Why Online Treasure Hunts and WebQuests?
Online treasure hunts and WebQuests are curriculum-specific
inquiry-based applications of the World Wide Web. Both have the
advantage of helping students make efficient use of the Web to achieve
learning goals by guiding them to resources “that have been selected for
their high educational value relative to the desired learning outcomes”
(Cunningham and Billingsley, 2003, p.4). This helps students avoid
mindless surfing of the Web.
The pedagogical uses of online treasure hunts and Webquests are listed
Online treasure hunts:
• Develop mastery of subject matter through a set of carefully
formulated and sequenced questions that define the scope or parameters
of the topic and require students to apply concepts learned.
• Develop reading comprehension skills.
• Expose students to various types of learning materials, and different
ways of presenting a topic. With proper guidance from the teacher, the
latter can help develop the students’ critical reading skills.
• Foster active learning, as students must look for answers to the
questions posed by reading a variety of resources.
• Develop the higher order thinking skills of analysis and synthesis
through the Big Question, which requires them to integrate what they
have learned from the Web resources.
• Develop creativity by having students synthesize information using
various formats, such as reports, skits, posters and collages.
• Represents an efficient but effective way of introducing curricular
topics that are related.
• Promote authentic learning by giving students learning tasks involving
real-life problems or issues. Examples are suggesting solutions to
reduce pollution in the local community, advocating biodiversity
conservation, and documenting local history and culture.
• Develop research skills, such as how to locate relevant information,
take down notes, and consult various sources.
• Teach students how to work with various types of learning resources,
including primary sources online and offline. Primary sources contain
“raw” information or information that is not packaged for instructional
purposes. (Grabe and Grabe, 2000, p. 135) Examples of primary sources of
information are interviews with experts and archival documents.
According to Grabe and Grabe (2000), working with primary sources “is a
constant requirement for professionals in any field and for any citizen
who chooses to take an active role in community decision-making” (p.
• Develop oral communication skills as students interview local experts
and work with group mates, as well as written communication skills
through the production of texts (e.g., reports, proposals, illustrated
stories) that articulate what they have learned.
• Promote collaborative and cooperative learning as students must work
in groups in which each member has a specific role to play and there is
complementation rather than duplication of roles.
• Develop higher order thinking skills, as students must analyze,
synthesize and evaluate information collected from a variety of
resources in order to produce a knowledge product, such as a term paper,
multimedia presentation or website.
• Demonstrate to students the real-life applications of concepts learned
in the classroom. For example, a WebQuest on Roman Catholic churches
helps students appreciate the application of Geometry in architecture.
This WebQuest also integrates learning competencies in Mathematics and
Social Studies, as students study the history of the Roman Catholic
churches as well as identify geometric figures and principles in the
churches’ architecture. Similarly, the WebQuest on the structure of
bridges helps students discover and appreciate the real-life
applications of concepts in Physics.
• Foster integration across the curriculum, as the task and process
require students to apply knowledge and skills from different subject
areas. For example, to produce a report on the conservation of lake
biodiversity, students must apply concepts learned in Biology as well as
reading and writing skills taught in English.
• Initiate students into a community of practice as they take on the
roles of professionals/experts in various fields (e.g., historian,
journalist, anthropologist) and seek answers to questions from the
perspective of these experts. This approach subscribes to
cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT), which holds that learning is
not just a process of mastering knowledge and skills, but also a process
of becoming an active and full participant (from being a mere observer
and/or peripheral participant) in a community of practice.
Moorman & Zimmerman, undated)
• Help structure learning in a way that capitalizes on what Vygotsky
called the zone of proximal development, or the gap between what
students can do on their own and what they can do with the help of
adults (teachers, experts) and/or more capable peers. The zone of
proximal development is a key concept in “the general law of cultural
development,” which stipulates that learning takes place first on the
social level, through interaction with other people, and then at the
psychological level, when the child internalizes that which is learned.
(The Virtual Fifth Dimension Clearinghouse and Propagation Center,
• What’s in the Collection
• Why Teach With the Web?
• How to Make the Most of Online Treasure Hunts and WebQuests