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  • Writer's picturejoanna3uk

The Hidden Selfie

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

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, 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? This is what I have been looking at for the past three hours. (Share an image of a blank screen.) 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 here? 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 /record a short audio about their presence in the class and upload it to Padlet.

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:

I have since used this task successfully with a number of other groups. All of the Hidden Selfies created have produced engaging discussions.

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