Fandom is not a new phenomenon, however with the coming of the digital age it has radically changed. Previously if you wanted to get together with some fellow fans, you couldn’t just Google the location of the nearest convention. The same if you wanted to write something to share with fellow fans you had to know which “fanzine” to send it to for publishing. Now, reaching out to fellow fans is much easier.
Unlike the individual fan, whose peer group or colleagues may coincidentally include like-minded film lovers, organised fandom involves fans specifically seeking out those who share their tastes. Thereby becoming involved in a range of social, cultural, and media activities that take this shared fandom as their starting point. Fandom can involve participating in online discussions, posting to sites, joining clubs or groups or producing one’s own fan magazine or “fanzine.” Being part of organised fandom – whether for a certain film or star – is, first and foremost, linked to values of participation and production.
Fandom’s participatory culture is always shaped through input from other fans and motivated, at least partially, by a desire for further interaction with a larger social and cultural community. This participatory culture gives those involved a collective experience. Part of this experience is that those with more knowledge can pass it on to those with less knowledge, allowing the group to learn from and with each other.
So knowing the above is it possible for primary school teachers to involve students in fandom? I have seen a teacher set her Year 3 classroom up ‘Harry Potter’ style. This teacher ‘sorted’ the students giving each table a house group from Harry Potter and had them focus on the qualities they represented. She also changed the current reading strategies from ‘chunky monkey’ and ‘lips the fish,’ which she felt were too childish by using Harry Potter icons. This engaged the students with reading and made the reading strategies ‘cool’ because students could relate to them. The students in this class were definitely involved and participating, using and producing Harry Potter material in the classroom. So is this fandom in the primary school setting or just bringing popular culture into the classroom?
I have seen another teacher set up a class reading blog. All the reading activities and questions to do with their class novel got posted to the blog. Students were able to make comments about the reading and share them with the class. This teacher found that some students really engaged in some interesting and in depth conversations about what it was they were reading. The blog stimulated conversations and students were sharing knowledge, information and insights. As the blog began to take on a life of its own and the students were in control of the conversations and comments, could this be viewed as fandom in the primary classroom?
Lastly I have seen a teacher-librarian begin a Minecraft club. Students could bring their own devices and sit with each other after school learning from each other. Students would bring their Minecraft books to share new information and cheat codes with other like-minded individuals. The students/club were all participating together and involved in producing and building on the Minecraft game. Although fandom in the primary school setting may be more limited than what the older high school students can do, I do believe it can be used in the primary setting. I believe fandom is an important component of social understanding and communication and those teachers willing to embrace it see the benefits and engagement it brings to their students.