Affinity Spaces

In a technology and digital media course I teach for pre-service and practicing teachers, I ask the students to consider how people learn and make meaning together outside of school in order to rethink how we guide and support learning and meaning making within our classrooms. To do so, I ask them to use Gee’s (2004) and/or Curwood, Magnifico, and Lammers’ (2013) characteristics of an affinity space as a heuristic to create a video essay investigating an affinity space of their choice.

I ask the students to address three issues in their video essay:

  1. Use the characteristics of an affinity space to investigate informal learning and meaning making. Position yourself as an insider or outsider of the affinity space. The goal is not to prove or disprove that what you are investigating is or isn’t an affinity space; rather, the goal is to use the characteristics to consider how participation and learning occur within the space.
  2. Because our course is in part about digital literacy practices, consider the extent to which the affinity space is supported by digital tools.
  3. Now for the tricky part that is concerned with rethinking learning and meaning making within classrooms. Our purpose is not to turn our classrooms into affinity spaces. School is a very different place/space than the affinity space you are researching for a number of reasons (chief among them that it is compulsory). Rather, our purpose is to consider how people are participating and learning in the affinity space in order to rethink the way we organize participation and support learning in our classrooms. Though we may have times in our careers when we will work with students around a shared passion, most of our time will be spent working with students with varying degrees of interest in what we are teaching. However, if we consider how people are participating and learning in affinity spaces, we can ask ourselves if doing the work of teaching in schools would be more appropriate for our students if we adjusted some of our unquestioned principles and practices of teaching and learning in classrooms.

Below are example video essays (curated for future use):

Using jazz to rethink cooperative learning and student grouping (Asher Kelsey):

Using Harry Potter to rethink distribution of expertise among students (Ashley Baldwin):

Using E.O.D. (bomb squad) to rethink student apprenticeships (Keith Hopper):

Using Game of Thrones to consider opening additional portals to extend classroom content (Sara Stephens)

Using World of Warcraft’s raid grouping to rethink student group composition (Delisa Mulkey)

Using Chihuahua care and competitions to rethink how we conceptualize student learning (Jackie Johnson)


Curwood, J.S., Magnifico, A.M., & Lammers, J.C. (2013). Writing in the wild: Writer’s motivation in fan-based affinity spaces. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(8), 677-685.

Gee, J.P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. New York: Routledge.

One response to “Affinity Spaces

  1. Pingback: A Work in Progress: Hunger Games Affinity Space Video Essay |·

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