The Hidden Selfie
With an awareness of the some of the challenges online learning has presented teachers since the start of lockdown, my planning for the Pre-sessional course has tried to pre-empt some of these barriers. Teaching to a blank screen is one. With videos and microphones off, rotating name tags are the only visual evidence I have that some presence exists beyond the screen. The ambient presence of the classroom is gone. The tiny visual clues central to forming a culture of learning are now encased in-built webcams, ensuring the confident student along with the reluctant one, remain hidden from view. Other forms of communication will undoubtedly play an increasing role in forming teacher-student relationships, but today I was struck by the force of this silent presence. I therefore thought it would be interesting to begin to explore what we cannot see in the new classroom. As students will soon have to talk about their art work - to a blank screen, an awareness of what to expect will help to prepare them for a potentially stressful experience. As with most areas of reflective practice, I began with an image.
1. Ask students to find a reflective surface in their home and take a hidden selfie. Students need to provide visual evidence that they are in the image, but also ensure I cannot identify them. Share models as examples (see image above).
2. Students post their image to Padlet.
3. Invite the group to review all the images.
4. Encourage students to reflect on the topic of presence through a writing task. I provided insights from my own reflection to engage the students in this process. I posted the following on the Padlet wall:
"Who are you? Where are you? Are you there? Have you left the room? What are you thinking? Open the screenshot attached. This is what I have been looking at for the past three hours. Is anyone listening to me? I asked you to take a hidden selfie, as I think it symbolises your semi-presence in our online class. Indeed, as I was 'talking' to this blank screen, I was wondering what is it like to learn a language behind a screen? If I could see your face, would I see your 'English' face? Your name on the screen tells me that you are present, but are you really present? What does your hidden selfie say about your presence?
You seem invisible to me, so how are we going to communicate?"
Reflective writing task
Using my words as a prompt, I asked students to write a short text about their presence in the class. Their hidden selfie should guide this process.
While this task is open-ended and conceptual in its design, I plan to use it as a diagnostic tool to assess this group of MA Graphic Design and Identity/Branding students in the following areas:
1. Identify some evidence of reflective practice.
2. Identify some evidence of critical engagement with the concept of 'presence'.
3. How well did students engage with my written prompt?
4. What evidence of written discourse do students display?
5. How appropriate is their response for an academic context?
4. How much scaffolding will I need to put in place to support students in the areas of criticality, reflection and reflective writing?
Their responses will help to inform the next stage of my lesson planning.