The Carbohydrate Quandary: Achieving Health Literacy Through an Interdisciplinary WebQuest

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    The Carbohydrate Quandary: Achieving Health Literacy Through an Interdisciplinary WebQuest Owen M. Donovan

    he emphasis that schools are placing on core subjects T and performance on standardized testing in writing and math, often comes with a reduced emphasis and time on so called extras such as health education. Under these circumstances, it is beneficial for health education professionals to maximize instructional time and to demon- strate curricular congruence between health education and the core subjects, reinforcing the importance of health in the total integrative learning processes of students.

    The purpose of The Carbohydrate Quandary Web- Quest is to address essential questions of obesity preven- tion and low-carbohydrate diets in a way that uses technology meaningfully, increases health literacy, and fosters English Language Arts competencies.

    A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web. WebQuests are designed to use learners time well, to focus on using information rather than look- ing for it, and to support learners thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

    Use of audiovisual or computer media can produce significant learning benefits compared to conventional instruction, but this is a result of design, not the medium i t ~ e l f . ~ This Web-based learning experience is designed to have students use the information on the Web rather than just gather it. According to Bangert-Drowns and Pyke, readers build high literacy by exploring alternative mean- ings to text and interpreting text structure, context, and per- ~pect ive.~ The processes in this WebQuest require that students develop personal meaning of health information and skills as they explore, synthesize, and use the ideas and text from the Web to create authentic product and performance. The authentic product and performance that culminate this WebQuest are a persuasive reportlessay accompanied by a presentation using PowerPoint to a real audience.

    To understand the procedures detailed in this article for The Carbohydrate Quandary WebQuest, it will be nec- essary to access the Web site and review its contents

    Owen M. Donovan, MSE, H/FI, CSCS, Assistant Professor crnd Coordi- nator of School Partnerships in Health; (donovano@cortland.edu), SUNY Cortland, 204 Moffett Center, SUNY Cortlattd, PO Box 2000 Cortland. NY 13045.

    while reading. The Web address for this WebQuest is: http://web.cortland.edu/donovano.

    The high school student will be able to

    1. Analyze the pros and cons of low-carbohydrate diets and the implications of healthy diets on obesity and risk for disease and premature death. (NHES I , p i I , NHES 2, p i ] ; NCTE-ELAl)

    2. Critically examine, explore, and interpret print and nonprint media sources of health-related core con- cepts. (NHES I, p i l , 2; NHES 4, p i 2 ; NCTE-ELA 3)

    3. Demonstrate skills of effective verbal and visual communication designed to promote a healthy mes- sage. (NHES 5, p i l ; NCTE-ELA 5, 6, 8)

    4. Demonstrate advocacy skills for a safe and healthy environment with special regard to nutrition, obesity prevention, and healthy diets. (NHES 7, p i 2,5,6; NCTE-ELA 12)

    Access to a computer or computers that have

    Internet capability Adobe Acrobat Reader PowerPoint Software Program Word-processing program

    Teachedstudent access to technology is a potential lim- itation to this teaching technique. If there is limited or no access to technology or if the Web site is unavailable, this teaching technique cannot be used.

    On the Instructors link from the home page of this WebQuest there are some suggestions for implementation. There are several ways that this WebQuest can be imple- mented individually or in groups. How the WebQuest is actually implemented depends on the nature, size, and needs of the class. The following material describes the

    Journal of School Health November 2005, Vol. 75, No. 9 359

  • different pages of the WebQuest and their meaning for the process and final product.

    Home Page This page contains a cartoon and the essential question

    of the WebQuest (Figure I). The cartoon acts as an ice- breaker to elicit comments and spark discussion that will draw the students into the assignment. The essential ques- tion asked is How might low-carbohydrate diets impact obesity? This question is meant to be open-ended and not answerable with a simple yes or no. Answers may range from somewhat to not at all and allow for varied complexities of interpretation.

    Introduction Page This page is intended to set up the initial problem

    posed in the WebQuest, involving a school districts pro- posed switch to only low-carbohydrate food products for school lunches and vending-machine choices. There are 2 external links on this page that are intended to build anticipation about answering the initial essential question.

    Task Page The task page outlines the end product of the students Web

    inquiry-an essaylreport accompanied by an oral presentation to the local board of education that takes a position on the adoption of low-carbohydrate diets. It is suggested that the teacher preview this page with the entire class to set the tone for the task and review the Final Rubric for the project in advance. It is important that the students know and are clear on what is expected before beginning their inquiry.

    Process Page This page begins with a reminder of the importance of

    health literacy skills in making good decisions about health products and services. This page also contains the Gateway to Health Literacy link. It is through this link that the true nucleus of the WebQuest exists. Clicking on the Gateway to Health Literacy link brings the student to the Health Literacy page (Figure2). On this page, there are 6 steps labeled step one through step six. Each step and the final task are centered on the 4 char- acteristics of a health-literate person-critical thinking, self-directed learning, effective communication, and responsible citizenship.s Each step involves an exploratory task with 1 or more external links (links to other Web sites on the Internet). The purpose of each step is to have stu- dents build knowledge and critically examine the issues surrounding not just low-carbohydrate diets but also infor- mation on maintaining a healthy weight, evaluating Web resources, and preparing an effective presentation. On the page for each step, there are Guiding Questions which are designed as conceptual scaffolds. A scaffold is a tool or guide that helps students gain a depth of understanding that would be difficult to obtain if students were to work through the problem without them.6 As students individu- ally or in groups complete each step, they are to submit their answers to the Guiding Questions. Clicking on the Guiding Questions text on each page will produce a print- able student worksheet (in Portable Document Format (PDF) format) for each set of questions.

    In open-ended, Web-based activities such as The Carbohydrate Quandary, face-to-face dialogue and in- teraction between teachers and students is critical to

    Figure 1 WebQuest Homepage

    360 Journal of School Health November 2005, Vol. 75, No. 9

  • Figure 2 Health Literacy Page

    understanding; limited opportunities for face-to-face dia- logue may be a limitation to this technique. Student an- swers to the Guiding Questions at each step will be used as a formative assessment to correct student misconcep- tions. If, for example, a teacher reviews the student work- sheets from step 3 and determines that students have misconceptions about the credibility of Web resources, the teacher can create a mini-lesson intervention to correct them.

    Step I: Students explore the genre of humor and satire and reflect on its potential uses in communication and argument.

    Step 2: Students link to various Web sites on carbohy- drates. The intent of this step is to lead students toward opportunities to discriminate between types of carbohy- drates and learn of the benefits, consequences, and recom- mended allowances of each.

    Step 3: Students link to 4 different Web-based articles on low-carbohydrate diets. Two of the articles are more reliable, and 2 are much less reliable. This step asks stu- dents to give an initial perspective on the credibility of each article. There are also external links to Web sites designed to teach students how to evaluate information on the Web. These external Web-evaluation tools serve as metacogni- tive scaffolds and seek to impact students reflection about their own thought processes and promote self-regulated learning.ht W

    Step 4: Students analyze and interpret a cartoon. The activity allows students to interpret an authors perspective on public perception of health or medical advice. Interpre- tation of this perspective will be useful as students consider their audience in their final conclusion and report.

    Step 5: Students use external links to gather information and reflect on how carbohydrates fit within the larger pic- ture of nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, and obesity prevention. The information is intended to prompt students to begin to discriminate between a weight loss diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

    Step 6: Students explore information on effective pre- sentation and PowerPoint creation. It is expected that stu- dents will apply this information to their final essayheport and presentation.

    Final Task: Brings students to a page that restates the final task to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the relationship between the task and the responsible citizenship component of health literacy.

    Once students have co