UPDATE: I'm getting a lot of interesting comments on this one, including some saying I'm being naive or foolish, but I see Glenn Reynolds agreed:
I actually do encourage [IM-ing] -- I figure that this way you've got several students thinking about the question seriously, when they might otherwise just be waiting to see if the student I've called on makes a fool of himself. How well it works depends on the class, and how extensively they tend to IM, but I do agree with the point.
Good point. If there is IM-ing and anyone is struggling to answer a question, everyone is implicated. The lawprof could say: "No one is offering you any help? So no one has any ideas?" All would have to take responsibility, instead of idling while the other student tries to speak.
Another thing we talked about at lunch is that all the students would get practice writing apt and pithy answers, as IM-ing trains you to do. I find this notion so appealing that I would like to see a technology that would allow me to ask a question of the whole class, require that every student enter a sentence or two answering, and then randomly display one answer on a screen in front of the class, which we could then discuss. You wouldn't need to know whose answer that was, and everyone would have made a go at typing out an answer, and I think that might put us in a nice position to begin a discussion.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Other technology, from an emailer:
Regarding your recent blogpost, I am a fan and a student at MSOE. IM is nice for class, but nothing beats Microsoft Onenote! After recently discovering the ability to “share” a note-taking page several of my friends joined with me to take down what is going on in class. Not only do we get a full audio recording, but we have triple or better overlap while taking notes that don’t miss any points. Oh, and the audio is linked to the notes, click on a word and have the audio automatically transfer you to that point in the recording.Sounds great! I guess in the future there will be no excuse for not getting everything down. Once they can't write "Althouse talked too fast" on the evaluations, just think how fast I might talk.
As you know, MSOE is primarily engineering. Engineering notes are almost never strictly text and often make little sense with hastily drawn in margin notes about every little thing discussed. The only way to capture fully every diagram/handout/equation and still understand what the professor is actually talking about is to break down the responsibilities (often wordlessly) and focus on one aspect of the notes of the class, leaving your friends to take the other half. Often this means someone pastes in Visio diagrams while someone else uses a program like Mathtype.
There are a few difficulties with this approach…. Network access (wired or wireless works fine) must be present in the classroom. Sometimes formatting decisions must be made. Finally, the format is great at MSOE as laptops are standardized and handed out by the school itself. It would also help to have friends you are with between all your various classes. The only remaining problem is the cost of the program itself.
It was really nice to see such subjects as technology in class discussed by professors. I’ve been using this feature throughout this quarter and I almost with I wasn’t graduating this year, given how easy notetaking became.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Aspiring Lawyer responds and points out some software that might be just what I'm looking for. I've got a request in to our tech guy about this. I would love to bypass the Socratic agonies and get everyone answering everything!