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Report from Middle Earth: Using Blogs to Bring Fanfiction into the Language Classroom

This presentation builds upon work in media and fandom studies to explore the use of fanfiction as a pedagogical tool in a technology-enhanced university foreign language class. This fandom task-based project was designed to bridge the language and literature divide in language teaching (Freadman, 1998; Reyes-Torres, Villacañas-de-Castro & Soler-Pardo, 2014) and to address criticism that task-based teaching often does not account for the more creative use of language (Cook, 2000), especially as seen in online contexts such as online gaming communities or in online media fandoms. The question remains as to whether tasks such as those found in online fan communities can be incorporated into an actual formal classroom setting to serve the language learning needs of the students.

Accordingly, this study reports on the implementation of a blog-based collaborative fanfiction writing project, The Blogging Hobbit, modeled on blog-based role-play tasks found in communal fandom blogs in a literature and creative writing course required for pre-service secondary school English teachers at a Swedish university. Participants were 55 students enrolled in the course organized into 12 groups; members of each group were responsible for voicing a single character from Tolkien’s The Hobbit in a group blog-based collaborative role-play of a missing moment from the story.

Data collected to analyze the efficacy of this type of task for language learning and language awareness included the completed blog-based stories generated by each group, reflective essays in which students identifies specific linguistic and stylistic choices made in their writing, and notes from group presentations of their choices and experience during the project.

Findings included the following: role-play collaborative fanfiction did facilitate students’ awareness of linguistic style and language choice among nearly all students; the collaborative nature of the task served to scaffold the storytelling of certain learners who would have struggled to complete such a task independently; most groups needed to develop their own technology-based work-arounds to deal with recalcitrant or unfamiliar technology tools (i.e. the blogging platform) to facilitate collaboration and cohesive storytelling. Taken together, these results suggest that collaborative fanfiction tasks such as this one can be successful if structured carefully to take into account the language level of the learners, that a subtask that asks learners to reflect on language choice can augment language awareness, and that the technology selected for such a task better reflect the current technology practices of the students.

Cook, G. (2000). Language play, language learning. Oxford; Oxford University Press.

Freadman, A. (1998). Models of genre for language teaching. South Central Review 15(1), 19-39.

Reyes-Torres, A., Villacañas-de-Castro, L.S., Soler-Pardo, B. (2014). Thinking through Children’s Literature in the Classroom. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars.


Shannon Sauro    
Culture, Languages & Media
Malmö University

Shannon Sauro is an associate professor in the Department of Culture, Languages and Media at Malmö University and an avid fandom podcaster. Her areas of research specialization include computer-mediated second language acquisition and the intersection of online media fandoms and language teaching and learning.

Björn Sundmark    
Culture, Languages & Media
Malmö University

Björn Sundmark is an associate professor in the department of Culture, Languages and Media at Malmö University. His research interests include children's literature, fairy tales, popular culture. He is currently research editor of Barnboken, an online children’s literature journal published by the Swedish Institute of Children’s Books


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