I spent three hours yesterday with junior high youth on Zoom. At the same time, my soon-to-be 7th grader at home was on a Zoom class of her own. She kept the video camera off for most of it, as did almost all of the youth I was working with. I don’t like it. It feels rude. I suspect it permits students to disengage while they do other things.
But I don’t insist they keep their cameras on. As much as I dislike staring at a black box where a face should be, it also feels like a potential technological disparity and a developmental risk to insist on video. I’ve had at least one young person explain to me that their laptop didn’t have a camera, so “requiring” one introduces an immediate inequity. And early adolescents are experiencing a higher level of negative self-awareness than they will at any other time in their life, and it feels like going dark on video is a protective measure. It feels icky to force it.
Like everything in this moment, I’m sure much of the time that I’m reacting the wrong way. But, for now, I’m fine with being wrong for the right reasons.