To me, a webquest isn’t just about learning the material that is found when completing an assignment, it is also an excellent way to teach students how to look for reputable, relevant information. I have been thinking about the work I have students do in my class Integrated Pest Management, and I think a webquest would be exactly right. A large part of the course is learning to identify and manage plant problems, but I think it is more important for them to learn how to accurately diagnose a problem, then find information regarding that diagnosis. There is always something new to learn about plant diseases, insects and other disorders, so teaching students facts now that they may not need until some unknown future date, doesn’t seem to be the best education.
When looking around Zunal, I found a webquest called Biological Pest Control. It is an interesting way to teach students that topic, but is too specific for what I would like to do in my class. Instead, I would like students to think about a site or a group of plants they manage, and begin to develop a management ‘toolbox’ that deals specifically with pathogens, insects and abiotic disorders commonly encountered with those plants. I would start by pointing students towards sites such as The American Phytopathological Society, UC Integrated Pest Management, NCSU Turf Disease Identification and OMFRA Broad-Leaf Tree Disorders. These sites are broad in perspective, and would provide students a place to begin discovering which insects, diseases and disorders to include in their assignment. Additionally, they provide information about other areas of integrated pest management, reinforcing lessons from earlier in the term.
In order to complete this webquest, students would need a thorough introduction to these other areas of integrated pest management, which would occur before the webquest is assigned. Throughout the duration of the webquest, I would review these topics as a way of keeping them in students’ minds. Other resources such as pictures, tools required for diagnosis, record keeping forms, etc. are items the students would be expected to discover or create during the course of the webquest itself.
I see this as a powerful tool for students to learn industry-related content, but more importantly, to learn life-long skills such as research, critical thinking and synthesis of information that will make them good horticulturists and site managers into the future.