Category Archives: LRNT 521

Instructional Design vs Learning Design – New Perspectives, or Conceptual Semantics?

Merrill’s (2002) seminal paper asserted that there are profoundly similar core principles of learning shared between various instructional design theories; and cross-compared distinct models, which identified standard ideologies.  While this paper was written nearly twenty years ago, the identified fundamental principles are still widely used as an effective tool for analyzing the pedagogical quality of course design.  Several scholars have supported the effectiveness of these identified principles since publication, including Gardner’s (2011) study on the impact on student performance when these standards were put into practice.  These principles synthesized by Merrill (2002) resulted in a pragmatic framework that has provided a standard blueprint for instructional designers to use; nevertheless, what about the consideration for the modernized shift from instructional design to learning design?  Muddy is the waters surrounding the distinction of these terms.  There has been a shift in design approach over the past decade with rapid advances in educational technologies, and open pedagogies.  The focus is much more learner-centered, with significant consideration of the needs of learners, and the design of the learning activities (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013; Conole, 2014).  As I begin to carve out my designer identity, (current title ‘teaching and learning with technology strategist’), I acknowledge that my role is underpinned seemingly by both models, and I am toggling between them throughout my practice; Merrill’s (2002) principles can provide a foundation on which to build in these modernized approaches.  Are new considerations required which demand a re-thinking of pedagogical approaches? Otherwise, are we just wrapped up in job title semantics?


Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: Designing for 21st century learning (2nd ed.). Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Conole, G. (2014). The 7Cs of learning design: A new approach to rethinking design practice. Paper presented at the 9th International Conference on Networked Learning 2014, University of Leicester, pp. 502-509. Paper retrieved from

Gardner, J. (2011). Testing the efficacy of Merrill’s first principles of instruction in improving student performance in introductory biology courses. (Doctoral dissertation, Utah State University, United States of America). Retrieved from

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.

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The Dichotomy of Screen-based Lifestyles – Toxic or Villainized?

Etchells et al. (2017) asserted that screen-based lifestyles are creating “moral panic” (p.1) and that the claims of adverse effects of screen time on behaviours and development lack research-based evidence.  This multi-authored open letter published in the Guardian would appear to be in response to the palpable rate that technology is manifesting in our lives and the often-heard expression of concern from the masses surrounding the rate in which it is arriving.  Tamana, S.K et al. (2019) concluded that there is, in fact, evidence to suggest a correlation between screen time and stress, which was established through the collection and analyzation of research participant’s saliva. The study found that there was a relationship between the use of screened devices and the rise in cortisol levels, which is the hormone indicated with a rise in stress levels. Stress has been found to lead to obesity in adolescents (Murray, Rieger, & Byrne, p., 2015) and illness, depression, and anxiety in college students (Rawson, Bloomer, & Kendall, p., 1994). These findings indicated that excessive stress could be physically unhealthy, and if there is a direct correlation between screen time and stress as suggested by Tamana et al. (2019), it can be concluded that excessive screen time is physically unhealthy.  Alternately, however, not having access to screen time can also affect behaviour and cause stress.  Konok, Pogany, & Miklosi (2017) found experimental support to conclude that humans form attachments to their mobile devices and seek proximity to them when separated.  I have felt the jolt of panic and the physiological symptoms of anxiety when my iPhone has been misplaced, and then the re-stabilization of my nervous system when (finally) safely back in my hands.  I believe there is a balance needed but hypothesize and agree with Etchells et al. (2017) that further quality research studies are needed surrounding this topic to establish the impact of digital technologies.

Etchells, P., et al. (January 6, 2017). Screen time guidelines should be built on evidence, not hype. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Konok, V., Pogány, A., Miklósi, A. (2017). Mobile attachment: Separation from the mobile phone induces physiological and behavioural stress and attentional bias to separation-related stimuli, Computers in Human Behavior, 71, p.228-239

Rawson, H., Bloomer, K., & Kendall, A. (1994). Stress, anxiety, depression, and physical illness in college students. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 155(3), p.321-330, doi: 10.1080/00221325.1994.9914782

Tamana, S.K., Ezeugwu, V., Chikuma, J., Lefebvre, D.L., Azad, M., Moraes, T. J., … Mandhane, P. J. (2019). Screen-time is associated with inattention problems in preschoolers: Results from the CHILD birth cohort study. PLoS ONE, 14(4), p.1–15.

Murray, K., Rieger, E., & Byrne, D. (2015). The relationship between stress and body satisfaction in female and male adolescents. Stress and Health, 31(1), p.13-23. doi:10.1002/smi.2516



The Use of Cinema in Education: A Synthesis of Sources (Part 2)

Researching the history of the use of cinema in education resulted in the discovery of vast amounts of information; nevertheless, the sources analyzed were narrowed to the five most appropriate, and within these sources, themes were identified that are relevant to the furthering of research in this area.  This paper identifies themes discovered through the exploration of five sources surrounding this topic, bridging a period of one hundred years; that each respectively examined the use of cinema as an innovative tool for teaching and learning.  Both anecdotal and scientific evidence was provided in the respective sources to support claims of productive uses of cinema in education, though additional patterns arose through critical analyzation.  These patterns indicated gaps, limitations, and concerns requiring further contemplation and investigation.  This paper will focus on the juxtaposition of these themes and make connections in order to postulate the implications of using this medium for effective teaching and learning.  This essay will begin by first discussing some common themes that arose for the corresponding authors when using cinema in a variety of educational settings, including, improved understanding and empathy, increased student engagement, and enhanced learning opportunities; it will then go on to critically analyze the collective gaps, limitations, and concerns identified in these separate articles which demand further scrutiny.

Using cinema as an educational tool to promote understanding and empathy was a common theme discovered in the literature review.  Campos and Knudsen (2018) and Rorrer and Furr (2009) claimed that film could provide an appreciation for various perspectives and promote cultural awareness and empathy.  Data collected from 180 surveyed medical residents supported this notion, as 89% of respondents reported that their understanding of suicide assessment and treatment, as well as the grief process and impact on families, was increased (Retamero, Walsh, & Otero-Perez, 2014, p.609).  In addition to these findings, Kaye and Ets-Hokin (2000) argued that the use of the film “The Breakfast Club” during residency promoted the understanding of adolescent development and identity formation and cemented future empathetic attitudes towards adolescent psychiatry patients.  Kaye and Ets-Hokin (2000) and Rorrer and Furr (2009) agreed that the reason film could increase understanding and awareness was that cinema was an engaging teaching tool.  This assertation aligned with the second theme extrapolated from this literature review; learner engagement, and the augmentation of learning using film as a medium.

Nearly one hundred years ago, Crandall (1926) suggested that not only could using cinema in education engage learners but could also, in fact, enhance the learning.  This older suggestion is strengthened by the recent findings of Campos and Knudson (2018), who discovered that cinema used in a classroom setting cultivated the development of critical thinking and analytical skills.  Retamero, Walsh, and Otero-Perez (2014) found that concepts shown through multimedia could enhance the learning when addressing the topic of suicide with psychiatric residents, and in a similar healthcare educational setting, Kaye and Ets-Hokin (2000) concurred that the use of cinema allowed the medical students to draw connections for future applications when diagnosing developing adolescents.  These common findings support the use of cinema as an effective tool in teaching and learning; even so, there were some corresponding limitations and contradictions identified throughout the five articles that warrant consideration.

In contrast to the previous evidence that supported the use of cinema in education, several parallel gaps discovered in the literature established that further study might be needed to validate the use of cinema as an effective teaching tool.  Crandall’s 1926 piece noted that instructors could not merely be “throwing motion pictures at the children” (p.114) and that cinema, like other educational devices, must fit the purpose.  Crandall (1926) predicted that pedagogical practices would be resolved in the future, and this would no longer be an issue.  Campos and Knudson (2018), Kaye and Ets-Hokin (2000), and Retamero, Walsh, and Otero-Perez (2014) all agreed that instructional design and methods of instruction are critically important when using cinema to educate and confirmed that the issue of sound pedagogy continues to plague educators.  Crandall could not have predicted the complexities of future education in 1926, and arguably nor could current researchers predict the complexities of education in the future; what can be safely established from analyzing these various works is that films should be selected to support the pedagogy, and instructors using cinema as a teaching tool require instructional supports (Crandall, 1926., p.114., Rorrer & Furr, 2009, p.164).  This is as significant today as it was when Crandall (1926) stated that in the future every established educational institution would have solved the “technique” problems and be using cinema with purpose (p.115), which arguably continues to be a complex issue in the current, increasingly digital learning environment, where the efficacy of pedagogy is reliant on the instructor understanding technology, learner diversity, and adapting the learning context to the instructional  environment (Murty & Rao, 2019, p.1).  Acknowledging the importance of pedagogical practices and instructional design was highlighted in several of these articles and strengthened the author’s assertations, that said, there were also limitations and contradictions encountered in their respective arguments.

Several limitations and concerns were identified through the analyzation of the five articles, which included antiquation, limited sample sizes, and inadequate ethical considerations. Crandall (1926) and Kaye and Ets-Hokin (2000) are both antiquated, with the former being postulated nearly one hundred years ago long before digital film and streaming modalities; and the latter by using “The Breakfast Club” as the film choice to represent adolescent archetypes from 1985.  Rorrer and Furr (2009) conducted a study using only thirty-three participants from a region of North Carolina, and Retamero, Walsh, and Otero-Perez (2014) failed to include a comparison group and thus were unable to verify the impact on student’s attitudes post-screening.  Finally, and arguably most important, several studies demonstrated inadequate ethical considerations; Campos and Knudson (2018) screened films that contained complex themes that may have required further supports be in place, and Retamero, Walsh, and Otero-Perez (2014) attached an incentive grade to the viewing of the film and participation in the study, and four students vocalized they felt required to watch as a result (p.608), moreover, actual footage of suicides were used in the film (p.610) and two students required post-screening counseling (p.608).  Despite these concluded limitations and concerns, the history of the use of cinema in education explored through these five articles was encouraging, with all collectively finding cinema to be an effective tool in teaching the desired concepts.

By comparing and analyzing these five articles focused on the use of cinema in education, common themes emerged that connected arguments and supported findings for the continued use of film as a teaching tool in various learning environments.  Additionally, the literature review allowed for the examination of potential limitations and concerns for future use of cinema in education.  Historically, cinema has been used in many educational contexts with varying success, although the sources here were narrowed to a small collection, patterns developed through the comparison, and should be noted when using cinema as a teaching tool.  We are streaming, downloading, webcasting, webinaring, and PVR’ing, and it may be concluded that no one can predict how films will be accessed in the future; nonetheless, the use of cinema for effective teaching and learning can be an excellent tool if used with sound pedagogy and purpose.


Campos, D., & Knudson, E. (2018). Using film to expand horizons. Educational Leadership, 76(4), 73-78.

Crandall, E. (1926). Possibilities of the cinema in education. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science,128, 109-115.

Kaye, D.L., & Ets-Hokin, E. (2000). The breakfast club: Utilizing popular film to teach adolescent development. Academic Psychiatry, 24(2), 110-116. doi:10.1176/appi.ap.24.2.110

Murty, B., & Rao, K. (2019, April). Digital pedagogy: An opportunity or a threat? Proceedings of International Conference on Digital Pedagogies (ICDP).

Retamero, C., Walsh, L., & Otero-Perez, G. (2014). Use of the film the bridge to augment the suicide curriculum in undergraduate medical education. Academic Psychiatry, 38(5), 605-610.

Rorrer, A., & Furr, S. (2009). Using film as a multicultural awareness tool in teacher education. Multicultural Perspectives, 11(3), 162-168.




The Medium is the Modality (Collaborative Post by: Ambata-Villanueva, S., Einarson, E., Gedak, L., Goodes, J., Nassiripour, S., 2019)

Richard E. Clark (1994) argued that there is little to no evidence that media influences learning. Robert Kozma (1994) also offers evidence that media has not played a substantial role in learning, although he leaves the door open to arguing that media still have the potential to do so in the future. The authors’ positions are refuted by many scholars and writers. We have compiled some examples. 

Westera, W. (2017). How people learn while playing serious games: A computational modelling approach. Journal of Computational Science, 18(1), 32-45. Retrieved from

This paper focuses on the use of games for learning and questions the position of Clark (1983, 2010). The author argued that using games in education and training is engaging and results in stronger learner involvement, simulates realistic environments, stimulates problem-solving, and supports learning-by-doing; which all supports “the acquisition of tacit and contextualised knowledge.” 

EdTech. (2019). Early adopters pioneer virtual reality use in higher education. Retrieved from

This article points out the use of Virtual Reality in the online biological science degree program in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. A unit within Arizona State University – EdPlus – is dedicated to “scaling access to education through online programs and other initiatives” (EdTech, para. 7); it is responsible for the implementation of VR within the school. Philippos Savvides. a EdPlus learning technology manager, states that using VR, the students “get to be active and move around using the headset and controller, so there’s an active-learning element involved”. Clark (1994) restates from his early work that “that any necessary teaching method could be designed into a variety of media presentations” (Clark, 1994), but in the case of the movement allowed in VR learning, this specific learning could not be replaced by other movement-restrictive technologies. 

Beckingham, K (2019, February 23). What impact is edtech having on pedagogy? Education Technology.Retrieved from

 This article features the role of technology in enhancing the learning experience for students. Utilizing education technology in the classroom (e.g., virtual pinboards, screen sharing, and VR) has made it easier for teachers to engage their students by making learning more interactive (Kennedy, para. 6). Keeping pedagogy at the core of developing these products is essential. According to several edtech providers, this field is competitive.  To ensure not only the longevity of the product but also the efficacy of the learning tool, pedagogy needs to be incorporated in the product development; The critical element to the success of this is ensuring that the different roles the teacher, the learner, and the technology play are fully understood (Hague, para. 10). As Kozma (1994) asserted, the question that should be asked is, how do we use the capabilities of media to influence learning for particular students, tasks, and situations? (p. 23).  This question articulated that media do have a place in enhancing the learning experiences of students as well as the experience of teachers providing the lessons.

Lynch, M. (2017). 7 Ways technology is impacting modern education. Retrieved from

Clark (1994) claims that media have no advantages when it comes to learning. Lynch (2017) would disagree. In his article “7 Ways Technology is Impacting Modern Education”, he states that technology is a considerable means in pedagogy, and that technology can significantly affect students’ and teachers’ learning processes. Lynch lists the ways in which technology aids learning; he makes a strong point observing how young learners become more passionate about their studies depending on how interactive their learning is. He offers geography class as an example; Students are much more passionate about studying geography when using interactive technologies such as Google Maps or Google Earth. Clark (1994) on the other hand feels that media are not responsible for bringing passion to learners. Overall, Lynch’s view in the great media debate contradicts Clark’s.

Clark and Kozma offer a challenging view of the role of media in learning. Their arguments are robust and controversial. As the learning and technology community continues to evolve, Clark and Kozma’s writings have yielded an abundance of healthy discourse. We are pleased that we have the opportunity to explore some of the many articles and research.

Additional References

Clark, R. E. (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), 

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The Use of Cinema In Education – Annotated Spreadsheet of Sources

The history of the use of cinema in education is long and film has been used in many contexts over the last one hundred years.  In my search for information, I uncovered many artifacts discussing this topic that were written between 1919 and 2019.  Here, I have provided an annotated spreadsheet of five sources in which I felt particularly relevant to my search for historic uses of film in education:

The use of cinema in education annotated spreadsheet



Teaching and Learning with Purpose – A Virtual Attendees Reflection

  Virtual Symposium Critical Academic Reflective Blog Post – Unit 1 | Activity 3

          Attending a variety of recorded sessions through the virtual symposium was an excellent preface to the MALAT program and provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my knowledge concerning digital learning environments.  I was amazed at the diversity of speakers in the series and the multifaceted topics.  Each stream of the symposium provided fresh perspectives from diverse lenses and backgrounds which provided intensive exposure to current practices and theories in digital learning.  As a virtual attendee, this provided many opportunities for pause and reflection.  The presentations created by students who were nearing the end of the program were significant, as I was able to extrapolate from their experiences and apply them to my learning journey.  The most insightful recording I viewed challenged the purpose of online learning and reinforced some of my own musings.

            As I reviewed the recordings, I was astounded by the vast terminologies being coined in the field of digital education.  One particular thread that materialized was the need to distinguish the term open which must be interpreted contextually.  Cormier (2017) compares open to a rhizome, difficult to contain with implications only limited to its habitat.  “Open can get really messy, you do get the learning all over you” (Cormier, 2017, 26:55).  Viewing this presentation allowed me to reflect on just how open I had been in my practice, which was not something I had previously considered.  The concept of open within the context of teaching and learning was explored by multiple presenters.  “Most good educators are open educators even if they don’t know that they are open educators because at the heart of education is this willingness to share your knowledge, your skills, your information with learners” (Lalonde, 2018, 10:20).  This allowed me to reflect on the notions of open and how I could best implement some of these ideas within my practice. 

            Especially intriguing were the concepts presented surrounding purposeful content design and delivery. “Students need help to become independent learners, so they’re still gonna need instructors and teachers; and my worry is that this is a move to just put content up on the web and call it online learning” – in reference to the Ontario K-12 online strategy (Bates, 2019, 13:20).  This statement resonated with my recent experience undergoing curriculum development.  What was the motivation?  Was it to be more cost-effective?  Alternatively, was it to provide a better education for our future students?  Was it purposeful?  With limited time release and no additional funds in the coffers, it certainly did not appear purposeful; the hurried instructional design was resulting in a repository of information; with negligible interaction and support from instructors or peers.  Bates (2019) also questions the claims that online learning can be delivered more cost-effectively than learning that occurs on campus, and believes there is a place for both models and that neither should be forced; content should be delivered in the format best suited to learning.  From an ethical standpoint, I agree that designing an online curriculum for cost recovery (or profit) is a poor pedagogy and misguided.  “Curriculum design should be viewed as a process, rather than a product” (Masten, 2015).

                  I was captivated when watching the student research presentation Supporting Volitional Competency in Online Students. (Darbyson, 2018).  According to Darbyson’s research, students are constantly disrupted by life’s circumstances and can find it challenging to maintain motivation.  Persistence and effort are required to achieve success, and there has been little research to show how volitional strategies can be incorporated into the instructional design to support student motivation.  (Darbyson, 2018, 06:45).  I am eager to engage in further readings on volitional strategies that may be of use in my future studies, and that can also be incorporated into my teaching practice.

            The threads presented within the virtual symposium raised substantial and provocative questions that shall be further explored throughout my educational journey within the MALAT program.           



Bates, T. (2019). Rethinking the Purpose of Online Learning [Video file]. Retrieved July 14, 2019, from

Darbyson, R. (2018). Supporting Volitional Competency in Online Students [Video file]. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from

Lalonde, C. (2018). Into the Great Wide Open [Video file]. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from

Masten, M. (2015, October 24). 8 Barriers to Curriculum Design [Blog post]. Retrieved from