2003 Conference Proceedings

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USING WEBQUESTS WITH STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

Presenters
Dr. Dan Ezell
University of Central Florida
1519 Clearlake Road
Cocoa, Florida 32922
Phone: (321) 632-1111 ext. 65574
Fax: (321) 631- 7484
Email: dezell@mail.ucf.edu

Dr. Colleen Klein
University of Central Florida
1519 Clearlake Road
Cocoa, Florida 32922
Phone: (321) 632-1111 ext. 65595
Fax: (321) 631- 7484
Email: cklein@mail.ucf.edu

Dr. Rebecca Hines
University of Central Florida
1519 Clearlake Road
Cocoa, Florida 32922
Phone: (321) 632-1111 ext. 65575
Fax: (321) 632-1111 ext. 65539
Email: rhines@mail.ucf.edu

K. Sarah Hall
California State University of Northridge
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, California 91330

Many teachers are using project-based and web-supported learning in their instruction of students with disabilities. Project-based and web-supported learning can provide an ideal way to incorporate hands-on, visual activities which are noted to enhance the learning of students with disabilities. One popular tool that many general education teachers are using for students to learn on the Internet is WebQuest. Where do students with disabilities fit into this new model of learning on the Internet? If special factors are considered, WebQuests and other types of web-supported learning activities can effectively be used with students with disabilities. These simple, yet important considerations can increase the probability of students with disabilities experiencing success.

WebQuest was first developed by Bernie Dodge in 1995 and has since been widely used by educators throughout the world. WebQuest is defined by Dodge (1995) as: an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web. WebQuests are designed to use learners' time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Dodge (2001) identifies five general principles for creating WebQuests: finding quality websites, effectively organizing the students and resources, engaging learners in challenging tasks, using all of the multi-media elements of the Internet (ePals, conversations, graphics), and scaffolding high expectations. These general principles can help distinguish a well-developed WebQuest from just a worksheet with websites. In addition, Dodge (2002) describes five steps for designing a WebQuest:

  1. Select an appropriate WebQuest topic
  2. Select an appropriate design for the topic
  3. Describe how to evaluate the learners
  4. Design the process by finding resources
  5. Refine the WebQuest template

WebQuests can be developed for various subject areas at the elementary and secondary level. A matrix of examples of WebQuests in a variety of subject areas and grade levels can be found at http://edweb.sdsu.edu/webquest/matrix.html. These WebQuests can be modified and tailored to specific curricular objectives and student needs.

Although traditional WebQuests can be used for all students and involves active participation, which by design is beneficial to students with disabilities, there are some crucial additional elements that need to be available for students with special needs. These crucial accommodations involve the webpage design format, the mode of introduction of the WebQuest, and the student input/output format.

Modifying the designs of the various web pages for a WebQuest can be a critical factor in meeting specific learning objectives for students with disabilities. Hines and Hall (2000) outline various web page modifications that may be necessary for individual students who have disabilities. They suggest a variety of ways to customize web pages for students with disabilities which include keeping backgrounds simple, using a consistent page layout, designing large buttons, and increasing the readability of items by leaving plenty of white space. It is extremely important that websites are carefully selected that include as little extraneous information as possible. Words within the WebQuest may need to be hyperlinked to simplified definitions to help students comprehend some of the terms used within the text.

It is important when introducing the WebQuest to students with disabilities the teacher first model the WebQuest process, detailing his/her expectations for the students. The teacher may need to use the "think aloud" process so students can hear out loud the thinking process of the teacher as he/she guides the students through the WebQuest example. It is possible that additional practice time may be needed by some students at this time to familiarize them with the process. Some students may need a peer tutor or peer buddy throughout the WebQuest experience. When necessary, the teacher may need to collaborate with the student on a one-to-one basis. Careful attention should be made to make sure instructions are clear and concise. Steps to be taken throughout the WebQuest should be clearly identified.

The teacher may need to modify the format of the student's input. Templates should be designed to the individual level of the student. For students with lower cognitive abilities, the template may need to have more prompts and require less input from the student. Essential learning activities may need to be repeated in a variety of ways to reinforce the concept. Throughout the entire WebQuest experience, it is important to check for student understanding and to monitor and adjust accordingly. If difficulties are incurred, it may be necessary to break down the WebQuest tasks into stages and/or phases and adjust time elements as needed.

Differentiated student outcomes (terminal objectives) may also be needed depending on individual student abilities. When grading students with disabilities, a modified rubric may need to be designed to document the individual objectives. When structuring the terminal objective, the student's ability should be the determining factor. It is appropriate for objectives to vary among students as long as the overall output required of each student matches the terminal objective of the WebQuest.

Overall, WebQuests are becoming popular tools for teachers to use to enhance learning on the Internet. Students with disabilities should not be left out of this motivational and effective learning process. While it is important to make necessary accommodations, it is also equally important not to underestimate the ability of children with disabilities. If students with disabilities are not challenged and there is no risk involved in the process, at the completion of the WebQuest experience, they will not feel successful and no new learning will have taken place. With a few appropriate accommodations, WebQuests and other types of web-supported learning activities can provide the appropriate challenge for students with disabilities and prove to be an effective instructional tool.

References:

Dodge, B. J. (2002). The WebQuest design process. Retrieved September 15, 2002, from San Diego State University, Educational Technology Department Web site: http://webquest.sdsu.edu/designsteps/index.html

Dodge, B.J. (2001). FOCUS: Five rules for writing a great WebQuest. Learning & Leading with Technology Retrieved August 19, 2002, from http://www.iste.org/L&L/28/8/

Dodge, B. J. (1995) Some thoughts about WebQuests. Retrieved July 22, 2002, from http://edWeb.sdsu.edu/courses/edtec596/about_Webquests.html.

Hines, R. A., & Hall, K. S. (2000). Assistive Technology. Journal of special Education Technology, 15(4), 37-39.


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