When I went into the Harry Potter section, there were 9,643 fanfiction posts. I first opened the first entry that came up, which was a story with several chapters that was based in the Order of the Phoenix, where Harry finds out that Snape is actually his father. It was interesting to read, and the author did a decent job at using the characters, although I had an inherent problem with Harry's mother having slept with Snape, but that's not the point here.
After reading that first entry, I browsed through some others. There were many interesting stories, some using existing characters, some inventing new characters, such as a little sister for Harry, and others that took characters from the book and put them into other settings, such as the "real world". I also stumbled across a chapter-by-chapter parody of the book, "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince", called "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Princess." There were maybe 18 chapters, and I read the first few. It was pretty funny, at least to me. Here are a few snippets:
"The clock hit eleven, and Harry woke up, as if by magic, which would be a lot more impressive if he wasn't a wizard. He noticed that Dumbledore was walking up to the house, and ringing the doorbell.
Downstairs, Uncle Vernon, said, 'Who the hell is that? Who comes to people's houses at eleven o'clock in the night?' Harry ran downstairs in time to see Uncle Vernon open the front door.
'Good evening,' Dumbledore said. 'I'm here to see Mr. Potter?'
Uncle Vernon turned around and bellowed, 'HARRY, THERE'S A HIPPIE HERE TO SEE YOU!'"
"As you know, Dumbledore continued. 'Lord Voldemort is staging a comeback, much like Mariah Carey. In response to this, we have tightened security a hundredfold. You may rest assured that Mariah Carey will not enter the halls of Hogwarts while I'm around.'"
I really enjoyed reading this fanfiction. The author was very clever, and really did a great job at going along with the story line, while changing things and making references to the book to make it funny. They also tied in current popular culture (aka the Mariah Carey comment). I read the first five chapters, and will probably finish reading it in my spare time. I also plan to leave feedback for the author once I have finished reading.
I think this could be a really valuable tool in the classroom, although technology isn't necessarily crucial. For instance, we could have student rewrite an ending to a story, or write a parody such as the one I read. Another thing that we could do, which we would need technology for would be to have students read a fanfiction and write a review on what they read. This would be a good way to have students examine the characters, and how they were used in the story, and whether or not the author kept those characters "in character" or not, and how they could tell. This could open a really interesting conversation about writing and the development of characters.
This reminded me of a fourth grade lesson I taught, where I had students rewrite a story, "Big Bad Bruce" by Bill Peet, from Bruce's perspective. It was an extremely successful lesson, and the opportunity for students to write a story from another perspective brought out incredible voice in their writing. Fanfiction could be used to accomplish a similar goal.