I am not a scientist, nor particularly technologically savvy.
But as a writer, educator, and parent I can’t imagine not having the MIT Technology Review as one of my mainstay subscriptions. Each issue is rich with insightful articles about trends in science and technology as well as thoughtful, literate essays that reflect on the larger issues related to the role of technology in our society.
Plus, it just looks amazing.
The new issue does not disappoint and its special focus on youth is a must read for parents and educators.
A stand out for those of us English teachers (and former English teachers, in my case) that bemoan the lack of writing fluency of our students and rail against the rigid demands of the nonsensical curricular standards, will find inspiration by Cecilia Aragon’s article, “What I Learned from Studying Billions of Words of Online Fanfiction” published online December 2019.
Fan fiction, quite simply, is fiction created by fans of a particular fictional universe such as Middle Earth or Harry Potter’s world. Ms. Aragon and her partner, Katie Davis engaged in over 1,000 hours of field work and interviewed fan authors and read their work.
The quote that inspires me and also yields a twinge of jealousy:
“The overriding reason that authors wrote fan fiction, we found, was for the love of it. “MIT Technology Review Online, What I Learned from Studying Billions of Words of Online FanFiction, online December 27, 2019, author Cecilia Aragon.
When was the last time I could say one of my students did one of my assignments “for the love of it.”
Yet, these writers, with a median age of 15.5 are devoting hours and hours to the craft of writing-drafting, plotting, dialogue, getting feedback, changing their writing, and then more writing. “For the love of it.”
One of the research findings that is essential for educators to understand is, “distributed mentoring.” Rather than the traditional model of skilled expert providing direct feedback to a novice, with “distributed mentoring” there are multiple sources of feedback which in the aggregate provide meaningful data which can be used for improvement.
The authors continue that this sort of mentoring can be a cure for loneliness as these fanfiction communities provide social support and connection as well as provide a valuable resource for our writers.
One of the biggest challenges a teacher faces is reading and grading papers in the quantity necessary for excellent writing. For students, it can be the grim task of an adult who has the power to determine your grade and for whom you may have little personal connection. It is very difficult to express yourself creatively in the first place, it is especially so if there is no trust or if the stakes are too high.
This “distributed mentoring” provides a valuable opportunity to mitigate those challenges.
This article is a must read essay from a must-read magazine. If your library does not subscribe, please encourage them to do so.
I only wish they had a magazine dedicated directly to the high school market with shorter articles and questions for discussion that could be used in a classroom.