The Views of Clark and Kozma

by Michael MacKay

September 26th, 2020

In this EdWeek blog post, Peter DeWitt invites Emily Davis and Brad Currie to talk about a topic that continues along the lines of the “Great Media Debate.” Davis and Currie (2019) state that many schools spend large sums of money on technology, with the hope of improving the quality of teaching. However, without the proper supports in place, such as coaching from technology leaders and experts able to teach other teachers how to properly use this new technology, it goes to waste through underuse, or worse, gets used for the wrong reasons. In an example, Davis and Currie demonstrate that, in one school that gave all students a Chromebook laptop for a 6-month trial, it was found that “the actual work that is being submitted is not requiring students to do anything differently from what they had done before technology, nor is it engaging students in meaningful and relevant tech-enabled learning experiences” (Davis & Currie, 2019, para. 4). 

In this blog post, Davis and Currie (2019) make a bold statement that “technology has no impact on teaching and learning.” Does this sound familiar? If you’ve read the classic Clark (1994) and Kozma (1994) articles that argue in this media debate, it should be familiar. Below is our, Patrick Guichon’s and Mike MacKay’s, opinions on how Clark and Kozma might have reacted to this more recent addition to the media debate.

Clark would likely agree with the title that “technology has no impact on teaching and learning” since this is aligned with the title of his article, “media will never influence learning.” Clark would probably say the adoption of new technology is not going to significantly affect the learning, so be wary of implementing it. Since, simply changing the media by using a new technology does not affect the teaching, the only benefit would be in the cost and perhaps the efficiency of the new technology. Clark might have argued not to invest too much time and money into a new technology, just to find it is less efficient and more costly. 

Kozma would likely claim that we won’t see the benefit of the technology if we don’t take advantage of its affordances. This article supports this point of view, saying that without the proper support in schools, such as introducing technology coaches, teachers will use the technology for the wrong reasons. “Good pedagogy has to come before technology selection or use” (Davis & Currie, 2019, para. 9). According to Davis and Currie, these technology coaches need to “help teachers select and implement the right tools in ways that enhance instruction, address student needs, and meet curricular goals” (2019, para. 9); this is consistent with Kozma’s perspective, that without a new pedagogy to maximize the use of the new technology, technology is less effective and underutilized. Kozma stated that “traditional pedagogies do not address complex relationships between media, method and situation” (Kozma, 1994, p. 21), so we need adequate training to utilize new technologies properly with the right teaching pedagogies.

To further aid in the reader’s understanding of the great media debate between Clark and Kozma, let’s look at another article where an emerging technology’s pedagogy has become the new focal point of the discussion.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education recently secured nearly 1.4 million USD to support a new program called the Exploring Collaborative Embodiment for Learning, or EXCEL, which focuses on using augmented and virtual reality to understand geometry. The program employs a unique approach called embodied learning, which focuses on expressing mathematical thinking through “movement, spatial reasoning, and imaginative thinking” (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2020, para. 2). Using this approach, students and teachers represent their mathematical understanding by interacting with artefacts in the virtual space using Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, allowing the representation of knowledge without the need for proficient or native language skills. The program’s goal is to explore how using different modalities in augmented reality could impact student understanding of geometry and how these tasks are affected by “students’ gestures, language, and actions” (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2020, para. 16).

Clark would most likely question the allocation of funds for this program. Using the replaceability challenge, the idea of testing the viability of a medium or media by seeing if another cheaper solution can replace it (Clark, 1994, para. 3); he would argue that the EXCEL program’s virtual shape manipulation can most likely be achieved in a more cost-effective way using well designed physical models. Instead of using expensive augmented reality tools and virtual geometric shapes, physical models could be constructed out of paper for a fraction of the cost. Even manipulating geometric shapes in the virtual space could be accomplished by reconstructing a new paper model with the desired attributes. A paper model would achieve similar results because learners would still follow the core principles of embodied learning, making it hard to justify an expensive tool like augmented reality.

Kozma would view the EXCEL program as an innovative evolution in the way educators teach geometry. Two main points would support his view: (1) the belief that medium or media must be integrated into the development of the method for it to influence learning (Kozma, 1994, p. 20), and (2) the need to define the capabilities of a medium or media based on the learner, task, and situation rather than a cause-effect analysis (Kozma, 1994, pp. 13-14). First, Kozma would not view the construction of paper models and the manipulation of virtual models the same because even though the activity’s outcome is compatible, the method used to achieve the learning dramatically differs. When constructing a paper model, the learner still needs an abstract understanding of the attributes (width, height, depth, etc.) to achieve the outcome; yet, the methodological approach in the EXCEL program allows the learner to physically manipulate the virtual shape to achieve the desired result without any understanding of the underlying attributes. Kozma would view this approach as the liberation of new design models by the increased capabilities of the HoloLens 2 (Kozma, 1994, p. 23). Secondly, viewing Clark’s cost-effective example, many assumptions would need to be made about the learner, task, and situation. For instance, all learners would need language and communication skills to understand the instructions when creating a paper model for understanding geometric manipulations. Yet, using the EXCEL program’s pedagogical approach, language skills are less prevalent because students can see the effects of their manipulations instantaneously. The EXCEL program explains this approach by focusing on understanding geometry through multiple modalities (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2020, para. 3). Effectively, Kozma would argue that by considering the medium when designing their pedagogical approach, the program has forced the reexamination of the foundational assumptions that make up how one learns geometry, improving related education and training (Kozma, 1994, p. 23).


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

Davis, E., Currie, B. (2019, April 19). Technology Has No Impact on Teaching and Learning. Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground. Education Week.

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

University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2020, September 9). Virtual reality offers new avenues for remote collaborative learning and teaching.

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