Kozma, R. (1994). “Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate.” Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19.
Kozma reframed the question about the impact of media on education: “Will media influence learning?” (p. 7). In the article, written in 1994, he went on to explain the importance of examining how the merger of the telephone, cable television and digital computer will affect education. He began by reviewing past research, and its emphasis on student responses to pre and post test questions with little observations being reported about what happened in between. In addition, he cited a lack examining the “cognitive, affective, or social processes by which learning occur and descriptions of the underlying structure and functions of media which influences these process” (p.8). He then went into great detail concerning two instructional environments where the use of media and its effect on learners was examined. The first type of media examined with ThinkerTools which was used to teach Newtonian mechanics to middle school children. The symbol system of ThinkerTools allowed the learners to see objects in motion while the processing capabilities of it allowed learners to use a joystick to manipulate variable to see what changes would occur. The results were that students who completed the series scored significantly higher than others of their own age in a control group as well as a high school group who used a textbook. The second type of media that was examined was the Jasper Woodbury Series. The students viewed real world stories and used information from the stories to complete complex mathematical problems. The symbol system used was a video requiring students to create mental models and to infer information while the processing capabilities allowed students to view the video while stopping it and rewinding it if they needed to view a section again. The results of the study showed that students who completed this video series scored significantly higher than those in the control group while answering questions similar to the episode, practice problems like the control group had used, and transfer of learning tasks. He ended the article by stressing the importance of observing the development of learning and that instructional design needs to include both a medium, such as media, and a method.
Kozma’s viewpoint has been challenged by many. One of his most vocal critics Richard E. Clark (1994) responded by challenging Kozma to find “a medium or media attribute or attributes that are not replaceable by a different set of media and attributes to achieve similar learning results for any given student and learning task.” Kozma did examine in great detail two types of media and the ability of learners who used the media to score significantly higher on tests compared to those in control groups who did not use media. He then explained the two attributes of technology – symbol systems and processing capabilities – as to why students who were exposed to media did better than those who did not. Kozma digs even deeper into the criticism leveled by Clark by examining the word attribute. He concluded that in the field of education, media’s attributes must include causal mechanisms as well as how it can be used to influence learning. Kozma ended the article by supporting the idea that media should be part of learning and by stating that good instructional design should include both a medium and a method. These should not be separated.
As an educator who is interested in using media in my own classroom, I see how media can have positive and negative influences on learners, even on me. As I am writing this post and typing it, I am changing and revising my words and sentences as I go. In the past, when I would write things by hand or use a type writer, I could not make changes as easily as I can now. I am using media. However, I know that if someone wants to read what I first thought or look at my revision history, it isn’t there, as I have deleted things as I went along and did not save them. I can also search the Internet for ideas or concepts that I do not know or understand. For some learners, this has changed what they remember. After all, if I can look it up quickly on the Internet, do I really need to remember it? I can see that this will change the way teachers teach and how students learn. I do believe that as more and more teachers and students use media in the classroom and in the real world, the way people think and what knowledge is will change. After all, how much do we really have to know? Where will the balance between what we need to know and what we can rely on the Internet to find for us be? Will higher order thinking skills become more important than the knowledge of facts? Do we need to know facts in order to utilize our higher order thinking skills? Maybe the question needs to be reframed to reflect what is happening now in education: Will media influence what we learn?
Clark, R. E. (1983). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29.