Fight the Dragons: Using Online Discussion to Promote Critical Literacy in Teacher Education

Jun. 25, 2009

Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(2), p. 95-116. (2009).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Today’s children are bombarded by a range of media, and it is the responsibility of teachers to equip students to engage critically. Just as teachers are responsible to teach critical literacy, teacher educators must help empower teachers to become more critically literate.

This paper explores the role of online discussion in the ways it fosters critical literacy by analyzing the online discourse of the teachers in an online literature course.

Setting and Participants

During the 2006-2007 academic year, the author taught the graduate-level children’s literature course, entitled “Critical Issues in Literature for Children and Adolescents”, at a small, rural, public college in New England.

The 13 participants, five men and eight women, were mostly in-service teachers in K-12 settings throughout the area. All of the teachers were white, although several worked in culturally diverse classrooms.

The teachers and the author created and sustained multimodal networks, allowing more dynamic and interactive discussions, in addition to a space for shyer students to have their voices heard. Perhaps most importantly, the online context provided more freedom for highly critical discourse.


Online learning coupled with critical literacy invites teachers, teacher educators, and students to connect their media-rich everyday lives to the print-dominant texts of school learning. In doing so, we may negotiate fuller meanings for all texts in terms of the possible identities, relationships, and values promoted within the literacy experience.

Updated: Feb. 21, 2010