Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Clark / Kozma Media Debate: A Reflection

As I read Richard E. Clark’s original article “Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media”, I kept wondering what his thoughts would have been regarding the printing press which enabled the first mass produced media in the form of print, created greater access to knowledge “and has been implicated in the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution.” (Dewar, 1998)  I couldn’t figure out if Clark was a luddite opposed to media itself or simply fearful that we would become reliant on media as a tool for content delivery without instructional design.  His contention that it is “not media but variables such as instructional methods that foster learning” (Clark, 1983) certainly suggest the latter.  
Quite honestly, in the late 20th century these were legitimate concerns.  Educators were attracted to the shiny new object in the room.  I witnessed it first hand as a college student during some of my earliest practical classroom experiences and watched students become attracted to the novelty of media delivered content.  I can certainly understand how Clark would state “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) However, with 21st century learning, media allows students to effectively drive the truck and as content creators have more say in the intellectual payload that is delivered.  
This new reality changes the way knowledge can be acquired and promotes the dynamic and adaptive nature of medias three aspects which Robert Kozma outlines as technology, symbol systems and processing capabilities. (Kozma, 1994)  Although the article, “The Influence of Media on Learning: The Debate Continues” was written in 1994, it was obvious that Kozma had a vision of learning as “an active, constructive, cognitive, and social process by which the learner strategically manages available cognitive, physical, and social resources to create new knowledge by interacting with information in the environment and integrating it with information stored in memory.” (Kozma, 1994)  In essence, the concept of multimedia as an educational tool is much more than minor statistical correlations as Clark would have us believe.  Rather, through multimedia, “students are likely to find many ways to connect their new learning to their existing representations.” (Kozma, 1994)  Today’s students are not only able to manipulate the aspects of media, they are able to design the aspects of media which provides ownership of learning.
I believe there are two schools of thought in today’s educational landscape which have people convinced that media improves learning.  There is the political component that blanketly puts multimedia devices in the hands of students under the misperception that just by providing digital natives with the proper resources, will automatically improve student test scores.  This is the kind of logic thought that plays directly into Clark’s argument and is doomed to failure.  The divergent and likely more accurate theory is that by providing a student with the tools necessary to engage with and create knowledge changes the very structure of education and gives students ownership of their learning.  This requires establishing an environment fostered by forward thinking educators who are willing to facilitate learning through innovative and opportunistic instruction which encourages creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking.  
Innovation is often met with resistance and it is vital to employ strategies that shift the public mindset.  The best way to demonstrate the impact and success of using media in education is to promote and publicize what great educators are doing with it in the classroom by publishing student work and demonstrating cognitive success.   Media itself allows us to break down the four walls of our schools and interact in ways previously unimaginable with the world around us.  It is truly an amazing time in education and I hope media will continue to play an integral part of our journey through 21st century learning.  

Dewar, JA. "The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead." The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead. Rand, 1998. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <>.

Clark, R. E. "Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media." Review of Educational Research 53.4 (1983): 445-59. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.

Schneider, Daniel K. "The Media Debate." - EduTech Wiki. Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <>.

Kozma, Robert B. "The Influence of Media on Learning: The Debate Continues."SLMQ 22.4 (Summer 1994). Web. 1 Feb. 2016. <>.
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