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” (Clark, 1983, p. 445).

The Great Media Debate is central to critiques and claims made by the various actors in the educational technology industry today with regards to the effects that media have on student learning and motivation. Debates and conflicting research surrounding the influence of media on learning and motivation influence how individual educators choose to engage with it, as well as how much larger local and national educational entities choose to invest limited funds in educational technology initiatives. Clark and Kozma are two leading researchers who have articulated the different ends of the spectrum of this debate for nearly three decades. Much has changed in the last thirty years. However, questions remain as to sufficient and necessary conditions for learning with media, the difference between media attributes, the capabilities of media, and the methods that instructors use to employ them. The question of methods of instruction being causal to learning (Clark,1994), versus media being an integral aspect of methods that are causal to learning (Kozma, 1994), remain the divisive points in the media debate.

Is it instructional methods that will always save the day, regardless of the media used to deliver content? Alternatively, do new forms of educational technology reach different learners’ needs in unprecedented and increasingly engaging ways, regardless of how a teacher chooses to incorporate them in delivering instruction? When new forms of media reach learners in more profound, more personalized ways, with effective instructional methods, is learning not amplified? Clark (1994) would argue “that media do not influence learning under any conditions” (Clark, 1994, in Kozma, 1994). Conversely, Kozma remains hopeful that educational technology, in its myriad of forms, is media that will influence student learning and motivation (Kozma, 1994). Many educators and researchers have observed students becoming engaged in unprecedented ways with new forms of media (Eschenbrenner, Nah & Siau, 2008; Lowther, Bond & Bendenlier, 2019), but the debate continues and will continue for years to come. Much research supports both Clark and Kozma’s positions, as does much research in between the two ends of the spectrum, working to find a “happy medium.” Our team assignment was to familiarize ourselves with Kozma and Clark’s different positions on the media debate and then choose four articles that are in stark contrast to the analysis presented by either Kozma or Clark’s positions. The first two articles argue contrary to Kozma’s position, while the second two articles are in stark contrast to Clark’s position.

Fedena. (2018, May 4). Teachers vs technology: Can technology replace teachers? [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://fedena.com/blog/2018/05/teachers-vs-technology-can-technology-replace-teachers.html

With the advancement of educational technology expanding and having a more significant presence in classrooms, there is no denying the important role it plays in supporting students and their learning. However, Fedena (2018) argues that the use and integration of technology cannot replace the art of teaching, instruction, and human interactions between teachers and students. This blog acknowledges that technology plays a significant role in simplifying and supporting teachers in their day-to-day efforts (e.g., school management systems that helps them communicate with parents) to enhance their teaching efforts, not replace them. This stance is contrary to the views of Kozma (1994), where he believes that technology and media are the influencing factors in how students learn, not the teacher.

As the great media debate continues, Kozma (1994) claims that using the right technology can impact students and their cognitive development. Alternatively, Fedena (2018) states that teachers do more than instruct students; they have the ability to understand and process cues and emotional interactions from students, whereas technology is just not equipped to handle such complex functions. Lastly, teachers have the ability to contextualize lessons and adjust their instruction based on the level of understanding from their students. Kozma’s (1994) means of using media and technology does not allow for the same level of flexibility that a good teacher can provide. Ultimately, the transfer of learning takes place based on their use of the technology as instruction, not the technology itself.

Mohammed, S. (2018, September 6). Tech or no tech, effective learning is all about teaching [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/09/06/tech-or-no-tech-effective-learning-is-all-about-teaching/

Kozma (1994) claims that media influences learning, a position to which Mohammed (2018) provides a nuanced and contrasting perspective. Mohammed (2018) argues that the instructional methods of the teacher are most relevant to student learning, rather than technology. The author believes the main use of educational technology in the classroom is to help the educator efficiently convey their instructional methods for learning to students. This primary use of technology was emphasized by highlighting studies of blended learning, which uses both human-driven and technology-driven instruction. In one study, a positive relationship between blended learning methods and student knowledge acquisition was found. In other studies, this finding was not corroborated. After further investigation, the author concluded that the discrepancy in findings could be attributed to the differing ways in which instructional strategies were used by the teachers, rather than the technology itself.

Kozma (1994) argues that evidence has not established a link between media and if it influences learning, but he suggests that media will influence learning in the future. Conversely, Mohammed’s (2018) article signifies that nearly 25 years after Kozma’s article was published, the question of whether technology influences learning is still being debated. Furthermore, Kozma (1994) states that instructional technology design has “complex interrelationships among media, method, and situation” (p. 21), suggesting integration of technology and instructional design. In contrast, Mohammed (2018) indicates that there is a separation between the technology and the method of teaching, as various teaching methods examined with similar technology garnered different results. Kozma argues that determining the capabilities of each technology and how they apply to learning is valuable. On the other hand, the studies that Mohammed examines indicate that specific technologies can have multiple uses in how they impact or facilitate learning. Rather than focusing on a single technology’s capability, as suggested by Kozma, it may be more useful to think of technology more holistically, where its functions and uses are interchangeable.


Immelt, W. (2019, June 17). AI the next step for education: Tech innovations changing our classrooms. Retrieved from https://hackernoon.com/ai-the-next-step-for-education-tech-innovations-changing-our-classrooms-851b1f297cad 

The discussions about the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education has intensified the media debate with the polarized views about this topic. This article provides insight into the role of AI in the classroom and how it changes the way we learn. When Clark put forward his claim that media are “mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement” (Clark as cited in Clark, 1994, para. 2) he might not have envisioned that some authors will be considering the fact that the actual teachers might be replaced by technology.

Immet does exactly that. He claims that AI is the “future of education” (Immelt, 2019), and we are standing on the verge of major technological changes in education as a whole, if not to replace the teachers, then to actively collaborate with them. Some of the examples Immet uses to support his claim are: using AI for admin tasks, tutoring, and test help. Furthermore, “education chatbots,” according to Immet (2019), can play the role of campus representatives and teaching assistants, as they can deliver tests, and provide course feedback.

Immet (2019) claims that AI “transforms the way we approach knowledge acquisition” due to personalization, social learning, gamification, and most importantly, “real-time” feedback. He even points to AI’s ability to create content, improving education as a whole and providing “equal learning opportunities to every student in the world” (Immet, 2019). Even though this is something that Clark might call a ” triumph of enthusiasm” (Clark, 1994), based on Immet’s claims, there is no doubt that technology can augment “current educational efforts” and become a “perfect candidate” to  improve, personalize, and make education more effective today (Immet, 2019), meeting its current needs as an accessible, powerful motivator and tool, moving students from consumers to creators! 

Rogers, S. (2019, March 15). Virtual reality: The learning aid of the 21st century. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/solrogers/2019/03/15/virtual-reality-the-learning-aid-of-the-21st-century/#2bc87f47139b

This article claims that virtual reality (VR) is a unique medium that helps users retain more information and more easily apply what they have learned, compared to more traditional platforms like a computer (Rogers, 2019, para. 1). The author argues that VR provides an interactive, 3D experience, which supports both individual and cooperative use, fully immersing users in the learning. He states that VR offers depth and visual appeal to learning, making complex concepts easier to understand, more enjoyable, and making learning more engaging and even motivational.

This article contrasts with Clark’s (1994) argument that media will never influence learning. First, Clark states that no medium or media attributes exist that provide learning gains for any student or learning task that could not be similarly achieved by different media or attributes (para. 3). Rogers, however, provides several examples of how VR’s capabilities provide learning benefits that appear unmatched. For example, VR allows anatomy students to study a functioning human body in great depth, overcoming “previous limitations such as unobservable structure or awkward angles” (Rogers, 2019, para. 6).

Clark (1994) also argues that the teaching methods built into computer-based instruction are used by teachers giving live instruction and, therefore, there is “no achievement difference between the [computer-based training] and live conditions” (para. 9). Since VR’s immersive 3D experience cannot be replicated by live instruction, this argument is defunct.

Finally, Clark (1994) also argues that instructional methods are a necessary feature of effective learning, while media attributes are irrelevant (para.13). Rogers counterargues that VR is causal to learning as it “can increase engagement and [provide] a significant improvement in . . . productivity compared to traditional classroom-based training techniques” (para. 8), especially for individual students who struggle to visualize, for example, in the study of historical events, natural disasters, and distant places.

The Clark-Kozma debate remains relevant. Kozma (1994) states that “the fact that other factors contribute to learning does not preempt a role for media” (p. 20). As new media, such as virtual reality, are introduced and students appear to be engaging with media in unprecedented ways, we need to give thoughtful consideration to their possible role in education.

So the debate continues…

Written By: Eunice Leung, Leigh McCarthy, Sanjay Pottinger, Sherry Ruth, and Marta Samokishyn

References

Clark, R. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/stable/1170217 

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29. Retrieved from http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~bmann/0_ARTICLES/Media_Clark.html 

Bond, M., & Bedenlier, S. (2019). Facilitating student engagement through educational technology: Towards a conceptual framework. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 1(11), 1-14. doi: 10.5334/jime.528.

Eschenbrenner, B., Nah, F. F., & Siau, K. (2008). 3-D virtual worlds in education: Applications, benefits, issues, and opportunities. Journal of Database Management, 19(4), 91-110. doi: 10.4018/jdm.2008100106

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.167.4904&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Attribution – Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash