Fandom Is Good for You: The Educational Implications of Fan Engagement

Now that this semester of grad school has ended, I finally have time to write a post! It just so happens to be our last post before our holiday break, too, which tells you a bit about the craziness of my schedule…. You see, I’m a PhD student studying Learning Sciences, which is all about researching how people learn and how we can use those findings to reform the educational system. Trying to balance my online fandom life with my grad school life has been an ongoing struggle, but surprisingly, one of the things I’ve learned in my program is that many researchers in and around this field study the educational implications of fandom. Well, now I’m here to cross over between my offline and online life by sharing some of that work with you, as well as some findings from my own research!

It may come as no surprise to you that fans learn a great deal from engaging in fandom, whether they’re writing fanfics, composing meta, creating fanart, making cosplays, or heck, even writing essays from a critical lens like on this blog! But fandom still tends to be viewed dismissively by mainstream culture, and even we fans sometimes devalue our engagement as a mere “hobby”. Modern learning theorists now acknowledge the importance of learning outside of school, and are calling for in-school learning to be more like the interest- and peer-driven realm of outside-of-school learning, including hobbies like fandom. There are so many ways that fan engagement is related to the kinds of subjects people learn in school and to skills that are generally useful in life. And better yet, it’s in a context that people really care about, rather than the decontextualized content conventionally presented in schools, which can seem random and unconnected to students’ lives.

So, this fandom thing you’re doing right now? It’s totally legitimate, important, and socially responsible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!


Let Syng-sensei educate you!

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Throwback Thursdays: The Phantom Tollbooth

PhantomtollboothToday’s throwback comes from way way back—1961, to be exact. The Phantom Tollbooth is an acclaimed children’s book by Norton Juster, and I only vaguely remember reading it when I was a kid. But I do remember that I liked it. I think it’s possible I was in kindergarten? I know that my teacher at the time had a bunch of books in a box in the classroom, and I picked things to read based on how cool the cover was. On The Phantom Tollbooth‘s cover there’s generally a boy and a large dog, and though I’m a cat person till I die, the dog made the greatest impression on tiny me. For a while there all I really wanted a giant watchdog named Tock who would talk to me. The rest of the story seemed to be just a fantastical adventure, and it wasn’t until rereading it recently that I realized there was more to it than “boy goes on adventure”.

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Magical Mondays: When Magical Education Is Lacking Part 2

It is no secret that I think Hogwarts is a place that doesn’t care about its students’ safety, and that its environment is morally reprehensible—Hogwarts has slaves, after all. But what about the curriculum? At the very least I should be able to say that Hogwarts provides a kickass education. After all, Hogwarts is the best magic school around, or so we’re told.

It's a castle! It has to be an awesome school if it's also a castle!

It’s a castle! It has to be an awesome school if it’s also a castle!

Well, about that… Hogwarts education is… lacking. Sure, it might be a great place to go to if you want to learn how to do magic, but not so much about anything else.

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