During COVID-19 Students Need To Be Seen: Why This Selfie Lesson is Perfect


Student taking selfie

Teaching "digital citizenship" via Zoom during COVID-19 was an experience, and I never expected that the topic of ‘selfies’ would have such a profound impact upon my students.

Once schools closed, only about half my students showed up for our online classes, but this small group and I were #InItTogether. As one month wore into the next, their blank eyes revealed a deep need to connect with one another. So the Cyber Civics lesson, “My Self, My Selfie” was just what the doctor ordered. This assignment had the highest turn-in rate of all of our shelter-in-place assignments.

As I introduced this lesson on Zoom, I asked students if they had ever judged someone they didn’t know by a selfie they saw of that person. Most had and were eager to share! After the discussion I explained that while taking and posting selfies can be a lot of fun, it is important to think about what a selfie might say about you, especially when viewed by strangers. (As a side note, even if your social media is set to private, your social media profile picture and bio are public.)

I explained that long before the “selfie” there were “self-portraits.” Famous artists like Van Gough, Frieda Kahlo, and Rembrandt, among others, painted themselves. We looked at many self-portraits by these masters (so easy to do online!) and talked about what was revealed about each person based on their work.

Next, I gave students the assignment: Create a bio picture to use on a social media site you’d like to join, but the problem is... the camera has not been invented yet! Your task will be to draw it!

Student Selfie

During my introduction to the assignment, students asked for help with their their selfies, so I started the ball rolling… “Well, Jesse, I think you should use bold colors because you are not afraid to stand out from the crowd and I value that in you!” Students started chirping in about one another too, “Oh I know, Selah should wear a necklace with piano keys because she is so talented! Michael should be dressed as a jester or something, he is hilarious!” This continued until every