Upfront

Twitter has helped an astronaut communicate from space and it was used by Iranians to protest their recent presidential election. Could it also help you teach?

Absolutely, said Sheryl M. Hartman, PhD, of Miami Dade College, at an APA 2009 Annual Convention session on how to engage today's tech-savvy Generation Y students. For example, instructors can ask students to create Twitter-friendly polls that relate to their coursework or have students follow a psychologist who 'tweets' daily, suggested Hartman.

Other new media that excite today's students include Ning, a site where you can design your own social networks, and YouTube, where many professors post lectures on psychology topics, such as using the statistics program SPSS. Hartman also encouraged attendees to branch out from slide-show presentations such as PowerPoint and explore alternative presentation software such as Prezi.com, which offers more design options and zooms viewers in and out of text, much like the "show larger" tools of online catalogs.

Studies show Generation Y students—also known as the Millennials—are not only tech-savvy, they like to be challenged and value experience-rich over lecture-style learning, added Hartman. To keep these learners engaged, professors should design assignments that blend those loves, such as having students create online surveys. They should also consider setting flexible deadlines when possible. While Millennials work hard, they work best if they are able to maintain balanced lives, she said.

"A rigid schedule is a surefire way to lose the Millennials," said Hartman.

—J. Chamberlin