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Write for my teacher, or publish to the world?

When students participate in out-of-class learning, teachers should recognize that potential

teacher-fanficFifteen years ago, a student I never taught forever changed my perspective on how students perceive authentic teaching and learning. The circumstances of how this happened was one of the more auspicious turning points of my career, and the experience continues to challenge and inspire my thinking to this day.

My daughter Jessy, who was 11 at the time, was enamored with a phenomenon called “fan fiction.” Fan fiction is just as its name suggests: young fans of various genres of literature are encouraged to write chapters and publish work in the style of their favorite authors. On fanfiction.net, authors are able to share their writing with the world, and readers can leave comments on the work that is posted to the site. While sharing their writing with the world, users are actively learning from other aspiring writers. Notably, the site originated before MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter altered the face of online social interaction.

At the time, the Harry Potter series was all the rage, and Jessy quite literally could not get enough of it. As was the case for many young readers, J.K. Rowling simply could not pump out books fast enough to satisfy her. Having to wait an entire year to experience more of Harry’s adventures was torturous. So she got her Harry Potter fix by reading work published to fanfiction.net in the way of thousands of young authors aspiring to write in the style of J.K. Rowling. Jessy read the site voraciously, leaving thoughtful comments and feedback for many of the authors. She even developed many favorites on the site and returned frequently to check out their work.

(Next page: How are students using collaborative learning experiences outside of the classroom?)

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