Project-based Learning, I-Search, WebQuests and Concept Mapping

Please find below an outline of the course and my reflection on the various topics covered throughout the 12 weeks.

Project-Based Learning

PBL Online defines project based learning as "a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning essential knowledge and life-enhancing skills through an extended, student-influenced inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks."

The Project Based Learning site delivers a very in-depth overview of what project based learning is and provides many resource examples of wonderful project based projects found at their PBL - Online-Collaboratory and Project Library.Requires registration but is free.

So what exactly is Project Based Learning?

  • Project Based Learning is synonymous with learning in depth.
  • Project Based Learning teaches students 21st century skills as well as content.
  • Project Based Learning is generally done by groups of students working together toward a common goal.
  • Project Based Learning allows students to reflect upon their own ideas and opinions, exercise voice and choice, and make decisions that affect project outcomes and the learning process in general.

The above statements as presented form the PBL online website reflects a clear constructivist approach to learning. By providing the individuals the opportunity to engage in an environment where they are active participants not only in the process but also the planning. To draw upon their own experiences and have the project developed to answer societal issues makes the learning session much more relevant.

When I read about Project Based Learning I can't help but think of Dr. David Merril's video which compliments many of the sentiments outlined here. Dr. Merril summarizes three important things to ensure learning.

1. Demonstrate what is to be learned.
2. Give students a chance to apply what they are going to learn.
3. We need to do that in the context of real-world problems.

The WebQuest Model

“A WebQuest is a learning environment supported by extensive Internet and other resources which prompts learners to inquire and construct meaning through collaborative research, critical thinking and decision making” (Kylie Hanson).


Part of the requirement for each unit is to read assigned articles and reflect and provide commentary as it relates to your teaching
philosophy and what this course is teaching. Here are the articles assigned for this unit.

Review the Disney Learning Partnership Workshop (Month 8) on WebQuests.

David Thornburg: As more kids gain access to technology in their homes and gain access to the World Wide Web, some teachers might decide that they don't need to focus on that so much. "Well, the kids have access to this at home, so I don't need to put special emphasis on it." And the danger of that is, while it is true that many of our kids have developed tremendous technological skills, (they know how to turn the equipment on, they know how to gain access), it doesn't mean that they have the research skills or the wisdom to know how to make meaning out of the stuff that they're finding. And that's where human intervention in the form of teachers working side by side with the students becomes more important now than ever.

Dr. Thornburg Interview

How accurate do you think Thornburg is in his comments on teacher/student interactions?

Although I agree with Mr. Thornburg’s comments about having teachers and students working side by side working with computers and technology. It is this symbiotic relationship that will provide the best possible learning environment to engage students about technology and how it can be such a beneficial tool for learning. This falls completely within the framework of the constructivist style classroom where students have a say in what is going on and also to reflect on their own personal experiences working with technology and developing the skills to become independent thinks.

The one small thing I disagree with Mr. Thornburg is his statement “Well, the kids have access to this at home, so I don’t need to put special emphasis on it.” If we use this analogy with reading then there would not be a need for language arts. When students have access to books at home then why do we need to address it at school? I know this is somewhat trivialized but my point is that just because individuals have access to something I really don’t think and conscience teacher would use that as a reason to avoid teaching about that area.

McKenzie, J. (1994) Grazing the Net:Raising a Generation of Free Range Students - Part One
Mckenzie, J. (1994) Grazing the Net:Raising a Generation of Free Range Students - Part Two

  • Is the future here? If yes, how is that the case (site examples)? If not, why not?
  • What do you think about his ideas?
  • How far away or close to this idea are we at present?

After reading the article Grazing the Net: Raising a Generation of Free Range Students (1994) by Jamie MacKenzie I come away with some mixed observations. I do believe the future is here but with the speed with which technology is moving I find it very difficult for students to stay on top of things. I only have to look at the cell phone industry. Each year cell phone companies release the latest and greatest cell phone. Most recently Apple released the I-Phone 5. My question is what was wrong with version 4? Next year a new version will be released and customers will be led to believe that in order to be prepared for current technological trends then you must purchase it. Many students want to be trend setters and be the FIRST to have the new and improved gadgetry. With this attitude I feel our kids are NOT critical thinkers and consequently lack the skills to make proper choices. They see the beautiful frosted cake and assume it must taste amazing only to find out the inside is nothing but cardboard. Unfortunately our students don’t see past the surface and it is our job to ensure they develop the skills to dig and determine if the choices they make are the correct ones.

The term “infotectives” as coined by McKenzie I believe is something our students must develop as they eventually move into society to be contributing members. It is our job to provide our students the tools to become infotectives in order for them to ask the right questions. Filter out the rhetoric, and decide what the proper path to follow for answering questions. Recently I placed the term grazing into a Google search and received 24, 900,000 hits. If I add the term grazing the net my results drop to 11, 200,000. If I go further and search “grazing the net” in quotation marks I drop significantly down to 32,700. If I go even one step further and type “grazing the net” by Jamie Mckenzie I get 2,510 results. This is a simple example of filtering out unwanted search results to narrow the scope of what we are trying to find. If we as educators provide our students the tools to filter our all the non-essential material and concentrate on the specific focus then our students will be better prepared to become independent learners.

Concept Mapping

Assignment 2: Concept Mapping

Requirements for Assignment 2

  • Using the software program such as Inspiration, brainstorm with your group and create a concept map for your web-based module.
  • Choose a topic or theme for your content AND a framework for your module (project-based learning, I-Search or WebQuest.
  • Accommodation of at least 3 of the 9 multiple intelligences must be apparent in the design of the web-based lesson.
  • This assignment should not exceed a 1-page concept map and 2 pages of description, for a maximum of 3 pages, in total. The description should not exceed 500 words, excluding title page, bibliography and any appendices

Concept Map and Planning for Web-Based Learning Module


Our lesson is a WebQuest designed for grade four students ages 9-10. This WebQuest is built around a real world, authentic task which is designed to be interesting, engaging and relevant for the students. The tasks for our students will be to create a presentation promoting a destination for an online travel company. In addition, we have related our task to general curriculum outcomes specific to the age group of our students. This lesson will promote constructivist problem solving, social interaction, and scaffolding of learning. These characteristics are critical for the effective design and development of a WebQuest as well as Web-based learning (Zheng, 2008).


Our WebQuest learning experience is based on the constructivist learning theory. The learner will construct knowledge through a student-centered, process-focused, social learning experience. The WebQuest is open-ended and student-centered, yet offers a scaffolding structure to enhance the development of the student’s ability to focus and organize information towards a solution of an ill structured task. These open-ended questions are significant to the learning process as they “activate students’ prior knowledge and create a personal curiosity that inspires investigation and brings about a more robust understanding of the material” (March, 2004, pp Open-Ended Questions).

The group work implemented within our WebQuest allows an opportunity for students to work from their strengths and learn and benefit from the knowledge and experiences of their peers. It also offers the potential for increasing engagement and motivation through peer interaction and discussion. The student’s will also have an opportunity to engage in content individually which offers balance and support for students with less strength in interpersonal interactions.

Pluralized Instruction

This WebQuest incorporates pluralized, individuated instruction. There is a broad variety of learning and teaching methods employed through this quest which supports individual learning style and intelligence (Gardner, 1993). Our WebQuest integrates methods and techniques that support multiple intelligences, learning styles and learning theories.

It is often complex and integrated as to how Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence manifest in a learning environment (Bull, 2009; Hatch, 1997). However, the primary intelligences and corresponding activities are:

Verbal-Linguistic: Reading, debating, verbal, and writing activities

Logical- Mathematical: Strategizing, reasoning, planning, organizing

Visual-Spatial: Layout, content design, map locations

Interpersonal: Discussing, creating, cooperative learning, consensus building, group work

Intrapersonal: Self-reflection


Our goal is that the students will be motivated and experience deep and lasting learning that will be practical and transferable to life outside of a school environment. Our lesson includes a variety of important 21st century skills including student-centered problem-solving and collaboration. We support these skills through a constructivist approach that integrates technology in order to accommodate to multiple intelligences and learning styles. Our WebQuest is designed to facilitate growth and learning as well as providing support and guidance for the lessons and learning that naturally evolve throughout the process.

Concept Map

I - Search

Ken Macrorie, author of The I-Search Paper, describes the I-Search as a project that enables students to conduct a search to find out something they need to know for their own lives and write the story of their search (1988).

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy of higher-order thinking the I-Search process, students move from a basic knowledge level of learning to the higher levels of analyzing, synthesizing (creating), and evaluating when working with information problems. When students play an active role in the decision making process then the success for student learning is greatly enhanced.

In the paper The New ISearch, You Search, We All Learn to Research by Duncan, Lockhart, and Ham they outline five steps of the information problem-solving model where students employ with the iSearch process.

  • What Do I Want to Know?
  • Where Can I Find The Answer to my Questions?
  • How Will I Keep a Record of The Answers I Find?
  • How Should I Share What I Learned?
  • How Will I Know I Did a Good Job?

A very good companion site to this paper may be found here.

Another wonderful site that provides an online tutorial on how to implement follow an I-Search project can be found at the following website.