In consider the topic of digital citizenship, and refecting on their own identity and participation in online platforms, I ask my students to create a piece of design work called Me vs. Me. Most students follow my lead and use raster editing software (such as Acorn) to combine photos and digital avatars of themselves. Recently, however, we have had a Year 13 student leading an Digital Art activity (with accompanying Free Learning unit), and so we now have a growing number of students who are learning to use digital drawing tablets.
I was really excited to see a couple of girls in one of my classes taking the initiative with their Me vs Me, and apply their newly learned skills to express themselves through digital drawing. What I was not expecting was work of such high artistic value, nor work that was quite so insightful as that submitted by Della (click for full size):
In reflecting on her work, Della said “The online side is more about when you are online you are kind of care free and can express you self and what you like and also you could post or say things that make people think of you in a different way then you actually are. The home me is more about the reality of life and how its stressful and how you have things to do but then just end up procrastinating and then getting more stressed”.
Such deep thinking is not commonly expressed through student work (although I don’t doubt it goes on regularly) and sits perfectly with the art work. In following up, I commented: “Della, well done on an excellent piece of work here. You have taken the elements discussed in class, and seen in the exemplar work, and presented them in a style of your own, showing creativity and technical skill. Digital drawing is tough, and you seem to be making some real progress. In terms of the ideas of identity and participation that we have discussed in class, I love the honest look into the real you, and how it compares to the much more polished online you. Why are people unwilling to sometimes show the real “them” online? I do also like the privacy-protecting use of your name as “Dekka” in the online you. clever! I am going to take the “losing my mind” bit with a pinch of salt. However, if you do feel you are struggling with something, then it is best to talk to a trusted adult, as seeking guidance makes almost all problems better. This is definitely the best work I have ever seen from you. Well done : )”.
On further reflection, and given Della’s input on procrastination and stress, I will recommend her to look at a Free Learning unit called Digital Organisation, and a second one (when it is published) on Focus.
As a teacher it is not every lesson that students really open up to us, but carefully designed work, which engages student interest, can definitely help. What is really pleasing here, from an ICT teacher point of view, is that whilst teenagers are often portrayed as helpless, hapless victims of circumstance, Della has shown that she has a strong grasp on some of the existential difficulties of being an adolescent in 2017. This is a great point from which to make good decisions and change one’s situation.