One of the many take-aways from the GAFE conference this year was an app called Socrative. You can find it online at Socrative.com, OR in the Chrome app store, OR as an iPad App. All are free!
This app allows teachers to ask the class to participate simultaneously in class. You might ask, Isn’t this just like a class discussion? Actually, there are a lot of ways this app can be used; some are similar to a class discussion, but there is much more to it. For one, the way Socrative is different for me from a live class discussion is that all students can participate, their contributions to the conversation can be shared in real time anonymously (while the teacher can see who says what and can control or x-out of any inappropriate responses if they need to). The shy student has a voice equal to the popular kid; the unsure student can watch others responses and copy or learn from what others have said, but they do not have to be left out.
The teacher can also collect these responses and turn them into a poll; you can push out another slide and have students vote on what response they think is the best or their favorite. One example might be the best topic sentence; students who are not yet able to create their own topic sentence can learn by the modeling of others around the room whose thinking might have been hidden in a traditional classroom discussion.
Another application for using socratic would be to collect information like a pre-assessment; see where the class is when they walk in the room, or see how folks are feeling about their learning, or see how others in the class feel about something you just read. I can imagine it being used for pre-assessment, formative assessment and exit ticket. Really fun way to guide a lesson and encourage whole class participation.
Note- Socrative has similar functionality to PearDeck, but Socrative is free!