) statement that creating lesson materials by means of IT helps teachers to safe time in the long run underlines a benefit of WebQuests but simultaneously implies a problem of these internet based tasks. As it is the case with all materials that will save teacher’s time in the long term, it takes a long time to create them beforehand. So answering this paper’s initial question whether the method of WebQuests is a useful one or not, the question of the time needed to create one is an aspect that has to be considered. As it can be seen by the definition of Dodge, teachers have to provide the students with all of the necessary information (charts, videos, hyperlinks, etc.) which is the main reason why this method is so time consuming beforehand.
Also, access to necessary technology is needed, although one could print out everything which makes the WebQuest still doable but one loses interactivity which is guaranteed by accessing real websites. A bigger problem can be found in the outdating of the links providing the sources the students have to use in order to do the WebQuest. So a good WebQuest needs regular updates in order to perform which is again time consuming, even in the long term.
Letting students work with computers and the internet always brings with it the danger of students misusing the possibility of working with it. They can easily distract themselves or others. But this is also the case with other methods and this paper now tries to underline the fact that there are a lot of benefits regarding WebQuests, outweighing the risks.
2.2 Benefits and Possibilities
The first aspect in favour of WebQuests that has to be underlined here is that although they were not originally designed for language teaching, WebQuests are appropriate for every topic, basically. Depending on the task, they foster writing as well as oral skills, for example when the learners are asked to present their results to the class which can take place in different forms such as Power Point presentations or Gallery Walks.
Additionally, the WebQuest creates a virtual socio-cultural environment of the country of the studied language which on the hand provides authentic and therefore motivating learning materials and on the other hand fosters the learner’s intercultural communicative competence (comp. Golousenko et al. 2015: 168). Also, WebQuests take the different levels of the uniform examination requirements4 into account as the students have to compare, analyse, classify, present, etc. Moreover, students are set in real life situations and environments by working on WebQuests. By giving them sources where they can find answers for their tasks and also making them work in groups teachers help to develop the learner’s problem-solving competences by gathering and processing information which is a central aspect of working with WebQuests.
Another benefit lies in the aspect of scaffolding, a method used within the work of WebQuests. As the term suggests scaffolding means giving the learners a temporary structure providing them help at specific points in the learning process and “help them act more skilled than they really are” (Baber/Smith 2005: 43). Baber and Smith (2005: 43) illustrate different examples for scaffolding concerning language contexts. One would be to give the students a chart to complete with the pros and cons for the specific topic they are working on. The long-term goal of scaffolding is of course for learners to internalise such supporting structures so that they can work autonomously in the future.
Overall, online sources and the authenticity and relevance of materials provided by WebQuests should create a feeling of being in the language environment and the presence of tangible results, achieved in an atmosphere of teamwork and responsibility, increases learners’ motivation as well as develops creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
1 online at :https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/712928/umfrage/anzahl-der-computerspieler-in- deutschland/, 01-05-2018.
2 online at: https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/198202/umfrage/altersverteilung-von-gamern-in- deutschland-in-absoluten-zahlen/, 01-05-2018.
3 online at: Bernie Dodge. WebQuests, http://webquest.org/, 02-05-2018.
4 Original: „Einheitliche Prüfungsanforderungen (EP )“͘