Unit 2, Activity 5: Media Debate in Current Events (John and Alison)

Clark (1994) and Kozma (1994), in their semantic war, would likely still disagree on the influence of media in learning today. Their debate is complicated because Kozma re-frames it in terms of a future where media will influence learning whereas Clark, in a sweeping statement, claims that “media will never influence learning”(Clark, 1994, p.1).

This 2017 article in The New York Times reports on the move into public education by big tech companies. These efforts are changing many aspects of K-12 education in an “experiment in education [by] influencing the subjects that schools teach, the classroom tools that teachers choose and fundamental approaches to learning” (Singer, 2017). However, Singer (2017) notes that there has not been much oversight by the public, and research of benefits to students has been limited.

Kozma (1994) has the edge in his debate with Clark (1994) though as the power of artificial intelligence (AI) was not yet conceived in the early 1990’s. Clark (1994) might state that the advanced AI tools such as DreamBox mentioned in a report, analyzed by Harvard University, are individually chosen and implemented by teachers choosing a particular methodology and have no educational attributes on their own. Singer (2017) states “so far there is little proof that such technologies improve achievement”.

Kozma (1994) however, might argue that DreamBox which uses 50 000 data points per hour per student (Singer, 2017) to tailor lessons for individual students is an example of an AI product that is essentially teaching the learner on its own, an example of media influencing learning. Facebook used a similar approach in its collaboration with Summit Public Schools mentioned in the article. “Teachers use the software to track students’ work and may intervene when a child is struggling” (Singer, 2017). 

As post secondary classes are progressively moving online, this 2020 article by the Eyeopener reports on how professors at Ryerson University are adapting. While most professors are offering live and/or pre-recorded classes, some professors are choosing alternative methods, including using Zoom, Minecraft, and Miro (Rafique, 2020). 

Dr. Alexandra Bal, a professor of new media, is currently offering a first-year introductory course called “Creative Processes” over Minecraft and Discord (Rafique, 2020). In an interview posted on Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication & Design website, Dr. Bal explains that  “we decided to build a social environment in one of our students’ digital habitats. Since we can not be together physically, we need an environment that simulates a space and allows us to build and make [it] together” (Bartnicki, 2020) . 

Clark (1994) would likely argue that Minecraft serves as the vehicle that “delivers instruction but does not influence student achievement”. However, Dr. Bal suggests that “using our students’ established digital culture and modes of communication will engage them meaningfully in a virtual space and get them to show the digital facet of their identity” (Bartnicki, 2020). Furthermore, she proposes that students will learn digital communication practices they can apply to any field, as well as virtual professional practices for working remotely (Bartnicki, 2020). As such, it could be argued that these outcomes may not occur if media was not being used or the course was taught in a traditional classroom.

Kozma (1994) would likely apply his argument that Minecraft allows for “the potential for a relationship between media and learning [by considering it as] an interaction between cognitive processes and characteristics of the environment…” (Kozma, 1994, p.3). Likewise, Dr. Bal contends that “Minecraft is a sandbox and we will be able to model the experimental and explorative processes we want our students to celebrate” (Bartnicki, 2020).

In closing, Kozma (1994) stated that “if there is no relationship between media and learning it may be because we have not yet made one” (Kozma, 1994, p. 9). His contention that media is more than a “vehicle” in learning may have more weight in 2020 than it did 26 years ago.



Bartnicki, N. (2020, August 18). New Media professor enriches virtual learning experience with Minecraft. Retrieved from https://www.ryerson.ca/fcad/news/2020/08/new-media-professor-enriches-virtual-learning-experience-with-minecraft/

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29.

Center for Education policy Research Harvard University. (2016). DreamBox learning achievement growth in the Howard County public school system and rocketship education. Retrieved from https://cepr.harvard.edu/files/cepr/files/dreambox-key-findings.pdf

Facebook for education. (n.d.). Preparing for a new school year Resources to help educators go back to school, however or wherever. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/fb/education/educator-hub

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

Rafique, R. (2020, September 23). Rye profs adapt to online classes through unique learning styles. Retrieved from https://theeyeopener.com/2020/09/rye-profs-adapt-to-online-classes-through-unique-learning-styles/ 

Singer, N. (2017, June 6). The silicon billionaires remaking America’s schools. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/technology/tech-billionaires-education-zuckerberg-facebook-ha

Summit (n.d.). Equipping every student to lead a fulfilled life. Retrieved from https://summitps.org/

2 thoughts to “Unit 2, Activity 5: Media Debate in Current Events (John and Alison)”

  1. I think the push to move things online has really supported Kozuma’s view to use media to enhance learning. Very interesting examples you have provided! The AI example especially demonstrates elements that would be very difficult to do in a classroom environment.

    1. I tend to agree with Kozma’s pint of view as well Shelley. The readings in Unit 3 emphasize the point further, particularly, What might the school of 2030 be like? In Vignette’s 2-5 it is clear that AI is running the show at Lakeside school; we are told by a flustered Mrs. Bradshaw in reply to a parent’s concern regarding AI that “even the programmers don’t know what the system is thinking … “what I do know, however, is that it works.” It’s social science fiction (new to me) but the authors of the paper are cautious only to “extend” current technologies not to introduce new ones.

      Thanks for replying to our post!

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