The phenomenon of the black screen has raised awareness of the affective dimension of poverty.
The concept of poverty proofing alludes to identifying, confronting, and eliminating routine school practices that inadvertently stigmatize pupils living in poverty or other adverse conditions. Schools often have blindspots when it comes to such practices. Similar to confronting a hidden bias, schools are often surprised to learn some of their routine practices are guided by mental content of which they were unaware.
Distant learning has exacerbated well-documented opportunity gaps between low-income students and their better-off peers. Now that we live in the world of our students, those gaps are self-evident.
Poverty proofing in the virtual world of distance learning is beset with challenges. For example, children living in poverty or near poverty are more likely to be without a well-functioning device and/or support for using it, a reliable internet connection, a safe space, and a positive learning environment.
Children living in poverty or near poverty are more likely to suffer without access to the conditions and resources that enhance learning and development, particularly related to balancing cognitive and socio-emotional skill development.
In addition to developmental needs, schools provide food, nutrition, housing security, health care and insurance support, and even financial relief measures.
The black screen provides insight into the affective domain of students. Students all over the socioeconomic spectrum deselect video from time to time for one reason or another, ranging from binge-viewing popular TV programs to the benign bad hair day.
However, mounting evidence suggests that many students black-out because they are self-conscious about themselves or their living spaces and situations. Some students don't have a room in which they can close the door, or are homeless or couch-surfing.
In the most serious of cases, students are growing increasingly anxious due to the"mirror squared" experience of staring at themselves while everyone else is staring at them. This experience disproportionately effects students with anxiety, body dysmorphia, or trauma.
Now that we live in the world of our students, every one of them sits in the first row. And while a black screen may appear to provide us no evidence of student affect, the truth is it provides exactly the opposite: it's a window into their world. We just have to look a little harder.