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#1 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 02:28 PM

‘Information is not learning’
Using the Internet as an effective teaching tool
Dan Lyndon

The World Wide Web has given teachers and students of history access to an ‘information superhighway’ previously unparalleled. However, whilst there are obvious advantages in terms of the resources now available on the Internet, this has not necessarily been translated into the effective teaching and learning of history. This paper will look at the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet as a teaching tool. It will highlight the benefits of using webquests as a method for ensuring the use of higher order thinking skills when using the Internet. The paper will conclude with a case study looking at a webquest that I have written about the contribution of black and asian soldiers in the First World War (www.comptonhistory.com/ww1webquest.htm). This was taught to year 9 students in January 2005.

There are a number of advantages of using the Internet as a teaching tool. The most obvious concerns the amount of material that is available to both teacher and pupil and the speed of access that has been facilitated. As an illustrative example, when I was preparing the ww1 webquest I was able to find fascinating and inspiring material about the soldiers that fought in the British Army as members of the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR). This included interviews with some of the surviving veterans, Eugene Clark and George Blackman as well as details of the Taranto Mutiny when soldiers from the BWIR demonstrated their anger against the racial discrimination that they faced at end of the war. In the absence of access to the Internet this would have involved extensive and time consuming research. The fact was that I was able to sit at my desk and spend a few hours searching via Google and poring over extracts from Jamaican and British newspapers amongst other websites. Some of the other advantages of the Internet include the improvement in ICT skills that it provides. A research study (http://www.educ.cam....PS/gilmour.html) carried out by Nick Gilmour, a teacher in Cambridgeshire found that ‘(the Internet group) produced some excellent project work and demonstrated high levels of ICT skill.’ and that the use of the Internet ‘often stimulates and raises the levels of motivation. The quality of project work is greatly improved with the use of computers.’ Gillian Mead from Chesterton Community College argues that the effective use of the Internet ‘enable(s) students to develop as independent, effective, efficient and discerning electronic information gatherers rather (than) remain as serendipitous and credulous surferbrowsers’ (http://www.educ.cam..../TIPS/mead.html).

However, there are undoubtedly a number of concerns about the use of the Internet as an effective teaching tool. The most striking observation is that ‘information access alone, without a means for learning the information ‘effectively’, or, a means for turning information into knowledge, results in numerous design faults, namely information overload and navigation problems.’ (Jones and Scully http://webjcli.ncl.a...e2/jones2.html). Another problem is that the use of the internet can be a frustrating learning experience with the pupils lost in a web of irrelevant and inappropriate material. The vast majority of material on the Internet is not designed for pupils of a school age and unless pupils are taught the skills necessary to search the internet effectively they often become frustrated as they search in vain. There is also the misconception that the answer to everything can be found at the end of a Google search. Some pupils also find themselves far too easily distracted by the pop ups, banners and games, cars, music, football etc sites that are only a URL away when the teacher isn’t looking. However the most pressing concern is the passivity of many pupils involved in Internet research. The temptation to cut and paste chunks of unread text is seemingly too hard to resist for many pupils resulting in the acquisition of knowledge without the processing that is so vital for a deeper understanding. The Internet is not a substitute for the good teacher; whilst it can deliver a wide amount of resource material it can not adapt to the needs of the individual student.

There are a variety of ways that these disadvantages can be overcome to enable the Internet to become an effective teaching resource. The problems of passivity can be solved by creating teaching material that forces pupils towards information processing rather than research gathering. The most obvious example of this is the use of webquests to which I will turn to shortly. The problems of pupils getting ‘lost’ can be overcome by a number of strategies: pupils can be trained to use search engines more effectively, particularly by honing down the searches with the use of keywords. Alternatively the use of a ‘portal’ which guides the pupils towards pre-selected websites can allow the teacher to direct the pupils to the most appropriate resources. Finally there needs to be an increase in the number of teacher created websites, with differentiated material and tasks that encourage higher order thinking skills and are adapted to the needs of the pupil.

A webquest is an online lesson or series of lessons using the Internet as a resource bank. A successful webquest engages the student with an enticing ‘hook’ and requires students to complete a task, often using other ICT applications, that encourages the development of higher order thinking skills. The structure of a webquest follows a particular format;

Introduction – This is the initial stimulus material that acts as a ‘hook’ for the student and engages them with the task. This could be either a real life situation, for example the Amistad slave ship case or a fantasy scenario, for example a time machine has been invented to take the students to a place or event in history.

Task – This is the opportunity for the teacher to be as creative as possible. The task must have a realistic and achievable outcome but could take any variety of formats ranging from a whole class debate to a multimedia presentation to a simple written description.

Process– As a tool for enhancing independent learning the Webquest guides the student through a series of step-by-step processes to enable the task to be completed. This may involve working individually or as part of a larger group with individually assigned roles. The student should also be given guidance in how to complete the task. This may take the form of ‘scaffolding’ whereby the student is able to build up knowledge through a series of smaller task, or may involve the use of directed questions, concept mapping, tables and worksheets.

Resources - One of the fundamentals of the Webquest is the use of the World Wide Web as a resource bank. A crucial aspect is that the student is guided to the most appropriate resources and not left to drift aimlessly in ‘hyperspace’. This may involve differentiated resource pages with a page devoted to the key websites and a second page for additional resources. Students are not necessarily limited to using the Internet. There is a wide range of (electronic) resources available including e-mail, videoconferencing, using databases and forums. Students could also use material from their school and local libraries or from their teacher.

Evaluation – This provides the student with the marking criteria and allows them to understand how they will be assessed as an individual and part of the team. This insight encourages the student to become self-evaluative and provides the ‘critical steps’ that are needed to make further progress.

Conclusion – This allows the student to evaluate the progress that they have made and provides an opportunity for further exploration. This may be achieved through the addition of further questions or stimuli that may arise from the original task.

There are many advantages to the use of Webquests;

q The creation of the Webquest is straightforward for any teacher that has a basic competency in ICT – there are various templates that can be used such as this one from the Webquest website:
[]http://webquest.sdsu.edu/LessonTemplate.html]

q The teacher can adapt a task to the appropriate needs of their classes and to individual students. This can be done by varying the complexity of the task and by allocating different roles within the Webquest.

q The use of Webquest is an excellent motivational tool. Students can engage in real-life enquiry based activities and have the opportunity to create a valuable end product.

q Webquests can encourage team building skills in order to achieve a collective task as well as enhancing individual skills in a wide variety of ways; literacy, ICT, numeracy, communication, problem solving.

q Webquests often depend on the use of higher order thinking skills. Students will need to synthesise material from a wide range of sources and the task may require the evaluation of a particular interpretation or event.

Case study – the black and asian soldiers in the First World War webquest http://www.comptonhi...ww1webquest.htm

I wrote this webquest over a period of three days in the Christmas holidays 2004 and subsequently spent a few hours tightening up different sections after receiving feedback from colleagues and members of the History Teacher’s Discussion Forum. I tried it for the first time in January with two classes of year nine pupils in the top and middle ability sets having previously studied the causes of WW1 and Trench Warfare. The students were in the computer suite for three lessons.

The black and asian soldiers in the First World War webquest asks students to imagine that they had been commisioned to write a booklet for primary school children about the contributions that soldiers from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean made to the war. This task meant that pupils had to use higher order thinking skills to synthesise the appropriate material and produce an outcome that was different from the original material they had used. They were guided to the best resources via this page (resources page) which was differentiated to allow access to the key resources as well as being hyperlinked to further resources if needed (extended resources page). I also included a self assessment sheet that can be looked at here (assessment page) which required the pupils to grade themselves on different criteria ranging from how many websites they used (this was deliberately scored to encourage them not to use too many), how appropriate their language was (I was hoping to cut out as much cutting and pasting as possible) and their effort. I now realise that I should have also included a section about their ICT skills.

I was fairly disappointed by the majority of the results, but I will add the proviso that this was the first time that any of the students had used a webquest before:
- too many of the students had simply lifted chunks straight from the various websites that they used.
- those who had 'strayed' from the websites that I recommended often went completely off the track - one student ended up writing about Franz Ferdinand!
- There was little thought put into the presentation of the booklets - they were good at making it look colourful, but the layouts were cluttered and (a personal bugbear) the text was not justified and hyphenated as it stretched across two lines. Some didn't even bother with any colour at all and wrote it in Word - v dull.
- some of the lower ability students found the webquest too daunting and in their words 'too long'! This was despite my attempts to really narrow the resources to a bare minimum with a differentiated page for those who wanted further research


However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. One of the best booklets was produced by a dyslexic pupil who really thought carefully about what to include, kept the text to an appropriate amount and in accessible language, clearly presented the work and made good use of images. The best booklet was produced by a student who managed to cover a range of contributions and presented his work effectively:
http://www.comptonhi..... soldiers.pdf

So, my overall thoughts about this series of lessons. Well, like everything I will not be put off because it didn't work first time, I shall continue to give the classes experience of webquests and I am confident that they shall get better at working with them. I also think that our pupils are now so much more ICT savvy that we can really focus on the historical content and allow that to engage and drive the pupils further in their ICT work. One other positive that I can take out of this is that the vast majority of the pupils genuinely were interested in the topic and learned a lot - probably, no certainly a lot more than they would have learned from a worksheet.
Whilst there are obvious advantages to using the Internet in the classroom, such as the speed of access to a wide range of sources, it is imperative that students are encouraged to process the material they find rather than passively accepting it at face value. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use webquests as a vehicle for developing higher order thinking skills and using the Internet as a resource for guided research. Information is not learning, it’s what you do with it that counts.

Edited by Dan Lyndon, 20 February 2005 - 07:25 PM.


#2 John Simkin

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Posted 22 February 2005 - 01:01 PM

The temptation to cut and paste chunks of unread text is seemingly too hard to resist for many pupils resulting in the acquisition of knowledge without the processing that is so vital for a deeper understanding. The Internet is not a substitute for the good teacher; whilst it can deliver a wide amount of resource material it can not adapt to the needs of the individual student.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


This has been a problem since the emergence of the CD-ROM. It was common in the early days for homework to be handed in as a print out from Encarta. It is therefore important to create tasks that cannot be answered in this way. This means tasks that force the students to do something with the information.

Webquests like the one suggested by Dan is obviously one way forward. My main concern about this is that most webquests link to web pages that were written for an adult audience. These often go missing and make them difficult to use at a later date. I suspect that the only way this problem will be solved is when the teacher who sets the webquest also produces the linking web pages.

#3 Borivoj Brdicka

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 02:05 PM

Webquests like the one suggested by Dan is obviously one way forward.  My main concern about this is that most webquests link to web pages that were written for an adult audience. These often go missing and make them difficult to use at a later date. I suspect that the only way this problem will be solved is when the teacher who sets the webquest also produces the linking web pages.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


John I don't agree. The good WebQuest is not based on the linked materials but on the appropriate task, which is only supported by the links, teacher, and team work.

By the way, last months we have developed the WebQuest tool for Czech teachers (this time only in Czech), which incorporated database, publishing system and discussions.
More on http://omicron.felk..../ESP19_BoBr.htm

I wish all of the E-HELP project partners big success!
BoBr from Prague

#4 Graham Davies

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 02:43 PM

We use WebQuests (and Mazes) a lot in language learning and teaching. See the website of the European Centre for Modern Languages in Graz. This page is devoted to WebQuests:

LanguageQuest: http://www.ecml.at/p...quest/index.htm

#5 Caterina Gasparini

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 03:33 PM

The vast majority of material on the Internet is not designed for pupils of a school age and unless pupils are taught the skills necessary to search the internet effectively they often become frustrated as they search in vain. (..) However the most pressing concern is the passivity of many pupils involved in Internet research. The temptation to cut and paste chunks of unread text is seemingly too hard to resist for many pupils resulting in the acquisition of knowledge without the processing that is so vital for a deeper understanding.

I find the method described extremely accurate and precise. However, if selecting and limiting the number of the sites to be used can prove to be very useful with younger students who need more guidance, more experienced learners should be left free to use as many web resources as they need, provided they list all the sites used in their research.
I don't think that cutting and pasting activities are so passive as they imply thinking skills such as organising and summarizing, which are usually present in every research activity. To what extent the product is original or not is another question, but textbooks or paper resources present the same problem as ICT ones.

#6 Andy Walker

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 06:55 PM

This has been a problem since the emergence of the CD-ROM. It was common in the early days for homework to be handed in as a print out from Encarta. It is therefore important to create tasks that cannot be answered in this way. This means tasks that force the students to do something with the information.


Surely this has actually been a problem since the advent of the printed word. I distinctly remember for instance getting into trouble as a student for copying the textbook. ICT has just made it easier for pupils to do this, and perhaps easier for them to disguise it.

Our role therefore is to teach them the value of and skills handling sources critically

#7 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 10:12 PM

I don't think that cutting and pasting activities are so passive as they imply thinking skills such as organising and summarizing, which are usually present in every research activity.


You make a valid point Caterina, but unfortunately I have not seen too much of this in the students that I teach. I would like to think however, that with more experience and training from their teacher they should be able to reach higher levels of thinking.

I have been reflecting on the seminar that I gave in Toulouse and have come up with the following thoughts:

- I initially felt that the first part of the paper I gave was pitched at too low a level, that the audience was fairly well versed in the pros and cons of the internet as a teaching tool. Subsequently, through discussions on this forum, I may have been a bit hard on myself and that many people appreciated the opportunity to revisit these issues and that in some cases new information was being imparted, particularly about webquests.

- I was much happier with the second part of the paper, particularly as it respresented a case study of work in practice. I really felt that this was a valuable and valued exercise, after all we should always be looking at the impact of our work in the classroom.

- I have been thinking about how I can improve the webquest that I wrote and have focused on the task element. I realise that the task that I have given is too vague (design a booklet to show the contribution that black and asian soldiers made in the first world war) and needs a bit of scaffolding for the pupils. I believe it was Anders that suggested that I add a few directed questions into the task and I will attempt to do that when I have a bit of time. I also will think about Caterina's suggestions about the resources that I have used. Finally I will add an ict element into the assessment criteria.

Any other suggestions for improving the webquest would be gratefully received.

#8 Terry Haydn

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Posted 02 March 2005 - 03:44 PM

I agree with Andy's point that a key element of the success of web trails is getting the pupils to think, making them select and prioritise from the materials selected, and asking them particular questions, so that they have to do something with the information beyond just cutting and pasting. Another good idea which I came across was to have 2 separate trails on the same topic but which point the enquirer in different directions (e.g. was General Haig a butcher or a genius), and then getting the 2 groups to discuss their findings with each other.

#9 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 02 March 2005 - 06:17 PM

Another good idea which I came across was to have 2 separate trails on the same topic but which point the enquirer in different directions (e.g. was General Haig a butcher or a genius), and then getting the 2 groups to discuss their findings with each other.


I like that! I might have to think about whether I can work this into the ww1 webquest, but it may be better suited to some of the other ones that I have produced such as the Olaudah Equiano webquest

#10 John Simkin

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Posted 02 March 2005 - 07:50 PM

Another good idea which I came across was to have 2 separate trails on the same topic but which point the enquirer in different directions (e.g. was General Haig a butcher or a genius), and then getting the 2 groups to discuss their findings with each other.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I did something similar with an activity on Child Labour. Each student actually gets their own webquest. They then explain what they have found out in a debate on child labour.

http://www.spartacus...co.uk/Twork.htm

#11 Doug Belshaw

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Posted 04 March 2005 - 07:37 PM

Bringing together Caterina and Dan's presentations, I believe the future to be in 'semantic webs'. At the moment, most websites are little more than interactive books, with the author deciding which pages the 'reader' can go to from which other ones. A semantic web is different in that it does not depend on the author. Instead, links are automatically added to the content depending on the reader's interests and browser configuration. For example, even if not configured by the author, definitions of each word are a mouse click away. This would turn the Internet into a web of meaning rather than of knowledge. :D

You can read more about semantic webs here or do a Google search.

:plane Doug

Edited by Doug Belshaw, 04 March 2005 - 07:38 PM.


#12 Andy Walker

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Posted 12 March 2005 - 01:14 PM

Another good idea which I came across was to have 2 separate trails on the same topic but which point the enquirer in different directions (e.g. was General Haig a butcher or a genius), and then getting the 2 groups to discuss their findings with each other.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I did something similar with an activity on Child Labour. Each student actually gets their own webquest. They then explain what they have found out in a debate on child labour.

http://www.spartacus...co.uk/Twork.htm

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I am aware that this debate exercise has also been successfully carried out in an online forum which is an important development.
Many teachers initially responded to the Internet by scaffolding extended research tasks based the web page inquiry - an example of one such activity is here.
How much more powerful however is it for students to use the "C" of ICT to discuss their findings and theories online with colleagues, pupils in other schools and historians?

#13 Dalibor Svoboda

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Posted 25 March 2005 - 02:30 PM

‘Information is not learning’
Using the Internet as an effective teaching tool
Dan Lyndon


I was fairly disappointed by the majority of the results, but I will add the proviso that this was the first time that any of the students had used a webquest before:
- too many of the students had simply lifted chunks straight from the various websites that they used.
- those who had 'strayed' from the websites that I recommended often went completely off the track - one student ended up writing about Franz Ferdinand!
- There was little thought put into the presentation of the booklets - they were good at making it look colourful, but the layouts were cluttered and (a personal bugbear) the text was not justified and hyphenated as it stretched across two lines. Some didn't even bother with any colour at all and wrote it in Word - v dull.
- some of the lower ability students found the webquest too daunting and in their words 'too long'! This was despite my attempts to really narrow the resources to a bare minimum with a differentiated page for those who wanted further research


<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Did you try to discuss with your pupils why the achieved result of your Web Quest had been as they had been ……? You just mentioned in your presentation that you have been disappointed. Were your pupils disappointed afterwards too? Could they understand your disappointment? Do you think that they would work in a better way with a new Web Quest next time if they got a new chance?


Wasn’t your level of approach to this task too high? Could your Web Quest be more successful if it was put together (for educational reason) by one group of pupils or a half of the class and then used by the second half of the class and vice versa?
Clearly if somebody ends writing about Franz Ferdinand instead of BWIR such pupil probably didn’t obtain a clear picture of his task. Or is there any other and better explanation why this happened.

It is a surprising fact that we so often talk about benefits of ICT based teaching and at the same time (to my knowledge) so seldom muse over benefits of ICT based learning.
Besides all these cutting and pasting of the text masses found here and there on different web pages (in Sweden we do have a huge amount of students papers published on Internet, which because of its uncomplicated language and easy descriptions are loved by students when their own papers are under production …) does pupils and students honestly feel that ICT based learning is a proper and rewarding way to their own knowledge?

Dan did you asked your students this question?

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda, 25 March 2005 - 02:32 PM.


#14 John Simkin

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 05:36 PM

Dan's seminar can be viewed here:






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