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WebQuests in the Middle School Curriculum: Promoting Technological Literacy in the Classroom

Kenneth Lee Watson

University of Virginia

"…technological literacy must include a wide range of opportunities for students to interact with a variety of tools and resources in order to develop a level of competence that will allow them to use technology effectively and productively in the workplace." Introduction

On January 27, 1998, the president's State of the Union Address (Clinton, 1998) included a ten point plan calling for, among other things, to "connect every classroom and library to the Internet by the year 2000 and help students become technologically literate." The president's focus on the use of technology in the classroom setting and promoting technological literacy among our students echoes the concern of many educators.  Raizen, Sellwood, Todd, and Vickers (1995) suggest that technological literacy must include a wide range of opportunities for students to interact with a variety of tools and resources in order to develop a level of competence that will allow them to use technology effectively and productively in the workplace. 

Over the course of the last 20 years, educators have been inundated with new programs and methods aimed at integrating new technologies with classroom curriculum.  Many discussions have centered around attempts to determine the most effective uses of technology in the classroom. From these discussions additional questions continue to be generated.  How can we harness this technology for educative purposes?  How can this technology enhance middle school education?  What are the most effective approaches to integrating technology with curriculum so that it provides the greatest benefit for students? 
 

"Any program designed to meet the challenge issued by the president must take into consideration the needs and concerns of classroom teachers as well as the needs and concerns of students."

 

Resistance to Change
"Teachers are among the most 'conservative' professionals. While they are extremely creative in their classrooms, and tremendous risk takers in the way they work with students, they remain staunchly conservative and protective of their subject matter. Changes in instruction that threaten a teacher's ability to present the great bulk of material they feel they must cover will be met with resistance." (Zaraza and Fisher, 1995, p. 3)

This perceived resistance to change among teachers may lie in the fundamental alteration of the classroom dynamic from curriculum-centered instruction to student-centered instruction (Sandholtz, Rigstaff, and Dwyer, 1997).  However, this perception just as easily may be explained by the tremendous pressures being placed upon teachers to meet academic standards while an increasingly violent society threatens the safety and stability of the classroom environment.  As they work diligently to meet the needs of their students, teachers who themselves are less than comfortable with technology may view the new insistence on including technology in their classrooms as a burden.

While the availability of computers in the classroom provides new opportunities for creative teaching, it also imposes new challenges.   Any program designed to meet the challenge issued by the president must take into consideration the needs and concerns of classroom teachers as well as the needs and concerns of students. 

WebQuests -- Meeting the Challenge

"The more meaningful, the more deeply or elaboratively processed, the more situated in content, and the more rooted in cultural, background, metacognitive, and personal knowledge an event is, the more readily it is understood, learned, and remembered." (Iran-Nejad, McKeachie, and Berliner, 1990, p. 511)
 
"According to Dodge (1997), a WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which students interact with information gleaned primarily from resources on the Internet . . ."
 

The WebQuest Page

About WebQuests

Bernie Dodge

 

As more schools are using computers to connect to the Internet, a wealth of ideas are being generated by great teachers on how best to integrate this particular technology into the classroom environment.  Bernie Dodge of San Diego State University is one of these great teachers.  His work with WebQuests is one of the most creative efforts aimed at reforming instructional practice.  According to Dodge (1997), a WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which students interact with information gleaned primarily from resources on the Internet.

WebQuests may be labeled inquiry-centered or problem-centered learning by some, while others may view them simply as activities that provide students the freedom to learn by accessing multiple resources.  However they are characterized, WebQuests are reflective, fluid, and dynamic. They provide teachers with the opportunity to integrate Internet technology into the course curriculum by allowing students to experience learning as they construct their perceptions, beliefs, and values out of their experiences (Beane, 1997).

WebQuests can be especially useful for teachers who are novices in the area of technology in that they offer prepackaged, self-contained lessons ready for implementation. The WebQuest site contains lessons, rubrics, and teaching tips.  In this way, WebQuests allow the teacher to make an easier transition into using Internet technology with minimal stress. 


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Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal
a service of NC State University, Raleigh, NC
Volume 2, Issue 2, July 1999
ISSN 1097—9778
URL: http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/jul99/webquest/index.html
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