The aim of this paper is to report on a research project that regards the pedagogical implications of using English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) at high school. It demonstrates how web-mediated activities such as cooperative writing and fanfiction can bridge the gap between the scholastic dimension of English Language Teaching (ELT) and the reality of authentic communication situated in multilingual and multicultural contexts. This study, which is essentially informed by Vygotsky's (1978) sociocultural theory (SCT), examines the controversial nature of ELF from a social constructionist theoretical perspective on second language learning (Lantolf, 2000). It takes into consideration the typical double identity of most L2-users, who are simultaneously students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) attending regular language classes, and ELF speakers who use English as an additional language for real social practice (e.g. travelling abroad, interacting on the Internet, etc.). Interestingly, the results of this research indicate that these two identities are not necessarily conflictual, but become more and more convergent and complementary in the L2-user's successful performance. A number of Italian high-school classes from Rome, Palermo and Messina were interconnected online by way of aNobii (a social network dedicated to book readers), and a wiki that was designed specifically in order to let students create a web-mediated community of practice (Cop) (Wenger, 1998) working on English literature and fanfiction. In this way, students had the opportunity to a) use ELF as a mediational means to participate in an open forum with a large number of fellow readers and share their views on their favourite authors and novels, and b) use ELF as an affordance (Gibson, 1979) to express their creative power in writing fanfiction collaboratively, and share their work with other fanfiction networkers. In addition, working as a community of practice favoured the creation of a zone of proximal development (ZPD), whereby participants could improve their texts through peer reviewing. At the end of the project, both student and a teacher survey were conducted to collect pertinent information as regards the participants' use of digital tools (at home and at school), and their feedback on the experience of using ELF to connect the class to a wider community of speakers. In conclusion, this research indicates that the use of ELF to carry out real Web-mediated activities is not a hindrance to language learning and could well be incorporated into ELT as a valuable resource for a more effective communicative approach to English.
Grazzi, E. (2011). The sociocultural dimension of ELF in the English classroom: the case of fanfiction through social networking. In Lopriore L (a cura di), Perspectives. A Journal of TESOL-Italy (pp. 7-59). ROMA : Anicia.