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Running head: IMPACT OF MEDIA 1

Impact of Media and Instructional Technology on Student Learning

Nickey Grandea

University of West Georgia


Impact of Media and Instructional Technology on Student Learning

Beginning in 1983, an interesting debate took root between Richard E. Clark and Richard

Kozma regarding whether media impacts learning. According to Clark (1994), media does not

cause learning, rather instructional methods induce learning. Clark (1994) states that “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” (pg. 22). Any of the attributes

of media that are useful to learners can be replicated with another form of media or by a live

teacher. Therefore, the media is not responsible for the learning.

Kozma disagrees with Clark. Kozma (1994) brings a different perspective to the debate

in his article entitled “Will Media Influence Learning? Reframing the Debate.” He maintains

that “if there is no relationship between media and learning it may be because we have not yet

made one” (Kozma, 1994, p. 7). Kozma goes on to say that if we remain closed minded to the

relationship, its potential will never be realized. According to his article, “media capabilities

have changed considerably since the time of the studies reviewed by Clark (1983); they will

change even more in the near future” (Kozma, 1994, p. 17). This prediction has certainly come

to fruition since 1994, and changes will continue indefinitely.

While I agree that instructional methods are integral to learning, I share Kozma’s view

that technology brings unique qualities and characteristics to the classroom that would not be

available otherwise. As Kozma (1994) stated, media and methods should not be separated

because they are both parts of the instructional design (p. 16). “In good design, a medium’s

capabilities enable methods and the methods that are used take advantage of these capabilities”

(Kozma, 1994, p. 16). Instructional designers must create learning experiences that use the

technology available to its fullest capability and pair it with the most appropriate instructional

strategies in order to optimize learning. The capabilities of media are constantly changing and

improving, so the methods of incorporating media into classroom lessons must also change and

improve constantly. Because our students are “digital natives,” they expect technology to be part

of every experience, including their educational experiences. According to Moffat, “asking them

to be unplugged is like asking them to hurt themselves” (2013, p. 28). Students are much more

likely to “Google” or “YouTube” an answer to a question than to look it up in a book. When we

incorporate the technology they are accustomed to using into the classroom, we create

opportunities to improve their digital literacy. When the Clark Vs. Kozma debate originated,

these resources were not available for use. As the technology changes, so must the way we use it

in schools.

Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory provides some clarification for the reasoning behind

using technology and media to create optimum learning environments. Sweller (1994) explains

that imposing a heavy load on the working memory creates more difficulty for the learner.

Allowing technology to alleviate this load allows learners to increase their problem solving

ability and to transfer information to new situations more easily. Technology, when used to its

fullest capacity, provides multiple ways to reduce this load on the working memory. As

discussed by Kozma (1994), Thinkertools provides a mental model, or “automated schema”, for

students to help them understand the interaction between forces and motion (Sweller, 1994,

p.289). Experienced scientists use this mental model intuitively; novice students do not possess

this ability. The Thinkertools program provides this accurate model, allowing students to

manipulate the forces and motion accurately, instead of using a possibly inaccurate mental model

or incomplete schema that they create based on their prior knowledge and understanding of the

topics. Their cognitive load is therefore reduced by utilizing the technology appropriately. The

technology creates conditions by which learners can access information that would have

otherwise been inaccessible.

In addition to decreasing the cognitive load, Thinkertools also utilizes Mayer’s

Multimedia Principles to increase learning. According to Mayer (1994), “the human

information-processing system consists of two separate channels—an auditory/verbal channel for

processing auditory input and verbal representations and a visual/pictorial channel for processing

visual input and pictorial representations” (p. 44). Thinkertools allows learners to utilize both

channels to reduce the cognitive load, thus facilitating learning. Kozma (1994) also refers to the

Jasper Series in his article (p. 12). Students were presented with a real world scenario via video

disk that included a series of problems that needed to be solved. The technology, in this case,

“presents complex, dynamic social contexts and events to help students construct rich, dynamic

mental models of these situations,” instead of relying solely on their own prior knowledge

(Kozma, 1994, p. 12). The students involved utilized information in the scenario to solve the

problems successfully and were able to transfer the skills used to solve the problem to new

situations. The students created the schema required to move that information into their long

term memory. When skills and knowledge transfer to new situations, learning has occurred. By

providing the information to students in a real world scenario, with both audio and visual

components, students were able to more easily use the information and transfer it to new problem


Finally, research demonstrates that multimedia instruction builds students’ self-efficacy.

“Seeing oneself gain progressive mastery strengthens personal efficacy, fosters efficient

thinking, and enhances performance attainments” (Bandura, 1993, p. 132). By allowing


“students to control the pace of the program ... explore content and create their own routes

through the material,” students become more confident in their own abilities to learn (Zheng,

2009, p. 793). According to Bandura (1993), self-efficacy is one of the most important variables

in learning. Utilizing multimedia technology in the classroom has a positive impact of self-

efficacy, thus achievement increases.

In conclusion, all new technology will likely be met with skepticism. Therefore, the

debate between Richard E. Clark and Richard Kozma is still relevant today. One could continue

to argue that methods are more important than media to student learning and achievement.

However, if media and methods are properly combined and used to their greatest capability, the

highest student acheivement will result. As teachers of “digital natives,” we must embrace the

technology and use it to our advantage.



Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and

functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28(2), 117.

Moffat, D. (2013, May 31). Clark and Kozma debate is it still relevant. Educational Technology
Research and Development, 42(2), 21 -29

Cognitive Load Theory (John Sweller). (n.d.). Retrieved July 02, 2017, from

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer). (2016, October 23). Retrieved July 03, 2017,

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia
learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.

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

Sweller, J. (1994). Cognitive load theory, learning difficulty, and instructional design. Learning
and Instruction, 4(4), 295-312. doi:10.1016/0959-4752(94)90003-5

Zheng, R., McAlack, M., Wilmes, B., Kohler-Evans, P., & Williamson, J. (2009). Effects of
multimedia on cognitive load, self-efficacy, and multiple rule-based problem
solving. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(5), 790-803.