A couple of things I see in class that I didn’t see the last time I was in school (I think our president then was a cardigan-wearing Georgian):
Students who spend entire lecture hours on Facebook: Not to be anachronistic. There was no such thing as Facebook when I was at Cal in 1980. There was no such thing as a laptop. There was no such thing as a wireless network. But all that stuff is here today, and I frequently find myself seated behind students who sit through lecture checking on Facebook, or maybe toggling back and forth between some online entertainment and the notes they are taking. I’ve seen one student repeatedly spend an entire 90-minute session designing some sort of graphics. One young woman spent an entire class period texting on her cellphone; in fact, I wish I could have shot video of her because she was so fast. At least I think she was texting; she might have been playing a game.
Back in the olden days, you could be in class without being there, too: you brought a book or magazine or newspaper to read, or you wrote or doodled or daydreamed or snoozed (I’ve also been impressed by how ostentatiously some of my fellow students are about sleeping in class. Maybe all the instructors understand they are overworked).
Classroom meals: One of my classes has an hourlong discussion section at 1 p.m. every Thursday afternoon. There are about 15 of us in there. One student usually brings in a big takeout meal to tuck into while we ponder the subject of the day. The graduate student instructor who leads the section has never said anything, so I guess it’s an accepted part of the culture.
Classroom swilling: In another class, there’s a very fit-looking guy who sits in the front of the room. He will punctuate the professors lectures by bringing out a plastic gallon jug of water and taking a few good long pulls on it. I’m impressed at his commitment to slake his personal drought; a gallon of water weights 8 pounds, and that’s on top of whatever else he’s bringing to class. He’s obviously serious about his thirst.