Internet Inquiry Projects
Many times in our classrooms we create WebQuests to have students explore online resources. WebQuests typically contain an introduction, task, process, evaluation, and conclusion. WebQuests play a vital role in the classroom by providing students with a scripted, guided examination of online resources in a topic. As students expand beyond the WebQuest, the next step is to engage in an Internet Inquiry Project.
Internet Inquiry Project
The Internet Inquiry Project is an online research project that helps students develop the important digital knowledge and skills needed as they build their web literacies. Internet Inquiry Projects are student interest driven, and are more authentic as a learning activity than traditional WebQuests. Internet Inquiry Projects also align well with Project Based Learning (PBL) initiatives. For more guidance about Internet Inquiry Projects, please review Reading the Web by Elizabeth Dobler and Maya Eagleton. This work draws on the Internet Workshop model and facilitates online reading comprehension.
This process involves the following five phases:
- Students collaboratively (with the instructor) identify an area of interest and co-construct a driving question to guide inquiry.
- Students engage in online collaborative inquiry as they search and sift through online texts using digital tools to address their focus of inquiry.
- Students critically evaluate online information by considering the credibility (truthfulness) and validity (usefulness) of the information obtained.
- Students synthesize what they have learned during their online inquiry by actively curating and synthesizing information across multiple, multimodal sources.
- Student engage in online content construction by synthesizing what they have learned and selecting the best digital text or tool before sharing this answer.
Please note that each of these phases offers its own challenges and may provide opportunities to slow down and focus, or revisit some of these phases over the school year. As an example, critical evaluation of online information is a perennial problem that I addressed in my dissertation. One takeaway from this work was a focus on identifying and evaluating markers of credibility and relevance in online texts. Another takeaway was that K-12 students don’t understand “credibility” and “relevance”…but they do understand words like “truthful” and “useful.” An entire program of study could be spent focusing on critical, media and information literacies.
Planning & implementation
There are many variations as the project is student interest driven, and may last any amount of time. The design, focus, and length of the Internet Inquiry Project should be determined by your student learning objectives, as well as your own technological, pedagogical, and content area knowledge (TPACK) and objectives. This work should also be compiled in a manner that is appropriate and accessible for your students and their grade level. It should also be noted that Internet Inquiry Projects are not only appropriate but also vital for use in classrooms from Pre-K up through higher ed. It is the responsibility of educators in all grades and content areas to modify as needed for learners.
As I guide students in developing and facilitating Internet Inquiry Projects in their classroom, I loosely follow the PBL process to guide instruction. This also draws on tenets from Understanding by Design (UbD) as you begin with the end in mind and think about where you would like to bring students by the end of the project.
You can use this Unit Project Planning Workbook I’ve compiled to help you guide and reflect on instruction. After you’ve developed, revised, and tested this unit over time, move your materials over to this Unit Plan Template for the final version. You should make a copy of these two Google Docs and save them in your own files. If you have suggestions or changes for these templates, please let me know so I can improve them.
Make this happen
There are a variety of ways to make Internet Inquiry Projects happen in your classroom. Once again, this model is appropriate, and very much needed, from Pre-K up through higher ed. These learning activities and assessments are supercharged through the use of digital texts and tools, while building the web literacies of you and your students. As you become more familiar with Internet Inquiry Projects, you’ll find that you regularly use the web for teaching and learning every day.