Teachers are not a group known for their vanity.
Then I saw myself on a webcam.
I am simply never going to be stunning on a webcam, but I did some research so that I could look like…well… myself! I want to appear pleasant, cheerful and bright. You see, with the webcam, if you are not careful, all of the good looks in the world will not help you: you will look frightening. The children will cry. It is not a good scene.
This is what my research produced:
Angle Matters: The angle of the webcam makes the difference between you looking like a sallow monster and a competent human being. You want the webcam at or just above your eye level, so that it is pointing slightly down at your face. I typically put my computer with the webcam up on several books. Try several different angles. Slightly off-center works well for most people.
Look at the Camera and Smile: I usually watch a goofy you tube video right before class so that I am in a good mood and have a genuine smile ready. Sometimes I share the video with the students. I also take a minute to remember that I am lucky to be able to meet with my students online. A genuine smile makes everyone feel good.
The Technological Set Up: I have a second computer with my class notes just to the left of the webcam computer. That way, I can go back and forth between notes and computers while maintaining eye contact with the camera. I also like a little distance between my face and the webcam. No one wants to see my pores.
Face the Light: As in life, you want to face the light. Do not have the light behind you. Shadows creep over your features and leave hollow little pots where your eyes should be. Several clip-on desk lights or a simple lamp will do the trick. If you want to get fancy, put a white board under your computer to gently reflect the light up at your face. I have my computer right in front of the window, so a bright splash of natural light shines down upon me as I teach. I highly recommend situating your desk facing a window.
Wear solid colors: I personally feel like everyone should wear solid colors all the time. Prints are just too busy and chaotic for me. Especially when you are online, keep the clothing simple. Patterns do not translate well on a webcam. All of the online sources suggest bright colors, but I just can’t bring myself to wear yellow or red. I want to look decent, but I also want to look like myself.
Choose a background: I had initially thought that the background should be as simple as possible, so I was sitting in front of a blank wall. Then I read “6 Ways to Look Good on Your Webcam” (http://www.rounds.com/blog/ways-look-good-better-webcam/), and I was inspired. The article suggests that you hang a few cool pictures behind you or put a cup of coffee on your desk. I have a really great coffee mug that I would love to show off. I am also going to find a picture and a vase to brighten up my desk space a little.
Have Fun and Don’t Worry About It: Yes, this is obvious, but it is worth remembering! The relationships that you develop with your students and the ideas that you introduce them to will have a longer impression on them than how you look. You are already beautiful. With a bit of preparation, your inner light will shine right through the satellites and into the homes of your students.