Using Selfies to Increase Student Engagement

Connecticut College hosts many events (panels, lectures, shows, concert, etc.) that help students engage more deeply in the curriculum and community. In the Music Department, we host dozens of concerts a year and require students to attend a certain number of them as we believe that being in the audience and listening to live music is an essential element of one’s music education.

In the recent past, we collected signed hard copies of the programs as evidence of attending, and those programs would end up in the recycle bin in my office. This process of reporting concert attendance is standard practice across the country. Using this system, I found that sometimes concert venues ran out of programs. At other times, students might forget to get a program or would lose them, or students would take a program without attending the concert. However, it dawned on me that one of the goals was for the students to have a keepsake/souvenir or to have a reference for future repertoire possibilities. So, to facilitate these goals, I started using the selfie system. (Thanks to Jessica McCullough for this idea!)

Last term, I piloted this new method of checking concert attendance. My students were given two options: 1) obtaining and signing a program or 2) taking a selfie of themselves in the hall and send it to me via email by midnight. I lightheartedly mentioned that they would get extra points for posing with an artist. I had an overwhelmingly positive response to the new option.  When I opened my email the next morning, I had the pleasure of seeing almost all of my students’ smiling faces in my email inbox. Only one student chose to turn in a hard copy of the program. (Note, while I asked the students to submit their photos through email, you could also have them submit them through Moodle. However, this means one more extra step for them in sending you the file.)

In the future, I will augment this assignment by having students send their selfies to a closed Facebook group and ask them to post comments about their concert experience as it relates to the material we are covering in class. I will also have them comment on other people’s comments to create discussion. I hope this additional element will help further bridge the experience between the event attended and the concepts being discussed in class.

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