The phenomenon described here is an early sign of the emerging ‘net anywhere, anytime’ environment. Some may recall the incidents of people emailing each other during earlier online training sessions. Yesterday’s novelty is tomorrow’s reality.
I have experienced this phonomenon myself while teaching at Ryerson. Have to say that to me it was distracting, like a conversation going on in the back of the class, only in this format it disturbed me more than other non-participants.
New forms of literacy are emerging as a result. The ability to sample simultaneous, multiple channels can be learned. My sense is that it also changes the way people express themselves. The first real experience with it came last semester when one of the team projects in my class prepared a stunning presentation with embedded video that clearly demonstrated understanding of core concepts. Their paper, on the other hand, was abysmal.
Considering the ongoing HP 101 efforts, making it available through mulitiple channels and for different learning styles becomes increasingly important.