All, by my Selfie: Using Images to Create Community

As an educator, I sought to prove that self-involvement could expand rather that inhibit student understanding. Selfie, Oxford Dictionaries 2013 Word of the Year, has been viewed by society as a conflicted term. Yet educators can utilize that conflict by synergizing student desires of self-expression, technology applications, and purposeful content planning.

While such images that focus on one's self may initially seem to be self-serving, selfie images can actually be innovative through their ability to demonstrate the active living of life. Selfies capture a community's story and incorporate the values of a community and what individuals within the community value. Through the synthesis of digital literacy, camera angle, and situational backdrops, the singular focus selfies create capture the nuances and commonalities within a community.

In my project, All, by my Selfie, students synthesized digital literacy skills to prompt curriculum-based narratives and discussions stemming from community nuances. I aligned CCSS objectives for middle grades ELA to enhance student understanding of literacy terminology through application and synthesis, enrich understanding of multi-media literacy, visual literacy, and digital literacy, create community within the classroom environment through the use of images, and to awaken student understanding of how representations of one's self cultivates personal narratives. Although this example centered on middle grades ELA, it works with any subject area and multiple grade levels.

In facilitating All, by my Selfie, the class and I first discuss elements of photography, like camera angles, and digital literacy through image examples provided by course materials and provide rubric for evaluation.

Next, the class and I held a discussion to determine the focus of our selfies. In this example, our decided topic was "my classroom community" to bridge with themes from Thornton Wilder's play, "Our Town."

I provided Ipads for the students and as we toured our classroom and school, students began taking selfies relating to the topic. Any technology with camera capabilities can be used for this project; I had digital camera available also to facilitate student readiness differences and mitigate technological challenges that may otherwise inhibit student productivity.

Once the class completed taking several selfies, students individually evaluated the selfies to select the image that captured both the topic and rubric elements. Students forwarded their selfies to me and I created these Animoto videos from their selfies and their culminating reflective journal entries:

Next, I divided the class into groups and each group created a list of commonalities and differences between their images. As each group presented their lists, members of the other groups evaluated their lists to adapt their list of commonalities and differences.

Collectively, then, the class and I discussed which images stood out and how those images expressed the commonalities and nuances in describing "my classroom community." An aspect I feel demonstrates the success of the project was its focus on the student-centered discussion and independent reflection. Some open ended questions may include:
What's the first thing your eye goes to?
What distractions are in the frame?
How could we improve this photo?
What would this photo look like from a different perspective?
What objects are in the foreground or background?
How do you relate to the subject of the photo?
I used this list of questions to design a Google forms survey to house responses to this project and analyze individual student response in a non-narrative format.Finally, students wrote personal reflection narratives as a journal entry about the topic, class discussed commonalities and nuances.The All, by my Selfie project may be implemented at any stage of the writing process.

Rather than making a picture, selfies demonstrate a situation. Like a digital scrapbook, selfie images express a broader story. In this project, the self-serving selfie emerged as a class uniter, community-builder, and content enricher.

(Source of reflection questions: Beyond Snapchats and Selfies. (2014, June 9). Lesson Planet Community Forums. Retrieved September
10, 2014, from

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