The Great EdTech Debate: Do Media Affect Learning Outcomes?

by Terra A., Katie B., Darin F., Amber M., Dugg S.


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 A.

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.

Wall Street Journal. (2015, Oct 15). General format. Retrieved from


How Americans Get Science Information

Katie B.

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



Darin F.

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.

Drew, D. (2011). STEM the tide. Retrieved from

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

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7–19.

zyBooks. (n.d.). zyBooks. Retrieved October 7, 2017, from


This Play Dough Will Teach Your Kids All About Electricity

Amber M.

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


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

Dugg S.

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.

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7–19.

Pappas, C. (2015). 8 important reasons why youtube should be part of your elearning. Course Retrieved October 6, 2017, from


Assignment 1: Relevant Resources

A resource I use often is Mind Tools.  Mind Tools is dedicated to providing content and tools that build user skills in areas key to career success, including leadership, team management, and learning (Mind Tools, 2017).  The site offers an impressive selection of content and tools that are relevant to students of LRNT 523 and the Masters of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) program.

In particular, the category “Learning Skills” contains a variety of interesting and helpful resources slotted into 5 subcategories:

  1. Personal Learning Skills (e.g. Mind Maps)
  2. Understanding how People Learn (e.g. Cognitive Load Theory; Bloom’s Taxonomy, The ADDIE model)
  3. Developing a Learning Environment (e.g. Engaging People in Learning)
  4. Reading More Effectively (e.g. Overcoming Information Overload)
  5. Memory Techniques (e.g. The Journey Technique)

Clearly, there is a lot of content applicable to LRNT523, including information on how people learn and on the relationship between learning and technology.  In addition, there is content that can help us become better students through a focus on virtual teamwork, time management, and writing.  When taken together, the information and tools at Mind Tools can help us become better content consumers and creators.

In addition to Mind Tools, here is a brief list of websites I consider to be of great value to students, researchers, and curious humans – in case they are of interest to you as well:

  • Brain Pickings – An Inventory of the Meaningful Life – A life resource that explores a wide variety of topics, including history, philosophy, and literature
    • Interesting content includes: everything… though a personal favourite ‘rabbit hole’ is her content on death and dying, including Cry, Heart, but Never Break; and Duck, Death, and the Tulip.
    • Other interesting, more relevant, content includes: How to Hone your Creative Routine and Master the Pace of Productivity; The Science of Stress and How our Emotions Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease
    • Also check out Explore – a companion site to Brain Pickings
  • BusinessBalls – A general L&D resource with some learning-focused content
    • The content is solid – though the name may have been a lost bet.
    • Interesting content includes: Experiential Learning, Bloom’s Taxonomy, Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model
  • The Edge – A blog that explores a variety of topics across disciplines and engages prominent thinkers in the field (science and technology are prominent)
    • Interesting content includes: Aerodynamics for Cognition, Defining Intelligence, Learning by Thinking, How the Brain is Computing the Mind
  • Farnam Street – Another general L&D resource with some learning-focused content
    • Interesting content includes: Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance; When it Comes to Learning, Depth Beats Breadth; The Learning Paradox: Why Struggling to Learn is a Good Thing
  • You Are Not So Smart – a blog that humorously explores self-delusion
    • Interesting content includes: How search engines inflate your intellectual confidence, Revisiting how we can escape the trap of learned helplessness, Begging the Question
    • Why you should read this blog / listen to these podcasts, in the author David McRaney’s words: “I didn’t know about confirmation bias and self-enhancing fallacies, and once I did, I felt very, very stupid. I still feel that way, but now I can make you feel that way too.” (McRaney).

Are there any great ones I’ve missed? I would love to hear your suggestions.



Time management and information overload


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In your daily life, you may have heard of the concept of information overload. It refers to having access to too much information or data. This week a colleague and I looked at what an abundance of digital content means from the perspective of teaching and learning. We first reviewed the article, “A pedagogy of abundance” by Martin Weller, which discusses a shift from content scarcity to abundance in the digital age. In Weller’s conclusion, he says, “an individual’s attention is not abundant, and is time-limited” (p.10).

With that thought in mind, my colleague and I set out to explore how abundant content affects us in our own lives, and how we might be able to manage our time better to adjust to the increasing demands on us as master’s students. This would allow us to absorb more digital content than we have previously been accustomed to. Below are our findings.

Amber’s Findings: Researching time management is a waste of time

My search for “time management” as a general topic of interest yielded about 72 million results from Google’s search engine. The search engine suggested other popular search phrases I might want to try as well, such as: What is good time management? What is your strategy for time management, How do I manage my time better? How do you manage your study time?

With thousands of search results already at my fingertips, I chose not to look for even more.

Instead, I chose to focus on the first page of the results. Sources I recognized were articles from Mindtools, Wikipedia, Psychology Today,, The Guardian, and Harvard Business Review, while the few I did not were from Quartz, Top Universities, University of Kent, and Skills You Need. Many article links led to me to a web page with links to more articles (but very little actual content), leading me to a sense of quickly being overwhelmed by the information available. As a first pass I did not read the articles but skimmed the headlines, looking for information on time management that I (1) did not already know and (2) also found useful.

Most articles defined time management, explained the importance of time management skills, and provided high-level strategies to help manage time. Strategies included the need to prioritize, set goals, create task lists, delegate, and minimize distractions, among many others. Many articles reiterated the same information, most of which I already knew, and the remainder was too general to be of any practical value. After reading just a few articles, I felt like I was wasting my time.

Terra’s Findings

The essence of time management is two-part: part one, deciding what to do, and part two, doing it (Pavlina, 2006). A cursory examination of the research hinted that there is more content to be found on part two and less on part one, and this instinct was confirmed by at least one researcher (Pavlina, 2006). Often the biggest challenge is figuring out the best uses of your time (e.g., planning and prioritization), rather than on executing (e.g., time audit, calendar blocking, delegation). Perhaps the best piece of advice offered for addressing part one – “what to do” – is to begin with goals and a vision. Farrell (2017) says, “the goal setting process is the key to managing time as it is the basis for articulation of priorities, determination of action items, and personnel deployment… [and] the vision of the organization is the foundation of determining if time is being utilized to advance or manage the organization.” Although the author was clearly focused on time management in a professional context, it is easy to see how this holds true for our personal lives as well: by examining our personal goals and vision for the future, we can isolate and articulate our core priorities, and then manage our time to suit.

The notion that optimal time management is dependent on person and context cropped up frequently in my examination of the literature. One researcher cited personal workstyle preferences and organizational culture as key strategy selection drivers and suggested that individuals must test a variety of different time-saving strategies to uncover those that are most suitable for them (Farrell, 2017). In other words, there is no universal solution; the best approach to optimizing your time management is trial and error. Given the abundance of research on this topic in both open and closed domains, there is no shortage of test material with which to do so.

Final thoughts: abundant content and limited time is a recipe for disaster

The quest for optimal time management is universal; whether we are looking at personal or professional endeavours, we all seek to spend our time in the best possible way.  It is no surprise then, that content on “time management” is abundant, and both research and interest in the topic transcend disciplines. In reference to the glut of content on the topic, one researcher ironically noted: “As leaders, we lack the time to figure out all of the time saving strategies!” (Farrell, 2017, p.216).

Returning to Weller’s point, having access to abundant content definitely conflicts with having limited time to absorb it. It seems many content creators failed to recognize a key characteristic of their end user: readers looking for information about time management are short on time. Clicking through pages of links, watching videos, flipping through slideshows, reading long pages of texts, and taking quizzes may be great instructional design features for other target audiences, but not for this one. A wealth of content under pressure can easily lead to frustration and giving up.

Perhaps content curation could be an effective solution for managing an abundance of content in today’s digital society. What are your thoughts?



Farrell, M. (2017). Leadership Reflections: Time Management. Journal of Library Administration, 57(2), 215-222.


Pavliva, Steve. (2006, Feb. 6). Time Management [web log comment]. Retrieved from:


Weller, M. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Revista Espanola de Pedagogia, 69(249), 223–236.