This fall I'm going to be teaching two large (120 student) lecture sections of our required freshman survey class "Introduction to Interactive Media." This is new for me--nearly every class I've taught at RIT over the past 13 years has been fewer than 40 students, and usually taught in a studio lab format.
I volunteered to teach the lecture sections this fall because I actually like the challenge of keeping a large group engaged in a topic. I do it all the time at conferences (or at least I try to...), but my conference style didn't translate well to a smaller classroom.
However, keeping 18-year-olds in a required engaged for two hours every week for ten weeks is a very different proposition from keeping a conference audience engaged for 45 minutes. So I've been spending some time thinking about how to best use the various social tools that I spend so much time talking about, and put them to use in the class.
I'm starting with a sanctioned "backchannel chat" for each lecture section, using the chat functionality built into our courseware (Desire2Learn). I'm going to have a TA monitor the backchannel and answer basic questions, and then have him forward to me things that should be answered/addressed in the lecture. The courseware automatically archives all the chat sessions, so I'll be able to review the sessions after class to get a sense of where I might have been unclear.
I've also set up a Facebook group for the class, which I'll encourage them to use to share relevant information, as well as to ask questions (which can be answered by other students and/or studio session instructors, not just by me).
Since I've always been intrigued by the kind of collaborative notetaking in conferences that tools like SubEthaEdit supported, I decided to investigate options that would work in a large lecture setting. Trying to get 120 students to collaboratively edit notes wouldn't be particularly helpful, but I liked the approach described last month in the Inside Higher Ed article "For One, For All." After discussing this with the instructors for the studio sessions, we've decided to break the students up into groups of five, with members of the group rotating weekly responsibilities for Google Docs notes on the lectures and the readings. We'll use those same groups for peer review of research paper drafts and Ignite presentations.
And finally, since we're not requiring them to buy any textbooks for the class (all readings will be online), I've decided instead to require the i>clicker student response system that RIT has standardized on. They can buy the clickers for less than $40 (via Amazon, at least; I doubt the bookstore price is much more), and it will allow me to do some fun in-class surveying (which, sneakily, doubles as attendance-taking).
I'm probably crazy to be trying to implement so many different social technologies in the class at once, but I'm pretty excited to see how it goes!