HPEF presents Infinitus 2010, a Harry Potter conference            TEXT  MENU

July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

"Together We Will Build and Teach": Using Social Media in the Classroom
Heather Powers

The first time I taught a college-level class on Harry Potter, I met with the anticipated resistance from my colleagues. Several of them actually asked me, “Are you allowed to teach that?” The only possible answer to that was, “I have tenure.”

I had never intended to teach a Major British Author course focused on J.K. Rowling. For the past decade I had centered this course on Jane Austen. However, the arrival of a fresh-faced young colleague with a Jane Austen specialty had led to three consecutive courses focusing on Jane Austen in the past few years. Thus, I was bemoaning the necessity of choosing another major British author to my students before class one day, when out of the blue one of them suggested “What about J.K. Rowling? She's British. And she's major.” Indeed.

Certainly I had read the Harry Potter books and seen the films. I had even dressed up as Professor McGonagall upon several occasions. But my fandom energy had previously centered on Star Trek and Firefly. Neither of which were British. So, with only a moment of hesitation, I thanked the student for the wonderful idea and began to imagine my new syllabus.

When I planned the first section of this course, I decided to tackle the fandom issues in the first few weeks of class. In fact, I repeatedly assured my colleagues (and myself) that my students' almost explosive  excitement levels would drop, once they had “gotten it out of their system.” By the second time I taught the class, I realized that reducing student fandom came perilously close to reducing student excitement altogether. I decided to ignore the colleagues who shook their heads at me and pointedly slammed their classroom doors when my class got a little (ok, a lot) loud. Instead of trying to get it out of their system, I encouraged my students to use their fandom to create new systems for learning. In this workshop I will discuss a variety of novel tools that may be used to engender a spirit of community and collaborative learning in seminar and discussion classes. We will discuss the potentials and pitfalls of using blogs and other social media such as wikis and Facebook to foster student learning and cooperation. I will share examples from my own experience with Harry Potter classes, specifically on the teamwork and competition engendered by sorting of students into the four Hogwarts Houses and the House Cup competition. Don't forget to bring along your Quick-Quotes Quill!

Dr. Heather Powers is an Associate Professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has been working there since 1999. She teaches courses on writing, British Literature, Critical Theory, and Popular Culture. Dr. Powers received her Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine in 1999. She earned her B.A. in Political Science/Economics at Wellesley College in 1990. Like Barack Obama, she attended Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii, graduating in 1986.

She enjoys Jane Austen, contemporary fiction, science fiction television and film, and horror writing and films. She is currently working on two projects: one exploring depictions of parenting in horror film adaptations, and one comparing identity formation in the eighteenth-century epistolary and contemporary social media. She started writing Harry Potter fanfiction in August, 2009, and is now addicted.
Formal Programming