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Position Paper on the Impact of Media and Instructional Technology on Student Learning-

Clark/Kozma Debate

Bianca Cheatham

University of West Georgia

Dr. Linda Haynes

Issues in Instructional Technology (MEDT 8463- E01)

July 6, 2017

Position Paper on the Impact of Media and Instructional Technology on Student Learning

The impact of media’s influence on learning has been a topic of discussion for decades.

The differing opinions of Richard Clark and Robert Kozma have sparked a variety of educational

debates. Many have argued about the relevancies between these two educational beliefs and

their impact on the classroom. Clark’s approach focuses on the significance of instructional

methods. He believes that “media and their attributes have important influences on the cost or

speed of learning but only the use of adequate instructional methods will influence learning”

(Clark, 1994, p. 27). Kozma, however, substantially disagrees with Clark, as he believes that

technology can impact the learning of students. While both Clark and Kozma have stances that

resonate with educators all over the world, it is my opinion that Kozma’s perspective is the most

persuasive, as he believes that technology and media can influence student achievement and


Richard Clark began his research on the effect of media on instruction in 1983. Through

his research, he developed strong definitions for two terms, instructional methods, and mediums

(Clark, 1983). Heavily influenced by the work of Gavriel Salomon, an Israeli educational

psychologist, Clark defines an instructional method as “any way to shape information that

activates, supplants or compensates for the cognitive processes necessary for achievement or

motivation” (Salomon, 1979). Clark describes mediums as delivery vehicles of instruction. In

his opinion, mediums do not impact student learning, motivation, or growth independently

(Clark, 1983, p. 454). Clark conducted various forms of research and collected data. His data

did not positively correlate student learning and media. In fact, Clark could not find a

connection between the two educational elements. Clark believes that technology cannot impact

learning, but authentic learning lies within the instructional methods selected by the educator

(Clark, 1994, p. 23). Due to these findings, Clark did not think it was necessary to conduct

additional research on media’s influence on learning.

Clark’s perspective of using mediums as delivery vehicles of instruction is illustrated by

the following examples. For instance, if a teacher gives her students the assignment of typing a

research report, the word processor that the learners choose to use should not affect their ability

to learn the steps of writing the essay. In other words, if students opted to use Microsoft Word or

Google Docs, the task remains the same. The instructional method carries the weight in this

particular example. Another case could include students creating a presentation on a recent

novel they studied as a class. Again, the learners could choose to use Microsoft PowerPoint or

Google Slides. Either of these applications would complete the necessary task without

compromising instruction. Clark’s initial argument focuses on the idea that the use of media

does not affect learning and instead only assists in the process of instructional methods.

It is through Clark’s initial approach that Kozma forms his opinion. Kozma encourages

thinkers to move away from Clark’s question of “Do media influence learning?” and move

toward finding a greater connection between technology and learning. Like Clark, Kozma also

categorizes technology as a medium. Although vastly different than Clark, Kozma states that

cognitive and social processes help to construct knowledge, in addition to the environment

(Kozma, 1994, p. 8). Kozma believes that educators must link a medium’s capabilities to

student needs and learning tasks to be effective. It is his opinion that technology can

significantly impact students’ learning if used correctly. Kozma considers technological research

to be necessary, as it “combines design with advanced technologies, new collaborations, large-

scale implementation, and alternative research methodologies” (Kozma, 2000, p.6). He also

believes that technology can have an even greater effect with advances made in the years ahead.

Using Kozma’s argument that media can impact learning, if used with appropriate

measures, let us reexamine a few examples. Looking at the same research report task, a teacher

can alter the instruction by having students give one another collaborative feedback, after writing

their original essays, through the use of Google Docs. Students can share their documents with

peers within the class. Their classmates can edit, highlight, and even make comments on their

work in a way that will not destroy or alter the original format. This collaborative function

would not be possible in Microsoft Word and would certainly not offer the same impact if done

on paper. Also, the comments and feedback, can be saved and stored, so students can return to

it if they need to while writing an additional research paper later in time. This media-enhanced

experience positively influences the learning occurring within a classroom.

After reviewing the second example, where students are creating a presentation on a

recent novel study, media can be used to expand the presentation options for learners. The

teacher can also allow students to create videos and websites, along with presentations. Without

the use of technology, these additional tasks would have been incomprehensible, but their

inclusion increases student motivation, learning, and engagement. The auditory and visual

representations could also increase the learners’ cognitive recognition of the material. In both of

these examples, media enhances the instructional tasks and provides additional learning

opportunities for students. Like Kozma stated, teachers must be selective in using media, but

these classroom or environmental factors certainly influence cognitive processes.

Robert Kozma was not the only researcher to inquire about the link between cognitive

processes and environmental factors. Both John Sweller and Richard Mayer developed theories

that reflected this same concept. Sweller developed the Cognitive Load Theory. Cognitive load

refers to the limited amount of information that the working memory can store within a given

time frame (Sweller, 1988, p. 265). To avoid a heavy cognitive load, Sweller suggests that

teachers modify instructional methods and refrain from introducing additional activities and

information that does not directly correlate to learning (Sweller, 1988, p. 284). This shift in

instruction will help students from feeling overwhelmed, as well as, help them better retain


An example of this modification includes teachers presenting graphic organizers that

contain combined visuals and text in a systematic approach to display information (Sweller,

1988, p. 276). If the students were asked to use a separate table and graphic to combine the

information and retrieve knowledge from the two different entities, the information would be

more difficult for the students to process. An example of this could include a fourth-grade class

focusing on Colonial America. If the teacher wanted to provide students with a timeline, the best

approach would include a graphic organized by numerical dates, which includes both pictures

and text. It would be more complex for the students to understand the timeline if years were

labeled with numbers, instead of directly linked text, and the historical event was located in a

separate area on the paper.

Sweller, along with the support and guidance of several colleagues conducted two

experiments concentrated on the impact the use of technology had on cognition (Blayney,

Kalyuga, & Sweller, 2015). Their results were surprising. Both experiments had the similar

results concluding that, the level of cognitive load, was directly related to how the technology-

based elements of instruction are provided. Novice learners needed to be presented with isolated

elements, while more advanced students needed more interactive information (Blayney et al.,

2015, p. 209). These results further expand on Kozma’s perspective. Technology can impact

student learning, but it must be driven toward individual student needs and learning styles, to be


Richard Mayer also developed a conjecture concerning the relationship between

cognition and environment. It is known as the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning. This

theory focuses on the approach that humans have two separate systems for processing verbal and

pictorial information (Mayer & Moreno, 2003, p. 43). It also limits the amount of material that

an individual can absorb at once. Building upon Sweller’s theory, Mayer also examines the

concept of cognitive overload and presents alternatives for reduction. The central theme behind

the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning is pairing pictures with words to more efficiently

process information. This pairing improves instruction because it presents material to learners in

the same way in which their brains store content.

One example that Mayer uses as a solution to improve cognitive overload, when a student

is unable to focus on a display of visual content is to use signaling. The use of signaling includes

adding cues and highlight important information to bring to the learner’s attention (Mayer &

Moreno, 2003, p. 48). Within an online course, this could include step by step instructions

containing screenshots on how to submit an assignment. The course instructor could highlight

specific important details within the screenshots. An additional solution to students becoming

overwhelmed with new topics and vocabulary includes pretraining. The act of pretraining means

to expose learners to new content and terminology before an activity to ensure a basic

understanding of the central concepts (Mayer & Moreno, 2003, p. 50). Pretraining could include

a preview of an online text with students. The teacher could bring attention to the keywords,

within the text, and discuss their meaning, before having the students explore the book on their


Similar to Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory, Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia

Learning also supports Kozma’s analysis. Both of these theories help ensure that learners gain

meaningful learning experiences by adapting instructional methods to enhance media integration

within classrooms. While both the educational views of Clark and Kozma have impacted

education, it is my opinion that Kozma’s perspective relates more closely with today’s

technology savvy society. As Kozma explained, technology can affect learning, if used with the

proper teaching strategies. These theories provide evidence that instruction can be modified to

meet student needs by reducing cognitive load and incorporating modifications that include

processing with both words and pictures.

This debate is as relevant as ever and consistently evolving, especially with growing

technological advances in today’s educational field. I am confident that as our technology

continues to improve, additional researchers will find further evidence to support the positive

link between cognition and media. In classrooms across the country, teachers metaphorically

have to choose between Clark and Kozma themselves. They are making daily decisions on how

to implement instruction to the learners entrusted to their care. Some are choosing to follow

Clark. They are using strategies that have always worked and are afraid to move into true

technology integration. They are only using media as a support tool to foster learning. Others,

however, are trailblazers, creating their path, similar to Kozma. They are consistently integrating

new forms of media, into their classrooms to engage, motivate, and improve the learning of their

students. Only one question remains, who will you follow; Clark or Kozma.


Blayney, P., Kalyuga, S., & Sweller, J. (2015). Using Cognitive Load Theory to Tailor

Instruction to Levels of Accounting Students' Expertise. Journal of Educational

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Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and

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Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational

Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7 -19.

Kozma, R. (2000). Reflections on the state of educational technology research and development.

Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(1), 5-15.


Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia

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Salomon, G. (1979). Interaction of Media, Cognition, and Learning. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive Load During Problem Solving: Effects on Learning. Cognitive

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