Saturday, February 12, 2022

College Students Forgot How to Talk to Each Other

The Democrat Party pandemic lockdown policies have set back, if not destroyed, a generation of young people, and not just school children. 

I know this first hand from my oldest, 26, who moved to San Francisco to start at S.F. State in February 2020. He came back home after one semester in The City, depressed and disappointed at how isolated and inferior was his college experience compared his time at Santiago Canyon College in Orange Park Acres

I also know this from teaching college students online for two years. I'm on my fifth semester in a transition to "remote emergency instruction" that was expected to brief and temporary. Even this semester, where my college has gone back to full in-person on-campus classes, more than 50 percent of those enrolled are taking their courses online. Indeed, the enrollment was so low in some of the campus-based classes that over two dozen were cancelled in my department alone. 

You're not getting the full college experience --- and excellence in education --- with online classes. It's good for some very motivated students who thrive in the intense atmosphere of digital learning space, but in my experience, it's not for most. I'm expecting to hear soon about my class schedule for fall, where I've requested to teach all on campus. We'll see how that goes. It feels weird to even be possibly going back. I feel like I need to retrain myself, to get myself fit for teaching in person. Seriously. My lectures are quite stentorian, and I need to be in good cardio-vascular condition. I don't feel like that right now, as I haven't been physically training during the pandemic lockdown. 

This summer I'll be changing my daily routine if all works out and I'm set to resume going to work everyday,  like I used to for 20 years.

In any case, at the Wall Street Journal, "College Students Have to Learn How to Make Small Talk Again":

When students at San Jose State University returned to campus last fall after more than a year of remote learning, lecturer Damon Moon thought they would be chatty and excited to see one another. Instead, he noticed something concerning: They weren’t talking at all.

Before class, students were looking at their phones or laptops. Even in the campus cafeteria, Mr. Moon saw that most students were eating alone, sandwich in one hand, phone in the other.

“They lost the skill to have small talk,” said Mr. Moon, who teaches international business classes. To get a close-up look at this phenomenon, I spoke to Mr. Moon and his students at the university.

“When I was in elementary school or middle school, if I wanted to talk to someone new, I would go up to them and try to strike up a conversation,” said Kian Kashefi, a 19-year-old business accounting major. Now, he said, “it feels weird to talk to anybody new without first connecting on social media.”

In a prolonged pandemic that has shifted more interactions online, college students are finding it harder to strike up conversations and make friends. In the past, socializing wasn’t just a perk but also a big incentive for students choosing campus life.

College instructors worry that if they don’t do something to facilitate conversation in class, their students will be unprepared to enter the workforce. To overcome screen-reinforced social awkwardness, some even lean on smartphones and web browsers to encourage students to interact.

Researchers from three universities surveyed nearly 33,000 college students around the U.S. and found two-thirds were struggling with loneliness in the fall of 2020. More than a year later, many students, including those at San Jose State, had returned to remote instruction after winter break because of the Omicron Covid-19 surge.

Joel Figueroa, a 20-year-old business major, said that since the pandemic began he has become more nervous about talking to people. “I was much more confident in my abilities before,” he said.

While technology has enabled him to remain in touch with friends, it has undermined his in-person interactions, he said. “My connections with friends offline would definitely be deeper if we were not so attached to our devices,” he said.

Even older students I talked to, who didn’t grow up with as much technology or spend formative years in a pandemic, are finding it hard to make connections.

“I didn’t form relationships with any students when I went back to campus last fall,” said Megan Dela Rosa, a 43-year-old business major. “Everyone had their masks on and you didn’t know anyone’s comfort level.” She added, “I just went to class, got my work done and left.”

Anna Touneh transferred to San Jose State from a community college last fall. Since school began this year online, the 32-year-old said talking to students has only become more awkward.

In one class recently, small groups of students went to Zoom breakout rooms to work on an assignment. Ms. Touneh said in her group, no one had their cameras on and no one spoke. “It took me six minutes to say something,” she said. “I finally gathered the courage, but it was very meek. I said, ‘Hey, guys, so what are we supposed to be doing?’”

Runhua Yang, a 43-year-old business major, said she’s normally extroverted but the pandemic has made it more difficult to express herself. Masks have made it harder for teachers to hear her, she said, causing her to speak up less often. “If a professor doesn’t encourage participation, I stay quiet,” she said.

Parents and psychologists were already concerned that phone usage was negatively affecting social-skill development among young people, even before the pandemic, according to Danielle Ramo, chief clinical officer at BeMe Health, a mobile platform for teen mental health. In a previous job, she helped develop an app called Nod to help college students improve their social lives by challenging them to do things like smile at five new people or keep their dorm-room doors open in the evening...