Teacher Inquiry

Literacy Tools in the Classroom

Literacy Tools in the Classroom: Teaching Through Critical Inquiry, Grades 5–12

Excerpt from chapter:

“In her fall 2008 College Writing course for 12th graders at a high school located in suburban Minneapolis, Elizabeth Boeser was not satisfied with her students’ engagement in writing essays. This led her to develop an online role-play for her classes around the topic of the school’s Internet policies. The students were agitated that administrators in a neighboring high school suspended students for violating athletic rules governing alcohol use based on Facebook photos. The students were also upset about the fact that in conducting research on certain topics in their own school, for example, gun control, they would find that certain sites such as that of the National Rifle Association would be blocked.


To prepare for this role-play, Elizabeth had students read the school’s current Internet policies regarding rationales for blocking certain sites, which the students found to be quite vague. She assigned roles representing a range of competing pro–con perspectives on these issues, including those of administrators, teachers, students, parents, librarians, businesspeople, school board members, and technology coordinators. Students created avatars and posted their arguments using a Ning social networking site, a digital literacy tool similar to Facebook or MySpace that allows students to create profiles and to participate in a discussion forum. Students debated the issue as to whether sites should be blocked in their school, as well as whether administrators have the right to access their Facebook pages.


In creating online roles, students often assumed positions contrary to their own beliefs, and subsequently considered alternative arguments for blocking or not blocking sites.”

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