This reflective practice presentation builds on prior work that has looked at the use of fandom tasks (Sauro, 2014) for language learning. Such tasks include those that focus on fanfiction, defined by Jamison (2013) as "writing that continues, interrupts, reimagines, or just riffs on stories and characters other people have already written about" (p. 17). Initial investigation of fanfiction in the advanced English classroom has shown that collaborative fanfiction tasks that makes use of blog-based role-play to tell a missing moment from a story can be useful in bridging both language and literary learning (Sauro & Sundmark, in press 2016). However, although such tasks borrow from digital and linguistic practices found in online fan communities, the resulting stories do not fully reflect the linguistic or literary norms of the fanfiction in the digital wilds. This was a concern for language learners whose interest in publishing their online fanfiction was to communicate with online fans and fan communities.
The means of addressing this may lie in better integrating fan practices and fan voices in the tasks themselves and in actual classroom practice. This presentation, therefore, explores the revision and implementation of collaborative fanfiction tasks and instructions that do just that.
Building on previous blog-based fanfiction projects, the current project, A Study in Sherlock, was carried out as part of a course for students in the teacher education program at a Swedish university who were specializing in teaching English at the secondary school level. Students self-organized into small groups of 4-6 to write and publish online a collaborative mystery inspired by a Sherlock Holmes story. As part of their preparation, students were guided in the reading of several Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but were also required to read Sherlock Holmes fanfiction that had been identified by online fans as representative of the tropes and specific fan genres found in this type of fan writing. In addition, online several fanfiction writers were contacted to share writing activities they used when helping other novice fanfiction writers and these were incorporated into class instruction. Once completed, these stories were shared with online Sherlock Holmes fan communities.
Analysis of the language, content, and formatting of the 16 completed online stories as well as the reaction of fans, in particular to the six stories that were published to online fanfiction archives, revealed advantages for integrating fan practices into task design and teaching to support greater mastery of fanfiction genres in a manner more likely to reach (fan) readers and thereby link the digital wilds with the language classroom.