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Get with the Program

“The Future of Learning (Gerd Leonhard aka FuturistGerd)” by gleonhard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

The great media debate between Clark and Kozma has become obsolete when one considers the modern role of technology in learning. Clark’s argument that media does not influence learning states that it is the method and not the media that provides similar learning benefits because similar learning gains could take place by using other media and attributes. This is no longer the case with the capabilities of modern day computers. Technology has become an integral part of learning, and in fact has become a focus in and of itself for learning in today’s curriculum.  Also contributing to the irrelevance of the Clark-Kozma debate is the fact that recent studies have shown that emotional design of multimedia learning does help facilitate learning and motivation (Heidig, Muller, Reichelt, 2015). These findings support the use of a variety of media in the classroom, as students perceive technology as relevant, entertaining and interesting. I will also refer to the work of Heidig et el. to provide further evidence that connection is the ultimate key to learning and motivation.

One would find it difficult to argue against the statement that proficient use of technology is mandatory for today’s graduates. It has long been debated by Clark and Kozma (and numerous other researchers that want to weigh in on this debate) what the effect of media use is on learning and on motivation, but I propose that their arguments and evidence are mute points in 2019.  Exposure to technology, and proficient use of technology are required in every aspect of modern day life.  For example, Datingnews.com reports that over 50 million people have used online dating websites and a press release by Interac in February of 2019 released the following statistics for its e-Transfer service is 2018:

  • more than 371 million e-Transfer transactions were completed
  • the average user sends over 3 e-Tranfer transactions per month
  • 2018 statistics show a  54 per cent increase in volume over 2017.

My children can only access their report cards and apply for jobs online, and my daughter completed her training for Best Buy using e-learning modules. These examples outline only a few of the most basic daily requirements of technology usage. Once you enter into more advanced job markets the need for more proficient technology skills significantly increases.

Clark acknowledges the contributions of delivery technology (which influences the cost and access of instruction and information), but debates the impact of design technologies (which influences student learning). I argue that technology is no longer used to influence learning.  It is an integral part of the learning itself.



“The Future of Learning (Gerd Leonhard aka FuturistGerd)” by gleonhard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 



Students need to be confident and proficient users of technology, and also aware of the vast opportunities, conveniences and capabilities that technology affords.

Clark’s argument that many different media attributes could accomplish the same learning goal is entirely outdated.  In the 1960’s Kulik showed that learning could be achieved through other teaching methods (Kulik, 1985) and this was later confirmed by Clark in the 1980’s (Clark, 1983). Today, media is no longer restricted to T.V., radio, textbooks, and early computers. Clarke gives an example of an individual learning to fly a plain using computer simulation, and argues that they could also learn to fly a plane without a computer. Modern technology has the ability to provide learning opportunities that are not available through any other means. Today’s scientist could not decipher the human genome or predict the structure of a protein without a computer. Another example from the website Gizmodo reports that mathemeticians are thrilled that a computer has solved the longstanding Erdős discrepancy problem.

Trouble is, we have no idea what it’s talking about — because the solution, which is as long as all of Wikipedia’s pages combined, is far too voluminous for us puny humans to confirm.

Computers are not only sufficient, they have become necessary.  They also improve accessibility to the content, facilitate communication between students and student and teacher, and offer experience with a valuable and necessary skill required in society.

I appreciate that Clark agrees with the views of Salomon (Salomon, 1984), recognizing that technology can influence student motivation, and that different students will respond different to any given media. This is at the heart of personalized learning. Teachers know that using humor, invoking emotion, including social interactions and even using the element of surprise can help student learning and retention. This is because a teacher must first get a student’s attention, and then engage and motivate them so they are interested in the learning.

How well students learn any subject area is dependent on several factors. As Rita Pierson outlines in her Ted Talk, Every Needs a Champion Kid, kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. A recent study by Heidig, Muller and Reichelt (2015) found that not only does evoking positive emotions promote creative, flexible and intuitive-holistic ways of thinking, they found that preventing dissatisfaction and frustration was also important for learning. Two studies by Chen and Wang (2011) and Um et al. (2012) have found that positive emotions have been linked to motivation, creativity and problem-solving skills. Further studies by Ereez and Isen (2002), Isen (2000), and Norman (2002) found that positive emotions enhance long-term memory and retrieval, and facilitate working memory processes. Considering the relevance and prevalence of technology in modern day culture it follows that students might view the inclusion of modern technology as a positive addition to more mundane lessons. Heidig et al.’s study seeks to prove what experienced educators already know to be true, however more research is necessary when it comes to emotional design. This is a difficult task as conducting objective scientific research when it comes to unique human attributes is extremely challenging, but approaching media design with the intention of invoking positive emotion could have very beneficial implications for learning.

As Kozma acknowledges (Kozma, 1994), technology is necessary to function in modern day activities and responsibilities. In the 90’s when Clark and Kozma formed their arguments regarding the influence of media on learning there was no mention of the impact of human emotions on learning. So, rather than asking “whether there are other media or another set of media attributes that would yield similar learning gains” (Clark, 1984) a more relevant question might be “how can I relate to my students, how can I use technology to encourage connection and communication, and what media skills will my students need to be successful?” When reading about the Clark and Kozma debate, the saying “get with the program” kept coming to mind. In hopes of finding  a more polite way to say this, I looked up the phrase. Cambridge Dictionary explains the phrase as “to accept new ideas and give more attention to what is happening now.” I will risk being impolite, and suggest that it is time to “get with the program”and put the Clark-Kozma debate to rest.


Chen C.M. and Wang H.P. (2011). Using emotion recognition technology to assess the effects of different multimedia materials on learning emotion and performance. Library and Information Science Research, 33, 244-255.

Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-45.

Clark, R. E. (1984). Media Will Never Influence Learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 43(2), 22.

Erez, A, Isen, A.M. (2002). The influence of positive affect on components of expectancy motivation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87 (6), 1055-1067.

Heidig, S., Muller, J., & Reichelt, M. (2015). Emotional Design in Multimedia learning: Differentiation on Relevant Design Features and Their Effects on Emotions and Learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 44, 81-95.

Isen, A.M. (2000). Positive affect and decision making. In M. Lewis, J.M Haviland (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (2. Aufl.), Guilford Press, New York, 417-435.

Kozma, R. B. (1984). Will Media Influence Learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-8.

Kozma, R. B (1994). The Influence of Media on Learning: The Debate Continues. School Library Media Research SLMQ, 22(4).

Kulik, J. A. (1985). The importance of outcome studies: A reply to Clark. Educational Communications and Technology Journal, 34(1), 381-386.

Norman, D.A. (2002) Emotion and design: Attractive things work better. Interactions Magazine, 4(4), 36-42.

Salomon, G. (1984). Television is easy and print is “tough”: The differential investment of mental effort in learning as a function of perceptions and attributions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(4), 647-658.

Um, E., Plass,  J.L., Hayward, E.O., Hayward, B.D. (2012). Emotional Design in Multimedia Learning. Journal of Educational Pyschology, 104 (2), 485-498.