One of the most exciting collaborations I’ve embarked on related to the Digital Tolkien Project is the ongoing educational work with Elise Trudel Cedeño and we had the opportunity to give a talk about it at the recent Prancing Pony Podcast Digital Moot.
Elise is an educator and fellow Signum student (we had much fun in our Beowulf in Old English class together) who produces literacy-focused educational material and teaches online courses for kids, including fantasy book clubs covering the likes of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.
After I gave my talk at New England Moot 2019 on how Tolkien’s works can be used to introduce children and young adults to some fundamental ideas in language, a collaboration seemed natural. Unfortunately what was supposed to be a brief trip on my part to Australia in March 2020 became an ongoing exile (still in force fourteen months later!) and this thwarted any plans to work together in person. We were, however, able to collaborate online which seemed fitting given Elise was teaching online and the Digital Tolkien Project is, well, digital.
The first fruits were a three-part blog series on Elise’s blog based on my New England Moot talk.
We then started discussing a variety of followup projects to collaborate on including book clubs on the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and even how to (gently) introduce children to the Silmarillion. Elise incorporated some of my “linguistic seeds” into her Hobbit book club with great results but then something truly magical started to happen. Her students would have insights into the text and ask questions that Elise and I would then discuss and research further using some of the work of the Digital Tolkien Project. And so a cycle developed where not only did the Digital Tolkien Project feed ideas into Elise’s teaching, but Elise’s students’ insights drove new explorations for the Digital Tolkien Project.
The collaboration was a bright point for both of us at an otherwise difficult time. It was a Cottage of Lost Play we could escape to. So when the Prancing Pony Podcast announced the theme of their first online moot was going to be “Digital Recovery”, we were both excited to share our existing work and ongoing plans with the online Tolkien community. Our talk seemed very well received and we even had interest from people in us running courses for adults.
We are just at the beginning of this educational collaboration. Next month, Elise is starting her Fellowship of the Ring book club and I’m looking forward to a lot of fresh insights from her amazing students.