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WebQuest Time Machine MTV!

Part I: A tutorial for teachers, parents, and children of all ages

By Sheri German

See also Part II

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

The World Wide Web has been a central part of many of our lives for a decade or more now. Many things about the Internet have changed dramatically during this time, but one thing hasn’t. Parents and teachers want children to participate in all the Web has to offer, but they want to keep them safe in the process. Back in 1995, Bernie Dodge and Tom March of San Diego State University thought of a way to accomplish the seemingly contradictory goals of safety and access. They created the WebQuest.

Simply put, a WebQuest is a lesson in a Web page. The idea of this lesson is not to engage in mere fact-finding, but to go on an exciting adventure or, well, a quest. The opening scenario should read like a “whodunit” and lure children into the game. For example, here is how I set the scene in the WebQuest we’ll put together in this tutorial:

Time Machine MTV


You've just been offered your dream job. You are going to be the star VJ (Video Jockey) on MTV. Your picture will be in People magazine, and you'll have lots of screaming fans. There's a catch, however. You're the host or hostess of MTV all right—for another century! You'll get out there on stage and introduce the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, or some other dude you'd rather not be caught dead listening to.

You're going to have to do a little research to pull this one off, my friends. There's got to be a piece by each of these guys that will excite your audience. Maybe if you set the stage with a little history of the musical period as well as a biography of the composer, there will be greater appreciation.

I am going to leave you hanging a minute and ask you to go to Internet and look at this example WebQuest, as well as download its files so you can reconstruct it. This article will guide you through the creation of “Time Machine MTV,” and you can see it at:


All the files you need to follow along with our tutorial are at:


You will need to decompress them before you can use them.

WebQuest Structure

If you’re finished doing that, let’s begin by examining the basic structure of the traditional WebQuest. There are six main sections: introduction, task, process, evaluation, conclusion, and credits and resources. Before even bringing content into a Web editor, it’s easiest to type out all the sections in a plain text document. (Note: if you plan to use Microsoft Word, be sure to use “save as” instead of “save” and choose “plain text” from the popup menu for file type. You don’t want Microsoft metadata messing up your html pages!)

The Introduction

We’ve looked at a sample introduction, and now you have one example of what you can do in a WebQuest. Here are some other common topics that can form the basis of a WebQuest:

The Task

After we conceive of our basic premise, it’s time to develop it in the section called the “Task.” Here we give students a better idea of the problem they will have to solve, as well as what their finished product should include. Back to our sample WebQuest! Its task reads like this:

After completing your research, each team should present an MTV show from a particular period in music history. You will choose a host, present introductory material about your time period and composer, and play some music that represents the style. Do you think there is no good classical music? Your task is to prove that this premise is wrong. There are lots of classical music pieces that make the foot tap and excite the blood.

You'll have to be creative to prove the point, though. Maybe your host can dress up in the style of the historic period your group represents. Conversely, you can present the history and biography in rap or poetry. Use your imagination and make classical music come alive.

And by the way: after you complete your research, see how many of the composers pictured on this page can you identify.

The Process

Next comes the most important section, the process. This is where you give the step-by-step guide, often in the format of numbered lists, for completing the Quest. The process should also include the timelines and deadlines students must meet, the strategies they might follow, and the role each student will take. This is also where you should list the links and Internet resources that provide the research tools for the children. Here it comes: the heart, soul, and main part of our “Time Machine MTV” WebQuest:

First divide into four different groups. Each group should select a different period of music history from the list below:

1. Baroque: 1600-1750

2. Classical: 1750-1820
3. Romantic: 1820-1910

4. Modern 1910-present


Once you have chosen a period of music and studied its history, your group needs to select a composer or two that represents it. There is a lot of exciting music from each period, and this list of Internet sites will give you composers' biographies, as well as a chance to hear their music. Put on the headphones, sit back, and enjoy the concert. And don't forget to crank up the sound!

You can go to the New York Philharmonic site for kids and listen to music in the gallery of composers. You can also click on the "Create your own gallery" link. Once there, drag composer names from the lobby area to the gallery area. Then you can visit the gallery and listen to music by each of your composers.

Here are some representative composers and their music to help you get started.

Johann Sebastian Bach 1685-1750
Toccata and Fugue in d minor for organ—listen to the organ impress itself with what it can do
http://www.sonyclassical.com/artists/hahn/site (Click to enter and then choose the "music" link)
Click on selection number one (which will play by default) Bach Partita for unaccompanied violin so sad
Antonio Vivaldi 1678-1741
Spring from the Four Seasons
George Handel 1685–1759
A selection from the Water music is in the NY Philharmonic gallery

Gioacchino Rossini 1792–1868
In the gallery find Rossini and listen to his Barber of Seville Overture don't sit down while listening to this one!
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791
Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik
Ludwig Van Beethoven 1770-1827
Symphony #5
Joseph Haydn 1732-1809
At the gallery listen to the "Miracle Symphony"
Symphony #97
Franz Schubert 1797–1828
http://www.vladimirhorowitzmusic.com/ (Choose selection number 3, the Impromptu in B-flat major)
Impromptu in B-flat majoróa beautiful prayer
http://www.nyphilkids.org/gallery/main.phtml? (Find him in the gallery)
Fantasy in C

Paul Dukas 1865–1935
The Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey Mouse, anyone?
Modest Mussorgsky 1839–1881
Scroll down to Mussorgsky and choose "Night on Bald Mountain" It's always Halloween on Bald Mountain...
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 1844–1908
Procession of the Nobles
Gustav Mahler 1860–1911
Scroll down to Mahler and listen to the Symphony #1 fourth movementñvery dramatic!
http://www.playmusic.org/string/index.html (Click on the violin link and listen to the violin concerto)
Antonin Dvorak 1841–1904
http://www.nyphilkids.org/gallery/main.phtml? (Click on Dvorak in the gallery)
New World Symphony sounds like "Jaws" to me!

Maurice Ravel 1875–1937
http://www.dsokids.com/2001/composerchart.htm (Scroll down to Ravel and listen to "Bolero")
Aaron Copland 1900–1990
Hoe Down from Rodeo a real foot tapper
Igor Stravinksy 1882–1971
http://www.nyphilkids.org/gallery/main.phtml? (Find him in the gallery)
The Rite of Spring
http://www.sonyclassical.com/artists/hahn/site/frame_top_music.html (Click on selection number 8 to hear the Stravinsky Violin Concerto)
George Gershwin 1898–1937
http://www.dsokids.com/2001/composerchart.htm (scroll down to George Gershwin and choose the first audio selection)
An American in Paris
Bela Bartok 1881–1945
http://www.nyphilkids.org/gallery/main.phtml? (Find Bartok in the gallery)
Concerto for Orchestra
Sergei Prokofiev 1891–1953
http://www.nyphilkids.org/gallery/main.phtml? (Find Prokofiev in the gallery)
Romeo and Juliet

One way you can organize your material is to use Kidspirations to develop a concept map or flow chart.

The Evaluation

Once you put that behind you, it’s time to give children a clear idea of how you’ll evaluate their work. In education circles, we use the all-important rubric. The WebQuest Web page uses a table with each objective listed on the left and the scoring criteria at the top. Take a look at our sample Quest to get a feel for the kinds of skills and output you might grade:


The Conclusion

The conclusion is another very important aspect of the WebQuest. It not only reviews what the students have learned, but it brings closure to the Quest and gives ideas for further exploration. Here is the conclusion for our “Time Machine MTV.”

You should now know quite a bit about a specific period of music history. As you can see, "classical" really is not just classical music. That is only one period of music history, though we use its name to describe all "serious" music from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.

At the end of all the groups' MTV presentations, you should also know something about the other major periods of music history. Which one do you like best? Which composer excited you most? Would you go out and buy a CD of your favorite classical composer's music?

Test out your new knowledge by playing this "Time Machine" game at DSO Kids Online. http://www.dsokids.com/games/timeline/index.html

Directions for putting WebQuest content into a Web page

Before we talk about the credits and references part of a WebQuest, we’re going to actually reconstruct the “Time Machine MTV.” We have our information, images, links, and central idea. How are we going to turn them into a Web page? If you’re new to creating Web pages, you don’t need to start from scratch. There are many templates out there for you to use. Bernie Dodge created some in 1999, and these are at the following link:


There are templates that create the WebQuest all on one page, and there are templates that distribute the sections among numerous pages. These are more complex to manipulate. When I teach my education majors at Trinity College how to create their first WebQuest, I give them an all-in-one template that I created. It uses modern Web standards and is very small in file size. This template is part of the compressed file at my site that I referenced at the beginning of this article.

Some of you may have a Web page editor such as Macromedia Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive, or Claris Home Page. If you don’t have one already, you can download the free Netscape 7.1 and use its Web editor “Composer” (no pun intended!) that comes as part of the browser package:


Assuming that most of you will opt for Composer, the directions will center on its use.

1. Launch Netscape.

2. Go to the menu and find Window>Composer.

Netscape Composer

3. Go to File>Open and navigate to your template.

4. For the tutorial, navigate to WebQuest_Start.html

5. Highlight the text “Title Goes Here” and type the title of your WebQuest.
a. For the tutorial, type the title “Time Machine MTV”

6. Highlight the “x” and insert the grade level for which you’re making the Quest.
a. For the tutorial, type 5th grade.

7. Highlight the filler text and replace it with your name and email address.
a. For the tutorial, enter your name and email address.

8. Delete the text that asks you to insert a picture.

9. Go to Insert>Image or use the Image button on your toolbar.

10. Browse for the image.
a. For the tutorial, first choose “beethoven.jpg,” then “bach.gif,” then “tchaikovsky8.jpg,” and finally “Mozart.jpg.” After inserting each image, leave the cursor where it is and insert the next one.

11. Add a description of the image next to the radio button for “Alternative Text.”
a. For the tutorial, add “Beethoven,” “Bach,” Tchaikovsky,” and “Mozart” for the appropriate images. Alternative text gives people with vision problems an idea of what’s in your image.

12. More advanced users can select the “Appearance” tab and choose a text-to-image alignment. Teachers who are new to Web page creation should just stick with the default and leave the image in a space by itself. In our case, we’re inserting four images one right after the other.

Inserting image

13. Now go to the text under the subtitle “Introduction” and delete the explanatory text. If you are creating an original WebQuest, enter your own introductory text. Do the same for “Task” and “Process.” You may want to use ordered (numbered) or unordered lists for these sections of the WebQuest. You may use your insert menu or the list icons on the toolbar.

Ordered lists

14. For this tutorial, you’ll open the document wq_text.txt. Select text with your mouse, then copy and paste the text for each section into the proper place. (Edit>Copy and then Edit>Paste for the menu method. Apple key C and Apple key V for the keyboard shortcuts.)

15. For the rubric, you will need to modify the text in each cell. Delete the text in each cell and type in your own objectives. You may not want to use all rows of the rubric. If you want to delete a row, first put your cursor anywhere in the row. Then select the last <tr> (table row tag) you see at the bottom of your Composer window. Now press your delete key. The row will disappear.
a. For the tutorial, we’ll just place some rubric text into each cell of the first row and practice deleting one row.

Deleting a row

16. Delete the text for “Conclusion” and enter your own text. Under standards, enter the area (such as math or English) and standards that the WebQuest addresses. If you live in Maryland, you can find the information you need at:
a. For the tutorial, again, select, copy, and paste the appropriate text from the wq_text.txt document.

17. Enter your credits in the “Credits” area of the page.
a. For the tutorial, select, copy, and paste the appropriate text.

Customizing Design Elements

18. You may change colors by using the toolbar. If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, you should have no problem highlighting (selecting) the text you wish to change, and using popup menus and other controls to create formatting.

Formatting text

19. Creating links: Select the text that you want to turn into a link. Click on the little chain button in the toolbar. That is a link button. Type in your link. Don’t forget to use the full http://www. Format. Just using www dot will not work. You must include the http://.
a. If the text you are selecting (such as in our process area) is a complete Web address, first copy it before you open the link dialog box. You can go to Edit>Copy, then choose Edit>Paste.

20. You can change the background color of the page if you like. Choose the menu Format>Page Colors and Background. Click the button for “Choose Custom Colors.” Choose the button for “Background.” When the color chart appears, choose a color and click “OK.” Click “OK” again.

The last part of a WebQuest, the credits and references, involves the discussion of some complicated issues such as education copyright and fair use. I will deal with these in part two of this article. I will show families and teachers how they can find images and evaluate the Web pages they will use as resources for the Quest. Part two will also deal with the common problems new WebQuest creators run into as they put together Quests. While you wait, I hope you’ll take a look at the wonderful WebQuests already available for you to play with at such sites as http://www.bestwebquests.com/ and http://www.webquest.org/.