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Creating Web-based Activities

What's the best way to provide a list of links for my students?

What tools are needed to create a web page?

What are the different ways to format activities?

man at computer with printoutsThere are many ways to present web-based activities for your students. Sometimes you simply want to provide information resources for students. In other cases, you want to create a rich learning environment that including activities, resources, and assessment.

Explore the Blue Web'n website. Notice how their websites are organized into categories. Consider how each might be used by teachers and students.

Use this page to explore the possibilities.


Information: Hot Lists and Pathfinders

Hot lists and pathfinders provide links to websites that can be used in activities. They may be based on topics, themes, events, people, places, things, or ideas. Authors, illustrators, or books can also be the focus of a hotlist.

Formats

A hot list provides the links needed to complete an activity. It may simply contain URLs or it may include a complete citation. You'll want to provide a title and overview for the project.

Other names for these types of collections include scrapbooks, explorers, and webographies. Scrapbooks generally contain websites in categories such as photographs, maps, audio clips, videos, virtual field trips, museums, and libraries.

A pathfinder is similar to a hotlist, however pathfinders often contain additional information such as search strategies, leading questions, and other resources such as books and videos.

Subject guides and thematic resources are other terms used to describe resources that students can use for answering questions and helping with research.

Pros and Cons

Pros. Hot lists are nice because they are easy to revise and can be used in many ways. They can also provide a great starting point for students.

Cons. Students can become overwhelmed by long lists of websites. It's important that students have guidance in how to use the links provided.

Elements

Consider including the following information:

Title of Website. What's the name of the page and name of the website? The title will appear in the title bar above the page in your browser. It's also nice to include the sponsor of the website. For example, is this page sponsored by a particular museum, library, school, project, or company?

Web Address. Some people like to create a hot link on the title so the URL doesn't show on the page. Others like to include the web address. The advantage of showing the address is that users can quickly see the sponsor and location of the website.

Annotation. When possible, include a meaningful description of the website. This might include a description of the contents including the text, visuals, and other elements. A list of topics is useful. Also, discuss anything that's special about the page. For example, does it contain particularly useful photographs or drawings. If the link is intended for a particular activity, specific directions or questions might be included.

Other Information. Reading level, amount of illustrations, and a quality rating are other things that could be included. They may also include other resources, activity ideas, and vocabulary.

Examples

42explore
http://42explore.com

Pathfinders, Subject Guides, and Thematic Resources
http://www.eduscapes.com/earth/path1.html

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Learning: Web Worksheets, Tutorials, & WebQuests

An inquiry-based approach to learning, this approach focuses on higher-level thinking types of activities. The projects have clear goals, specific activities and resources, guidance, and matching assessments.

Learning activities often begin with a quality hotlist or pathfinder that provides the foundation of resources for a web-based activity. The key to information inquiry is involving students in meaningful and engaging activities. To do this, provide choices and flexibility in your activities. Rather than just asking questions that involve low-level facts, get students involved with generating questions, synthesizing ideas, and formulating plans

Formats

A Web Worksheet is generally contains an assignment, resources, and evaluation. In some cases, a version is created in Microsoft Word so that students can write in the word processor or print the activity. Sometimes these pages contain hunts known as scavenger hunts, treasure hunts, or e-hunts. These hunts ask students to use a few quality websites to locate specific pieces of information. They generally have a culminating activity that brings all these facts together. Samplers are worksheets that provide an interesting variety of links and ask students to discuss their ideas, perspectives, or ideas related to the information. Rather than replacing classroom instruction, web worksheets are intended to provide students a chance to actively explore ideas presented in class.

A Web Tutorial provides new information, examples, non-examples, and instruction along with practice and activities. In some cases, tutorials can replace face-to-face classroom instruction. Or, they can provide supplemental instruction for a special needs child or a student who might benefit from an alternative approach.

A WebQuest is a challenging, inquiry-based approach to learning that immerses students in a meaningful project. Students are provided with an introduction, background information, scenario, problem, and/or challenging task. Then, they are given a variety of websites and other resources to help them gain multiple perspectives, alternative approaches, and information needed to delve into the issue. Students are guided through an engaging process that culminates in an activity that demonstrates their understanding of the content.

Many teachers develop their own style for web-based activities or work from other models such as the Big 6 or Research Modules.

Pros and Cons

Pros. These types of activities are a great way to ensure that students are reading and comprehending web-based resources. They can also immerse students in real-world issues using primary source materials.

Cons. These activities take time and creativity to plan. Be sure to carefully match standards and activities with specific assessments to ensure that students are reaching their learning goals. Web-based activities can be time consuming and students can often waste time unless they have good guidance through the websites and materials.

Elements

Web worksheets contain some of the following elements:

WebQuests contain some of the following elements:

Examples

Body Systems WebLesson
http://www.asd.wednet.edu/pioneer/barnard/lessons/bodysys/bswl.htm
Contains instructions, information, questions, and links

Matrix of WebQuest Examples
http://webquest.org/matrix3.php
Lists of WebQuests by subject areas and grade levels.

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Tips for Web-based Activities

Although you may find a particular way that you prefer to organize instructional materials, keep in mind that students are individuals and may have different learning needs.

Multiple Intelligences

Are your students visual learners? If so, consider how you might incorporate photographs, clipart, or graphs into your projects. If you have lots of kinesthetic learners, consider interactive websites that ask students to point, click, and make choices. Think about the experiences you can provide online that are difficult in face-to-face teaching.

Reading Levels

Use web-based resources as a way to provide materials at different reading levels. Consider websites slightly below, at, and above grade level. Also consider shorter and longer texts. Look for resources that read pages aloud or provide other types of assistance such as glossaries or visual cues.

Alternative Organizations

Think about providing materials in a couple different formats. For example, you might provide a list of resources as well as a concept map providing a visual overview of the topic and categories.

Power of Paper

In many cases, it's helpful to have print materials in addition to the web-based materials. Students may take notes on the computer, but they may also computer print-based worksheets or paper checklists.

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Web Development Tools

Productivity Tool Software

You don't need to learn a special software tool to create your own web page. Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Inspiration are just a few examples of tools that can be used to design simple web pages. Consider building web worksheets in Word that can be downloaded and completed by students. They can then print the completed activity or send them as attachments.

These materials can be uploaded to a web server and shared with the world. Or, they can be saved on an intranet, local server, or hard drive. If a shared area is not possible, consider saving materials on disk or CD.

Web Design Tools

Microsoft Frontpage and Macromedia Dreamweaver are two popular web development tools. Check Web Development Tools for more ideas and information.

Online Services

Many online services provide tools and web space for creating simple and complex web pages.

Bookmarking Services. These services allow you to save your bookmarks online so they can be shared with others. Some services include Yahoo Bookmarks, BackFlip, and iKeepBookmarks. Google also maintains a list of bookmark managers.

Web Page Services. Geocities and Google Pages is just two of many free, online services for building web pages. Check Web Site Hosting for a long list of free and inexpensive services.

Educational Services. Some educational projects provide web tools and free space. For example, Filamentality provides tools for creating hotlists, scrapbooks, hunts, samplers, and webquests. Check Web Page Utilities for a master list and links.

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Create An Activity

Evaluate a hotlist, pathfinder, web worksheet, web tutorial, or WebQuest. What are the characteristics of a good project?

Create a hotlist, pathfinder, web worksheet, web tutorial, or WebQuest.


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