Does Media Affect Learning?

            I will be honest, I am a visual learner, at least that is what I think and believe. There is ample evidence our lives are enriched using media technology. Although television is designed for entertainment, it also has redeeming educational value. A proven winner is the Children’s Television Workshop program called Sesame Street. This show, with its characters such as Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, Ernie and Count and other Muppets as well as live actors, has captured children attention. Ok I will admit, even as an adult I still get my kicks watching a few minutes of Sesame Street.

            Studies show that children that watching the showed reported significant learning benefits. “The more they watch, the more they learned about naming letters, letter sounds, initial sounds, sight words, naming numbers, counting, relational terms, classification, sorting, naming, geometric forms, matching forms, naming body parts, functions of body parts, left-right hand orientation, addition, subtraction, roles of community members and emotions.” (Wall, 1999, p. 79-80)

Here is two Sesame Street Videos to prove my position.  This is graduate school…Acadmic Freedom….


             Have I proven my point? See media has improved learning. Ok, my class activity is competed, now how all need to do is post my blog and wait for the comments to arrive. My conscious reminds me that is too easy, did you really examine the two view presented?

            Let us reexamine the articles in our class readings. Kozma (1991) ask the question does media influence learning. Kozma concludes, “Various aspects of the learning process are influenced by the cognitively relevant characteristics of the media; their technologies, symbol systems, and processing capabilities. In contrast, Clark (1983) contends even if there are differences in learning outcomes, they are due to the method used and not the medium. Kozma writes, “Clark creates an unnecessary schism between the medium and method.” (Kozma, 1991 p. 205) Clark supports that method over media is more important. Clarks supports his belief using learning theory.

             Ok, I have changed my mind maybe Clark is correct. This is allowable; it is my reflection, besides, I am adult learner constructing my own learning experience.

            If Clark is correct, then maybe I need to create a personal learning foundation. According to Slattery (2006),author of Curriculum Develooment in the Postmodern Era, states teaching involves separating learning into cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of learning. Such categorization is useful for in designing research but also can distort our understanding of learning (p. 53-54)  

            Clark (1983) using Meta-analysis studies to prove his position advocates that “media are delivery vehicles for instruction and do not directly influence learning. However, certain elements of different media, such as animated motion or zooming, might serve as sufficient conditions to facilitate the learning of students who lack the skills being modeled. Symbolic elements such as zooming are not media but allow us to create sufficient conditions to teach required cognitive skills.” (p. 453)

            In reviewing Sesame Street, I believe Clark analysis is correct. Consider the Sesame Street lesson, counting letters, I would argue that you can separate learning into cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of learning. In the case of the Sesame Street video, Clark is saying that symbols are “operational vehicles for methods that reflective the cognitive process necessary to successfully perform a given learning task.” (p. 454)

            Clark (1994) encourages us to think and consider learning and theory. He asks us to consider the question is there other media or another media attributes that yield similar learning gains. His reasons are in instructional design we must chose the less expensive way to achieve a learning goal. As adults, we have gained certain ways of thinking about learning, and acting to facilitate our own learning, or to help children learn. Learning depends of many factors, but learner engagement is crucial. For children watching Sesame Street their engagement is influenced by motivation to learn.  

            There are three types of learning. 1) Behavior learning states “learning is a change in behavior after experience or practice” .That is we can observe or measure. 2 For, Process learning the learning becomes a process that is shown by a change in behavior after experience of practice”. The process is internal, unobservable that an individual might or might not overtly demonstrate. 3) Neural learning “is a change the neural association structure of the brain after experience of practice.” (Wall, 1999, p. 6-9)

            Clark is advocating that when measuring learning we must use theory to design and develop instruction. Theory provides the ‘the underlying structural features of the shared properties”. (p. 22). As instructions system designers we cannot ignore theory. Theory provides the foundation. Contiguity theory explains how we learn connections between stimuli and response. Contiguity means togetherness in time or place. In learning letters, the letter and symbol are introduced together in both time and place. Using Cognitive theory, learning involves the formation and reorganization of the structure of the information or knowledge.  Cognitive theory is not a stimulus and response but about learning and thinking. It is about formation, modifying connections and within your knowledge structure. As adults we this, but you can also see it in children. One can observe it with your own children watching Sesame Street.


            Teaching and learning involves multifaceted human beings in complex interactions. Many variables confound learning. Clark claims that media are “mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievements any more than the truck that delivers our groceries cause changes in our nutrition.” It is important as designers we select the least expensive and most cognitively effect way to represent and deliver instruction.” We must use cognitive theory that supports the structural elements of cognitive processing during learning and transfer. (p. 23)

            Rethinking Sesame Street, it has all the ‘bells and whistles’ it entertaining, and the technology use is exceptional. Also consider, for centuries, parents and teachers working with children, providing stimulus, cultural and environmental experiences have resulted in human beings to learn and produce new knowledge. As a global society, we must recognize that not all developing nations’ children share the same learning using Sesame Street media. I agree with Clark’s statement, “It is what the teacher does – the teaching – that influences learning. Most of the methods carried by newer median can also be carried or performed by teachers.” (p. 457). As instructional designers, we must be effective and efficient. This requires that we develop an instructional system that involves using cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of learning. We must recognize all learners are individuals and apply different but appropriate models of learning.


Wall, Richard. T. (1999) Psychological Foundations of Learning, West Virginia University.

Slattery Patrick (2006), Curriculum Development in the Post Modern Era, 2nd edition, Taylor and Francis Group, New York.


About frankohara

Instructional Design Technology student, enrolled at West Virginia University. Currently enrolled in Course work instructed by Ugar Kale, Ph.D, at West Virginia University. Current, Fall 2010, course work is IDT Issues and Trends.
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