The great media debate!
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, academics Richard E. Clark, and Brian Kozma engaged in a riveting, multi-year debate. The topic in question? “Does (or, more appropriately, can) media positively impact learning?” Clark asserts that Media interventions are only as good as the instructional design and methodology used to create said media. Conversely, Kozma states that Media can aide in the delivery of instruction, and at times, increase the efficacy of learning potential or learner motivation.
Don’t want to read the full debate? Click the image below for a visual depiction.
Karen McMurray and I have been tasked with examining two articles or releases that demonstrate techno-deterministic thinking, and evaluate the solutions through the lenses of Clark and Kozma.
This article states that Chatbot’s have infiltrated educational technology, and help to reduce human hours spent answering repetitive tasks, or processing repetitive actions. The article claims that Chatbots, and their built in Artificial Intelligence (AI) mechanisms are able to respond to learner inquiries 24/7, where teachers are not. It claims that AI tutoring programs (such as the discussed Chatbots) are able to fill the void that is created by the absence of continuous teacher presence.
Richard E. Clark may well be flummoxed by this articles claim that Chatbot’s can save teacher time while simultaneously resolving learner concerns. Of particular note in this article is that one Chatbot took over 1000 hours to program. While this initial investment of time would decrease the teacher’s time requirement in the future, it re-hashes the argument that media may be preferable only due to its time and cost savings. Clark would likely claim that the Chatbot technology is only as good as the instructional thought or method that is built in to the design of the tool. Clark would likely assert that while this method of intervention may be more efficient from a time spent/learners assisted perspective, the use of media itself did not increase the opportunity for learning, but merely aided in its expedition.
Kozma, interestingly enough may agree with Clark’s opinion that in this instance, the Media is NOT the message, and rather simply a conduit for increasing the efficiency of delivery. However, where Clark stops, Kozma may continue to discuss potential uses for Chatbot and/or AI technology. Perhaps the media may be programmed to anticipate future questions from the learner, or to draw upon comparative sources of information for context layering from external, unrelated sources that can be found on the internet. In considering the extensions that Kozma may look to, he likely would find opportunity for the media to act as a method. Ultimately, in its present iteration, Kozma would likely see this as an automation of process to reduce costs, and not a well-designed media use which will increase the cognitive and social processes by which knowledge is construction (Kozma).
The second article we examined discussed how the internet is not only creating space for Open Education Resources (OER), but also creating a space for teachers to “side hustle” their material in a more “pay to play” approach. This article discusses the resource sharing platform “Teachers Pay Teachers” (TPT), where professionals are able to upload and share (for a cost) their educational resources – read: slide decks, assessments, unit plans, and more. Issues with for profit sharing of educational resources notwithstanding, we investigated (or more appropriately, assumed) how Clark and Kozma would react to the TPT concept in relation to their great debate.
Kozma may look at TPT as a good method of amplifying media assisted instructional methods to classrooms throughout society. Assuming that the resources being shared on the platform are classroom tested and achieving successful learner results, Kozma would assert that the ‘media’ in this situation is creating sharing, peer reviewing, and overall better lessons and learning experiences for students across different facets of society. Additionally, Kozma may reference how the sharing of instructional resources may allow less resourced classrooms or learning environments to take advantage of the resourcefulness of others.
Clark would likely react positively to the ideological concept of TPT, but make mention that it is not in fact media influencing learning, and instead an opportunity for cost and time savings in terms of implementing adequate instructional methodology. He would surely hold strong to his belief that within all media, instructional method is king and media is but vehicle for instructional delivery (Clark, 1991).
The great debate continues… and, 30 years later – there is no apparent winner.
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), 7-19.