Chelsi's Educational Musings

Module #2 – The “Aha” Moment of Authentic Learning

The question…

The new buzzword, both in curriculum theory as well as instruction principles and effective practices is “authenticity”. Given the changes which the new millennium is suggesting are critical (sorry, bad pun!) for our students to learn, what are your thoughts on the relevance and applicability of WebQuests as a medium to foster and promote authentic learning?

My thoughts…

Every teacher wants her students to experience the ‘aha’ moment – that moment when you can SEE the students fully engaging in what they are learning – because that is what makes authentic learning so powerful. I feel that WebQuests foster and promote this form of authentic learning in many ways.  Students are not simply being fed information, memorizing it, and then regurgitating it.  They are directing their own learning, analyzing what they have acquired, and actually using and making sense of this information in their own way.  They are often creating content and writing for an audience, making the students take more ownership over their work. Because the students are directing their learning and socially engaging when using a WebQuest, they are much more motivated to actively participate rather than simply being satisfied as passive learners.  I feel that the use of open-ended questioning in WebQuests, rather than answers that can be “copied and pasted”, force students to think deeply, predict, and analyze what they are learning.  Thus, they will be more inclined to use this information in the future.

I opened Module 2 this morning to discover, coincidentally, that the topic was WebQuests.  My grade six students are currently working through what Bernie Dodge    refers to as a “Longer Term WebQuest” – one that I created that takes a few weeks to complete.  The students are always very engaged when using the computers, but this WebQuest has them particularly motivated.  With our discussion question #2 in mind, I decided to ask them why THEY enjoy learning through the WebQuest.  I found it very interesting that the students touched on many of the points listed in our articles promoting the use of WebQuests to foster authentic learning.  The students themselves made statments such as, “The assignment made me want to just keep doing more (motivation),” “We get to work together on the assignment,” “I’m learning about things I’m interested in, “It’s more fun reading off of the computer and better than doing a test,” “If I don’t know a word, I can look it up on Google rather then spend five minutes trying to find my dictionary, then looking it up, (this coming from one of my ‘less motivated’ students!)”  One hit the nail on the head when actually stating, “We get to be independent.”  To me, the fact that a diverse group of twelve-year-old students can identify why WebQuests are such useful tools for fostering authentic learning is a powerful indicator of why they work so well.

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