In their forays with new presentation software, psychology instructors find that some uses of PowerPoint and other such packages draw especially strong student responses. Here are some greatest hits:

  • Interactive graphics: When initiating class discussion on John Dewey's educational philosophy, Geoffrey Scheurman, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin- River Falls, draws a graphic of a continuum with existentialist on the left and conservative on the right. Students break into groups and discuss where to place Dewey on the continuum. Scheurman then plots the groups' various responses using a blinking arrow.

  • Video illustrations: When describing Jean Piaget's developmental stages, Richard Mayer, PhD, of the University of California Santa Barbara, uses a video of a child performing a conservation task--pouring liquid from one vessel into another. The video demonstrates the child's decision-making process much better than a simple photo could, he says.

  • Web links: To illustrate instruments and theorists in his history of psychology classes, Le Moyne College's Vincent Hevern, PhD, embeds links to relevant Web sites. For example, he links to the Vienna-based online Sigmund Freud museum (, which features short movies about psychoanalysis. Hevern also puts his outlines online so that students pay attention to him, rather than note-taking, during class.

"This really is an old issue about how you make a lecture a mechanism for learning," Hevern says. "Rather than think PowerPoint will solve this perennial problem, we need to adapt it to what we know about how people learn and not repeat the same mistakes that we made using the old purple mimeograph."