The Importance of Media in Learning: Evolving Debate, Kozma vs Clark

Authored By: Dino Hatzigeorgiou, Sue Hawkins, Tanya Heck, Melem Sharpe, Physaun Wilkes

The great media debate between Richard Clark and Robert Kozma was sparked by an article written in 1983 by Clark on “Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media.” The debate continued into the 1990’s with Clark (1994) re-iterating his position that methodology is responsible for learning, not the medium. While Kozma (1994) reframed earlier arguments to emphasize that both the method and medium influence learning. Today the argument still evokes valuable discussion, and the 5 articles presented in this blog provide another perspective in contrast to Clark (1994).

5 Positive effects technology has on learning

A blog post titled 5 Positive Effects Technology Has on Teaching & Learning written by the team at Kurzweil Education (2015) claims that the use of technology has a positive effect on teaching and learning.  Clark (1994) argues that learning gains should be attributed to the method of instruction and not the delivery medium (p. 5). However, Kurzweil (2015) argues that students are more stimulated and motivated to learn when they can interact with hands on learning tools such as educational technology (para. 4).  Kurzweil also notes that technology allows to students to self pace their learning, and when used in a classroom it allows teachers extra time with students that are struggling (para. 5) Kurzweil provides evidence to support their claims using a survey conducted by PBS (2013). “Seven in 10 teachers (69%) surveyed by PBS Learning Media said educational technology allows them to “do much more than ever before” for their students. Including technology in the classroom benefits teachers and students in many ways” (para. 8).  In contrast to Clarks argument, Kurzweil highlights the effectiveness of educational technology on a students ability to learn.

This is how we used technology to improve our school’s reading scores.

Jesse Simpson, a Principal at an elementary school in the United States, implemented StudySync, a literature instruction platform to improve reading related skills in her district. Contrary to Clark’s position that media does not influence learning, this digital ELA program provided a framework for the teachers to design their curriculum.  In the first year, the district state assessment results saw an increase of up to 20 per cent in some schools. As one teacher stated “the students didn’t simply have a good test day – they actually learned the necessary skills” (Simpson, J., 2017, para. 13). Moreover, we can look to Kozma (1994) who described his vision of future technological environments such as StudySync to increase learning:  

How this new technology will be used is not yet clear.  But enabled by its capabilities, liberated by new models of design, and informed by media theory and research, designers may find new ways to engage students in interactions within these technological environments, interactions that may tip the balance in favor of learning (p. 23).

7 ways technology is impacting modern education

Lynch (2017) in his article “7 ways technology is impacting modern education” highlights seven major impacts of using technological tools in classroom learning and instructional practice. He noted that technology enables interaction among students with learning materials, and provides students with the opportunity to use the internet to conduct research which are associated to real life problems. As a result, students are able to differentiate their relations to the curriculum. He acknowledged that technology allows students to create various online groups thus forming virtual communities where they are able to interact and obtain feedback.  Given Lynch’s (2017) perspectives it contradicts Clarke’s argument that media are “mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition” (p.1). It is evident that Clarke’s argument may have had merit in that era but technology and educational practices have evolved and have seen changes in which students currently interact and learn. Students are now able to use simulation technology to “see planetary movements, how a tornado develops”’ (Lynch 2017, para 5) as opposed to “static models used in previous decades” (para 5). This galvanize that technology are more than mere vehicles but rather impacts the learning process for students and educators.

How technology benefits learning

Timothy (2016) argues that how learners process and understand information is a result of technology which has changed how we learn. He suggests that learning is no longer a passive activity; it has become learner-centered as a result of educational technology (Timothy, 2016). Specifically, Timothy notes that increased internet connectivity and the use of mobile devices have amplified how learning is dispersed, enabling self-paced learning. Through augmented and virtual reality, and gamification technologies learner motivation and performance have increased dramatically (Timothy, 2016). Most notably, training has become more effective because of immersive learning through wearable and simulation technologies (Timothy, 2016). If we look at this from Clark’s (1994) perspective which is that learning occurs because of teaching methods, and media serves as a means of delivery. The delivery medium has no significant effect on learning according to Clark, so virtual and augmented realities, and gamification would not have any significant impact on learning according to this perspective. Clark would argue that these technologies may be efficient delivery structures for learning, however, learning would happen irregardless because it is the methodology that matters. This may have been the case in the 1980’s, when such technology had not yet been developed. However, Timothy’s (2016) example of augmented reality or wearable technology in his article is key to deepening learning, especially in simulation training. Augmented and virtual reality technology therefore are  are unique in this case, and afford ‘learning by doing’.

Education and role of media in education system

In his article, Clark (1994)  agrees with Salomon by stating that media are not directly responsible for motivating learning, and references new (at the time) cognitive theories that give no merit to media other than instruction (Clark, 1994, under motivation with media). This argument is extremely outdated because it does not reflect the current reality which places (digital) learning technology, such as social software (also known as Web 2.0), in the center of the modern teaching paradigm. Furthermore, Clark was unaware of modern learning theories such as (social) constructivism, an evolution of cognitivism, which relies in the use of Web 2.0 technologies. According to Preeti (2014), because of the proliferation of media (especially social and mass media) in day-to-day students’ lives, it is natural – if not compulsory – to use media in education not only in the classroom but also throughout the teaching/learning process. In fact, in stark contrast with Clark, Preeti sees social media as a solution to learner disengagement. Preeti (2004) argues that through higher levels of engagement achieved using media, students’ attention is shifted towards learning activities, especially when these activities pertain to real-world objects, enabling learners connect what they learn at school with the application of this knowledge in the outside world. Therefore, without discounting the importance of appropriate teaching and use of media, media in education provide the affordance of richer experiences since media are powerful tools for illustrating scenarios and real-life examples.

Much has changed since Clark wrote his paper in 1994.  Given the advances in technology and the role it plays in all aspects of life, the emphasis has shifted to focus on the benefits of technology in educational design.  Changes in learning theory have prompted a response to recognize Kozma’s (1994) finding that both the medium and the methodology contribute to learning.

References

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development VO, 42(2), 21. 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.

Kurzweil. (2015). 5 Positive effects technology has on teaching & learning. Kurzweil Education. Retrieved from https://blog.kurzweiledu.com/2015/02/12/5-positive-effects-technology-has-on-teaching-learning/

Lynch, M. (2017). 7 Ways technology is impacting modern education. Retrieved from https://www.thetechedvocate.org/7-ways-technology-impacting-modern-education/

PBS. (2013, September 30). PBS Survey finds teachers are embracing digital resources to propel student learning [survey]. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/about/blogs/news/pbs-survey-finds-teachers-are-embracing-digital-resources-to-propel-student-learning/

Preeti, B. (2014). Education and role of media in education system. International Journal of Scientific Engineering and Research (IJSER). Retrieved from http://www.ijser.in/archives/v2i3/SjIwMTMxNTg=.pdf

Simpson, J. (2017, October 6).This is how we used technology to improve our school’s reading scores. [website]. eSchool News. Retrieved from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2017/10/06/technology-schools-reading-scores/

Timothy, A. (2016, July 30). How technology benefits learning. eLearning Industry [website]. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/technology-benefits-learning

 

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