Today, while attending a New Media Perspectives lecture, I discovered that the view from the last row of Webb Auditorium at RIT provides a sobering lesson for the budding teacher. From my vantage point I watched as student after student opted out of the lecture with the help of portable electronics. The student immediately in front of me spent most of his time watching anime episodes on his video iPod (just as an aside, I was totally blown away by it and want one). Ahead of him was another student hiding a Playstation Portable (PSP) behind his notebook (the oldest trick in the book). Around the classroom multiple students were checking e-mail and traversing the web on their laptops. In the interests of full disclosure, I have to cop to doing this once or twice while at the U of C. But I never spent an entire class alternating between playing Quake III and Madness Interactive, with an occasional break to watch Sealab:2021 episodes. A number of others resorted to using their cell phones to txt and play games.

I’m not sure how to react to this or take it into account in planning classes. The knee jerk extremes would be to either ban laptops (which is just plain dumb) or simply pretend that it shouldn’t happen (or even worse, won’t happen to me). I’m just not quite sure what the middle ground would be. Any thoughts about it?