The Great EdTech Debate: Do Media Affect Learning Outcomes?

The Great EdTech Debate: Do Media Affect Learning Outcomes
Terra Aartsen, Katie Brown, Darin Faber, Amber Marechal, Dugg Steary

This week a few members of the Royal Roads University Masters of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) cohort met virtually to debate whether media affect learning outcomes. We each read seminal works that outlined each side of the debate: Clark (1994) argued media absolutely do not affect learning outcomes while Kozma (1994) argued we have not yet found the link between media and learning, so he does not agree with the bold statement put forward by Clark (1994).

After grounding ourselves in both sides the education technology media debate, we each sought out an article published recently in the mainstream media and evaluated how each article related to the arguments put forward by Clark (1994) and Kozma (1994). Below are our findings.

Museums Test New Technology, Interactive Exhibits
Terra Aartsen

The video “Museums Test New Technology, Interactive Exhibits” looks at the implementation of digital tools by museums across the globe.  In an effort to make the museum experience more engaging and informative, many prominent museums are implementing digital tools such as interactive displays; 3D videos; and movies accompanied by smells (e.g. gunpowder), moving sets and seats, and weather simulations (e.g. snow and wind). It is implied, though not explicitly stated, that the museums believe the use of these digital tools and accompaniments will help to increase learning in their visitors – children and adults alike.  The museums’ belief that digital tools will increase the engagement and learning of their visitors is in stark contrast with Clark’s (1983) assertion that media are “mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement”.  

Clark, R. (1983). Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445–459.

Clark, R. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299088

Wall Street Journal. (2015, Oct 15). General format. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32pqI1dod8A

How Americans Get Science Information
Katie Brown

In the article “How Americans Get Science Information”, social media would be considered the medium to delivering the content of science information with the intention to educate the public on such issues like climate change or engineered food. This article claims that social media or “the media” for the sake of the argument we are debating, plays a modest role in actually educating people. The article depicts the usage and delivery methods of the content, stating that the medium is used by people to check in or be updated on what’s going on (with regards to science in this article particularly). This supports the claims made by Clarke (1983) when he says that the media is simply a “vehicle that delivers instruction” or in this case information. If learning occurs, it is not the media in this case that has caused a cognitive change in the brain, the information itself is not specific to the vehicle used to deliver it. In other words, if the information about science could be delivered in different ways (books, TV, newspapers, etc) then it can not be declared that the social media was, in fact, the result of a person learning (Clark, 1983). It could be argued that the means for social media use, in this case, was a cost-effective medium to deliver the information, therefore supporting Clark’s claim that delivery technologies influence the cost and access of instruction and information.

Funk, C., Gottfried, J., & Mitchell, A. (2017, September 20). Science news and information today. Paw Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org

zyBooks
Darin Faber

zyBooks is a company that creates and sells interactive digital books for pedagogical purposes. The subject material of zyBooks, a new media format, focusses on material that deals with STEM education. Drew (2011) outlines that STEM education is an initiative to stimulate the learning of students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The purpose of zyBooks is to replace traditional textbooks and static ePub/PDF digital volumes with a more richer, intuitive, and interactive educational experience that are “proven to better prepare students” (Why zyBooks section, para. 5).

The information provided on the website for zyBooks illustrates the confidence that the creators have in their dynamic educational book series. This level of confidence is showcased on the company’s website page listed under Research. According to zyBooks (n.d.), “zyBooks improved student performance by 16%” (Research section, para. 1) and ”letter grades up to ⅔” (Research section, para. 2). The company continued to show that “students learned 118% more in a single-lesson with minimal text” (Research section, para. 3) with “fewer than 3% of students ‘cheat the system’” (Research section, para. 4). These statements indicate that the company zyBooks perceives that their new media has influenced learning. This assumption by zyBooks directly challenges the theory set out by Clark. Clark (1994) iterates that the influence of education is based on the method of delivery and not the media. To reinforce the company’s claim, zyBooks has supplied non-peer reviewed articles which are written by employees of zyBooks.

Clark, R. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299088

Drew, D. (2011). STEM the tide. Retrieved from https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/chapter/35261

Funk, C., Gottfried, J., & Mitchell, A. (2017, September 20). Science news and information today. Paw Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299087.

zyBooks. (n.d.). zyBooks. Retrieved October 7, 2017, from http://www.zybooks.com/research/

This Play Dough Will Teach Your Kids All About Electricity
Amber Marechal

This article explains how using conductive play dough as the medium for learning can help children understand how electricity works. The article says, “Children can grasp technical concepts, but they need the right tools” (para. 1). If “tools” is a synonym for “media,” the statement directly contradicts Clark (1994), who argues media do not affect learning outcomes. But if “tools” is a synonym for “methods,” the statement aligns with Clark’s position (1994), who states media and methods are different. The article provides clarification on its position, stating, “It’s allowing children to solve problems through self-motivated learning” (para. 6). Here, the article explicitly aligns itself with Clark (1994) by indicating learning theories such as a problem-solving orientation and motivation are what drives learning outcomes, implying the media used is a secondary consideration.

Stinson, E. (2017). This play dough will teach your kids all about electricity. Retrieved October 6, 2017, from https://www.wired.com/2017/06/play-dough-will-teach-kids-electricity/

8 Important Reasons Why YouTube Should Be Part Of Your eLearning Course
Dugg Steary

In the article “8 Important Reasons Why YouTube Should Be Part Of Your eLearning Course”, the author Christoforos Pappas (2015) explores how YouTube can benefit eLearning students through a focus on integration, community development, promotion of discussion, mobile learning potentials, note-taking skill development, comprehension of complex concepts and contribution through creativity.

Pappas outlines how YouTube videos can be created to introduce, explain in detail, or summarize most subjects or skills for students.  Additionally, students and educators can create or consume content as part of a closed or open community while generating discussions within the YouTube platform or within the classroom.  YouTube videos can be viewed from locations convenient to the student and at the student’s pace to help ensure engagement and retention.  Additionally, YouTube videos can be created with the intention of viewing in short segments which “ensures that complex procedures and demonstrations of specific skills are delivered in small quantities, which enhances knowledge retention” (Pappas, 2015).

Through his exploration of the eight reasons to integrate YouTube videos in eLearning, Pappas supports Kozma’s (1994) assertion that media will influence learning.  Pappas (2015) summarizes that “visual contexts help learners to easily acquire and retain knowledge, as well as develop specific skill sets, as demonstration is the most effective way to get a message across.”

Clark, R. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299088

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299087.

Pappas, C. (2015). 8 important reasons why youtube should be part of your elearning. Course Retrieved October 6, 2017, from https://elearningindustry.com/8-important-reasons-youtube-part-elearning-course

One thought on “The Great EdTech Debate: Do Media Affect Learning Outcomes?

  1. Great articles. I think what this posting shows is there is still no black and white definition of whether technology influences learning, or if it is a vehicle to facilitate learning. This is said well when stating whether a tool is a synonym for method, or not. There is no doubt that technology has allowed an increase in experience, which is outlined in top article of how museums are using technology to stimulate all senses. Very interesting perspectives.

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