11 July 2013

another day, another handful of articles...

so, as is my MO lately, i got ticked off while reading an article for class. Today, it was Clark's (1994) "Media will never influence learning" and i was peeved from Go...it was a nagging feeling that stuck with me through the whole article, even when I agreed with some of his arguments.

Here's the thesis, paraphrased: media are only vehicles for content delivery, exactly as a truck that delivers vegetables. The media cannot bring about an increase in a learners' learning any more than a truck can enhance the nutritional value of the food it's delivering. The key to increasing learning is appropriate instructional methods and use of technology to deliver the message (which doesn't impart anything, per se, to the content except ease of access & speed of delivery).  Secondly, unless a media is unique it cannot add anything to learning that another media couldn't do.

Although the "unique media" piece is a narrowish perspective, in my opinion, it makes some sense to me considering the bulk of instructional media i've seen. Khan's academy, for example, is a perfect case-in-point: there isn't anything new about instructional videos being used to help kids learn. Mr. Rogers did that for fifty-odd years. Khan's math tutorials, advocates say, help struggling students by offering repetition until they learn it. Well, as luck, providence, twittergods would have it, @davidwees retweeted an awesome blog post from @delta_dc (here) asking "is rewind the answer?" he says, i think correctly, that nope! it's not...students don't need repetition, they need differentiated instruction, different ways to solve a problem. now, yes, different videos can be used for that but that's what youtube is for, what older student tutors are for, what study hour is for, not Khan, imo. don't expect a kid to go home, watch Khan, and 'get' physics. just sayin.

clark has some very valid points: "we continue to invest heavily in expensive media in the hope that they will produce gains in learning." Yes! part of that whole early-90s thinking that we put a computer in a classroom and BOOM, learning happens. we all know better...it takes a motivated teacher with support, training, and initiative to learn to use the tech wisely and, in turn, models that for the students to follow...my favorite analogy lately "digital sherpa." Clark says that the media are worthless without valid instructional content & planning--again, i agree! it should never be about the technology. if so, you're doing it wrong (to quote my pal @j_allen).

Yet, I'm still teed off with Clark. Kozma (94) said, Clark has introduced an "unnecessary and undesirable schism" between method and medium. is media an integral aspect of method? i think so. Clark stated that computers aren't necessary to teach people how to fly airplanes. Well, i beg to differ...yes they are. Maybe not a Cessna 172, but a Dreamliner pilot ain't steppin' into one of them things without some serious training and computer-driven sim time, baby. nor would, one supposes, Clark would want her to, either, if he was aboard for a ride.

it took me a bit to wrap my mind around the article and peg down what's a-chafin' me...Clark's viewpoint is so very narrow. Kozma asked him to be more open to the idea of future technologies (this was 94, recall) being able to influence learning. Clark's stiff refusal to concede any ground smacks of ivory-tower recalcintrantism (that's not a word, yet) if you ask me. you didn't, but i tell you anyhow.

so, do you think media matters? does it carry meaning like a truck, ala Clark? or are media & the message one and the same, ala McLuhan?

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