ICT Cognitive Tools…The WebQuest

24 03 2011

From reading this blog, it would have been very clear to you all readers that technology is something that can be used in a range of ways in the classroom. Interactive whiteboards, making mind maps through Inspiration, flip charts and the list just keeps growing. These processes are all being used in the classroom to enhance the creativity of a lesson and are called cognitive tools.

The purpose of a cognitive tool is that it “helps learners with complex cognitive learning activities and  critical thinking. These tools are learner controlled. They construct their knowledge themselves using the tools rather than memorizing knowledge” (e-learning-reviews, n.d.).

Two examples of cognitive tools are WebQuests and Wikis. “A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet, optionally supplemented with videoconferencing. There are at least two levels of WebQuests that should be distinguished from one another” (Dodge, 2005)

The WebQuest and other conducts of technology are effective processes to implement the coaching of ICT into the curriculum as Dianne Ruffles (n.d.) has noted. If all conducts of technology are wisely organized into a lesson, they can be of great benefit to all students and  advance their thinking skills that are challenged by their teachers. The central point of this is that the lesson is student-oriented from a pedagogical approach and students are able to structure their learning appropriately.

When doing a WebQuest activity, the teacher organizes some objective and exciting activities that students can demonstrate with the help of ICT and the Internet for their research methods. These lessons or tasks are normally created to be completed over a time frame between 2-3 lessons.

Ruffles (n.d.) believes that WebQuest:

  • creates a collective and collaborative environment;
  • is an interesting and exciting process of learning;
  • gives curriculum leadership with librarians;
  • and gives students the opportunity to analyze and evaluate information which is simply more than just being spoon fed by the teacher.

We don’t really know what a WebQuest is? We can find out by surfing Bernie Dodge’s (1995) website http://webquest.sdsu.edu/about_webquests.html which states the following:

  1. An INTRODUCTION that outlines the processes and gives a basic general ideas of information
  2. A TASK that is doable and interesting.
  3. A set of INFORMATION SOURCES needed to complete the task. Many (though not necessarily all) of the resources are embedded in the WebQuest document itself as anchors pointing to information on the World Wide Web. Information sources might include web documents, experts available via e-mail or realtime conferencing, searchable databases on the net, and books and other documents physically available in the learner’s setting. Because pointers to resources are included, the learner is not left to wander through webspace completely adrift.
  4. A description of the PROCESS the learners should go through in accomplishing the task. The process should be broken out into clearly described steps.
  5. Some GUIDANCE on how to organize the information acquired. This can take the form of guiding questions, or directions to complete organizational frameworks such as timelines, concept maps, or cause-and-effect diagrams as described by Marzano (1988, 1992) and Clarke (1990).
  6. A CONCLUSION that brings closure to the quest, reminds the learners about what they’ve learned, and perhaps encourages them to extend the experience into other domains.

An example of a WebQuest Activity may be to pay attention to a podcast and respond. The following podcast is an online story of Peter Rabbit Plays a Joke by Thornton Burgess. Students can listen carefully and comprehend any questions about this audio file.


Peter Rabbit Plays a Joke by Thornton Burgess



In my opinion, the idea of implementing a WebQuest in a lesson is a fantastic idea.  If only this tool had been released when I was in school. The WebQuest is just a really great tool and it has a number of advantages on why it is used in the classroom. Firstly, as Dodge and Ruffles have noted is that the WebQuest keeps the learner immersed in their work that that they are accomplishing.

The WebQuest keeps the students interested by the interactivity of the tasks. Instead of just sitting down in a classroom being spoon fed and note taking for the satisfaction that a student participated in class, they are able to assimilate this content into their understanding of the topic.

Students can critically question their work, analyze it and then probably question it some more. At the end of this research task, students have not only familiarized themselves with the content, but also raised opinions and debates upon it. In other words, the students have critically analyzed their work.

In the 21st century, teachers need to be aware of these digital technologies so that it is not only easy for them to engage the students in their lesson but also make their work easier. We have already discussed digital natives  and a WebQuest is a good starting point to awaken the mind of a digital native. With this kind of technology, natives are able to multitask and open many tabs in an internet browser at once and work out this technology that they are familiar with.


elearning-reviews (n.d.) Cognitive Tools. Available online at http://www.elearning-reviews.org/topics/technology/cognitive-tools/

Dodge, G. (2005) Some Thoughts About WebQuests. Available online at http://webquest.sdsu.edu/about_webquests.html

Ruffles, D. (n.d.) WebQuests: Tools For Information Literacy, Hots and ICT.




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