Bernie DodgeEd Tech DepartmentSan Diego State University

Once you've got a solid WebQuest drafted, it's time to look for ways to polish it up and add a few quickly-created additions that will enhance the effectiveness of the lesson. Here is a preliminary list of tricks in which a little effort can make a substantial difference. They are listed roughly in order from simple to more complex.

Linking to Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

Not all of your students have the same vocabulary (as you well know). One way to level the playing field is to make a link from any words that might be unfamiliar to a glossary page that you create yourself. Another is to use existing online dictionaries to do the defining for you. The link from online in the previous sentence uses the Yahooligans interface to the American Heritage Dictionary. You can find the link by going to the dictionary and manually looking up the word you want and then copy the URL of the resulting page. In this case, for example, the link for "online" is http://www.yahooligans.com/search/ligans_ahd?p=online.

For longer descriptions of people, places, things and events, you can link to Encyclopedia.com as well. Here, for example, is how Encyclopedia.com treats the Diet of Worms. The advantage of using an excyclopedia entry instead of a web page on the content is that it's concise and not likely to encourage learners to wander far from the task. Use this when your goal is simply to ensure that the term is understood, not when you want deep exploration of the term. If you want to provide some help for students who don't quite know what word they want to use in a writing task, consider adding a link to the OneLook Reverse Dictionary.

Instant Discussion Boards

Want to create a space for learners (and perhaps others) to interact with each other? Use QuickTopic, a free service that let's you set up a non-threaded discussion in just seconds. For an example of its use, here's a QuickTopic page to discuss this tool and all the others on this page. QuickTopic allows you to capture the thoughts of participants so that next year's students can build on what last year's students did. You can also use it as a way to gather input from volunteer experts or distant classrooms you're collaborating with.

Online Forms

We all spend lots of time looking for information on the internet. Online forms make it possible for the information to come directly to us. Imagine a WebQuest in which you want to gather opinions about a particular topic, or you're asking learners elsewhere to observe something and report it? Put up an online form and the information will come to you via e-mail. Your students can then cut and paste it into a database or spreadsheet for further analysis. There are at least two free (ad-supported) services out there that make this easy to do: Freedback and Response-o-matic. You create a form template on their site, copy the html that results and paste it into your own pages. Some familiarity with HTML comes in handy in pulling this off. The WebQuest Submission form is an example of a Response-O-Matic form.

Games & Quizzes

Crossword puzzles might provide a welcome break and an opportunity to reinforce factual recall and concept definitions. You can use the free program Hot Potatoes to create an online crossword and link it to your lessons. Here are step by step directions. Also check out Discovery School Puzzlemaker. For a knowledge check along the way towards some higher level learning, consider adding a quiz from the Discovery School Quiz Center.

Group Blogging

For older learners, a blog can provide a place for extended reflections and sharing of insights during a long-term lesson. A blog (contracted from weblog) is a sort of public diary in which much of the content is commentary about specific web sites. By setting up a free accound on Blogger, you can provide a lasting document created by learners and teachers together. An example of a blog built around a graduate course is SDSU's course Exploratory Learning Through Simulation and Games. Examples of blog use at the K-12 level can be found at the SchoolBlogs site.