Clark and Kozma’s great media debate raises the question, does the medium in which instruction is given effect the learning of students or is it instructional method that dictates a lessons success? It’s an intriguing question that I believe both Clark and Kozma make good points to back up their respective arguments. These arguments were last made in the mid-nineties and now, in a much more technological age, Becker chimes in with their opinion focusing on games used for educational purposes.

Clark, Kozma, and Becker’s Positions

Clark sees media as a tool to present instruction in a more efficient manner.  He further adds that media does not influence learning under any circumstance. Media may save money, time, and be convenient but it is only traditional instructional methods being implemented to a new medium.

Kozma argues to the contrary of Clark saying, a student’s style of learning can be best suited using specific types of media and help an educator present information in a meaningful and more understandable way than if using other forms of media or tradition education methods.

Becker adds to the argument that a good educational game requires both good educational design and game design. They cannot be forced onto each other. So, it is more than using traditional instructional methods and becomes its own entity.

Reflections on the Debate

Upon initially reading Clark’s position I felt that what he was saying made sense to a point.  Certainly, traditional instructional methods are reused and adapted to new medias. I think it is fair to say that educators don’t want an emphasis on medium over instruction. Often when this happens, the new technology is embraced and then quickly fades into obscurity. Tradition instructional methods have their merits and need to be considered when using various mediums for the best learning outcomes. It is still important to the learning process that information be demonstrated, learned, and then applied in some relevant manner.

Kozma’s position felt more insightful and predictive of what future technology was going to have to offer education in the coming years. It’s important to recognize that not all students learn the same way and that some methods are more engaging than others. Essentially, different methods can have better results in important ways. I know in my practice, that students respond far better to me showing them a concept rather than talking about it.  Arguably, new media can be used in a way of showing/doing a lesson that essentially ups the ante. Students become more engaged, it allows them to participate or even, gods forbid, be entertained, with the lesson.

We are in a very different age than the mid 90’s when Clark and Kozma were having their “Great Media Debate.” Then, the internet was a baby and household computers were not overly common. Now, we have smart phones and portable gaming devices. Students are surrounded by competing mobile entertainment! As an educator it can be difficult to keep student’s attention when they can check social media on their phone and interact with their friends whenever they want via text message. Educators have an uphill battle at times. Employing the same or similar media to educate, or fighting fire with fire, may be required to combat this new reality.

Adding to the debate Becker points out, and I think Kozma would agree, there is a reason that NASA employs simulation machines and doesn’t just require astronauts to only read up on spacecraft control theory.  Interactive mediums offer the opportunity allow practice and skills growth when it otherwise could not be done or would not be cost effective.

Booker further notes that gamification in education is not only an alteration of instructional methods. Gamification utilizes traditional instructional methods, but it requires a serious understanding of how a good video game is made to make a good/effective educational game. Even standard entertainment-based video games use (usually subtle) instruction to teach the user how to navigate the game. But games can take on a life of their own.  You are no longer a passive learner. You are making the learning happen, you are a part of it, and I think that is the key point to understand. Educational video games allow the user/learner to be actively engaged in a way no other medium does.


Clark, R.E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development. 42 (2),  21-29.

Kozma, R.B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development. 42 (2), 17-19.

Becker, K. (2010). The Clark-Kozma Debate in the 21stCentury. Paper presented at the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education 2010 Conference. Published under Creative Commons. (