Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Webquests and AT

Back when I worked at Baker Victory Services (as a classroom aide), we used webquests a couple of times with our students.  We had third graders do a short webquest on Charlotte's Web which we were reading together at the time.  We set it up as a treasure hunt of sorts.  "Go to this page and find the name of the author and the title of one other book he wrote," that kind of thing.  Most of our kids didn't have access to computers at home and weren't very comfortable with computers so it was a good way to slowly introduce them to Internet research.  They got experience with things like clicking on links, moving from one page to another, finding information on a page, but there were enough parameters that it wasn't too overwhelming.  The webquest was a way of holding their hands a bit and guiding them along rather than just saying, "Here's the Internet, find this information, go!"  I think webquests would work well for students with various special needs for kind of the same reason.  They're pretty adabtable.  It would be easy to create a webquest that presents information in different ways - text, images, charts and tables, videos - and it wouldn't be too hard to give students slightly different webquests depending on how much information they can handle at one time.  I think they're also a fun way of doing research, something that can be pretty boring even for the best, most focused students.

As for the webquest we did for class, I thought the information was really interesting.  I sometimes found the information a little confusing though and I wasn't always sure what exactly to document in the notes.  The high number of broken links did make it harder and a little frustrating at times.  I was generally able to hit Google and find what looked to be similar information to what might have been in the link, but since I didn't create the webquest, I wasn't sure if the information matched completely or not.  Obviously, when creating a webquest or re-using a webquest, I'd check for broken links.  Even knowing there were going to be broken links and knowing how to get around them, I found it annoying when I ran into them.  For a younger student, especially one with special needs, that could be enough to throw them off the assignment completely.

I don't really know much about AAC and AT so I thought that reading was really interesting.  The things that technology can do now are mind-boggling.  Machines that can read someone's eye movements and tell what letters or symbols they're looking at?  That sounds like something out of a crazy sci-fi movie.  It is good to know, as a special education teacher, that there's almost assuredly an answer to every child's needs out there if you know where to look and you know where to find equipment and funding.  I was especially interested in all the portable devices that involve pictures and symbols to help students with speaking difficulties express themselves.  I'm very curious about students with autism and I could definitely see how those things would be useful with kids on certain parts of the spectrum.  There was one device I found during the webquest that the child actually wears around his waist and I thought that was so cool.  Rather than being locked into classroom use, something like that could be used for things outside of the classroom as well, things like specials, meals, and field trips.  I'm definitely looking forward to reading more about this kind of technology.

1 comment:

  1. I think your idea of thinking of webquests as "treasure hunts" is right on track. I agree! You seemed to find a lot of useful tools on your quest and already have ideas on how you might incorporate them with students (e.g., Autism). Hopefully these will come in handy some day as you stash them away in your resource "folder".