Here are some suggestions for making the best use of multimedia resources in teaching.

CD-ROMs vs. Web activities. Keep in mind that students can revisit a Web activity you showed (or mentioned) in class, 24 hours a day. While textbook publishers often provide instructors with animations on CD-ROMs and videodiscs, most students can only view these during lecture. Web activities offer the continuity in and out of class time that these resources lack.

Use the Flash plug-in. Students are more likely to visit Web resources that can be downloaded quickly without the hassle of requiring additional plug-in installations. The Flash plug-in wins on both counts: its vector-graphic format minimizes download times, and it is also the most ubuiquitous multimedia plug-in, already installed on something like 98% of computers. The Shockwave plug-in is less prevalent (roughly 75%), but may be worth downloading in some cases for its 3D and other special capabilities. All new activities on BiologyInMotion are Flash-based.

Preparing for class. Murphy's law predicts that the internet will experience disruptions during your lecture presentation. For a glitch-free presentation, do the following if time allows: Prior to the start of class, open a separate browser window for each webpage you plan to show (holding down the Control key while clicking a link will give you the option in a pop-up menu). Then during the lecture all you have to do is click the desired window to bring it to the front.

Post an outline or list of links on the Web. Although the pedagogical value of such an outline is debatable, it's a convenient place to put links to your favorite biology webpages. At the start of class, all you have to do is bring up the outline in a browser, and then you can Control-Click to open all the webpages you will be showing. Also, having the outline page readily accessible in your course website is a more convenient way for students to find Web materials highlighted in class, without the need to write long URLs on the blackboard.

Zoom in on Flash activities. While showing a Flash movie (an activity or graphic that uses the Flash plug-in), you can zoom in as close as you like by holding down the Control key and clicking on the Flash movie. This can be extremely helpful in a large lecture hall with a distant or poor-quality projection screen.

Enlarge the text. When projecting an ordinary HTML page in class, remember that you can enlarge the text in most browsers. For example, in Internet Explorer, choose "Text Zoom" from the View menu. (This won't work with Flash and Shockwave movies.)

Pausing animations. Depending on the computer platform, you may be able to freeze an animation in progress simply by clicking and holding the top of the browser window. This can be very useful when you are presenting an animation in class and want to focus attention on a particular frame.