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Discussion about Clark Chapters 3-7




  In these chapters, Clark extends his thesis by carefully examining the meta-analyses that, in the early 1980s, were suggesting that CBI could lead to achievement gains; discussing theories of media and cognition; describing the media effects debate outside the United States; addressing multimedia research; and exploring the role media may have in facilitating critical thinking.

After reading the chapters, think about the back-and-forth and the process of refining the basic ideas. Then consider:

1. In developing his central theme, does Clark retain solid footing? [That is, does he adequately address the objections that are raised to his thesis.]

Then, what does all this mean to the student professionally and academically--and to the field?

2. What are the implications of Clark's thesis for your career, for your doctoral research, and for the field in general?

The discussion this week should be driven, in part, by your interests and the ways in which your thoughts or imagination may be stimulated by the readings.  You may want to consider if, in developing his central theme, Clark retains solid footing. You may also want to consider the implications of Clark's thesis for your career, for your doctoral research, and for the field in general.   As Clark delves deeper into the topic, your own thoughts and observations will likely deepen, as well.


Then, what does all this mean to the student professionally and academically--and to the field?

REPLY:  What a headache!  To me, no matter how delightfully robust a study appears, I have to step back from any news that a new webiste, procedure with a video camera or other innovation has a direct link to permanent improved student achievement.   This is a sorry state of affairs for me, since I reflexively impose a technological solution to any classroom pedagogical issue when in fact a teacher-training might be a better solution.   Adding tech is not likely to produce improved results.   (Even as I write that sentence, I have diluted the Clark observation).  I should rewrite:  Adding tech does not produce  improved results.  Improved results come from an integrated approach that might or might not include added technology.  (that was hard to write.)

Academically and professionally, I have to look deeper than my intuitive response of "let's use Dragon software to improve writing" or "we can ask students to speak to a camera and then transcribe the result."   No guaranteed improvement in student achievement.



2. What are the implications of Clark's thesis for your career, for your doctoral research, and for the field in general?

The discussion this week should be driven, in part, by your interests and the ways in which your thoughts or imagination may be stimulated by the readings.  You may want to consider if, in developing his central theme, Clark retains solid footing. You may also want to consider the implications of Clark's thesis for your career, for your doctoral research, and for the field in general.   As Clark delves deeper into the topic, your own thoughts and observations will likely deepen, as well.


It is so hard to admit, I need to reinforce this observation:  Adding tech does not produce  improved results.  Improved results come from an integrated approach that might or might not include added technology.  The implication for my career is that I have to be very careful about the claims I have made in the past and that I'm likely to repeat.   I have an instinctual grasp of the power of technology but I easily forget that the perceived improvements in student performance are temporary.   
My career will involve visitsto schools and efforts to train teachers to use technology, so I had better keep this obseravation front and center:  "What we are training you to do will have no lasting impact in the classroom if you do not fundamentally review your procedures.  Adding technology does not lead to improved student achievement."   That label needs to be in manuals, books and on pieces of equipment.   That should be the long-lasting impact of Clark's work.  The "Clark warning label" would be tangible evidence that these chapters have been read and their messages implemented in the real world.



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As a note about the tenor of Chapter 7:
I particularly like the opening paragraph in the conclusion of Chapter 7 (p. 135) where Clark thanks his editor for removing "the usual constraints of a scholarly piece" and for encouraging him to be "personal and candid."  He makes his most compelling argument about why we should be wary of links between technology and student achievement.  I have posted the following part of the second paragraph on my facebook page because it is so insightful:

"We tend to encourage students and faculty to begin with educational and instructional solutions and search for problems that can be solved by those solutions.  Thus, we begin with an enthusiasm for media or individualized instruction or deschooling and search fo r avisible context in which to establish evidence for our solution.  Counter-evidence is suspect and we are predisposed to believe that it is flawed.  Positive evidence is accepted easily.  We need greater appreciation for negative evidence and to begin with a focus on problems and then search relevant literature for robust, research-based theories about solutions to those problems.    If we begin by attempting to validate a belief about the solutions to largely unexamined problems, we are less open to evidence that our intuitions might be very far off the mark."    This is the clearest, most direct exposition that I have found in Clark's writings.   This appears on pages 135-136.


Reference

Clark, R. (ed.) (2001). Learning from media.  Greenwich, CT:  IAP Publishing.



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Other students:

Clark remains adamant in his refusal to accept media comparison studies and, when it comes to the advantages of media in teaching he might have a point when he says “each new medium has raised our hopes for benefits to instruction and learning similar to those achieved in the entertainment communication, and information-handling arenas. These hopes are encouraged by large industries who hope to sell newer electronic media to schools” (Clark & Salomon, 1986).  Nowadays, there’s also growing interest among educational software companies to sell their “almost miraculous” products in the form of DVDs or CDs or through online subscriptions. As usual, their main selling points are that their software is research-based and they have been in the business for so many years. With the development of tablets, the market for educational apps is growing quite fast and the claims for outstanding student performance in reading and math are just similar and familiar.

Once again Clark maintains that “the primary advantage of using new electronic media such as computers, television and video disks for teaching may be economic and not psychological, that is, under some conditions they make learning faster and/or cheaper but no one medium contributes unique learning benefits that cannot be obtained from another medium.”(Clark & Sugrue, 1990). I must disagree with him, to some extent, because learning software has gotten anything but cheaper these days. Sometimes site licenses are also very expensive for schools to purchase. So, the computer is now here, but the software is just missing, because of the high price tag. Now, the computer is definitely the one medium replacing others, and its unique learning benefits cannot be replicated with anything else.

And last but not least, even though he still thinks that “the evidence is overwhelming that media do not influence achievement,” he must admit that “motivation is likely to be an interaction between media and student perception. At least it is possible to vary motivation by varying media.” (Clark, 1991).  And with this, I totally agree.

As far as the implications of Clark’s thesis for my career, dissertation, etc., I must say that I do not intend to embark upon any media comparison studies in the future, because this will be a futile effort, given the fact that media have their individual characteristics and serve specific purposes. Any new thesis will always find people sitting on either side of the fence and they will never ever come to terms. So, why waste time trying to convince anyone? You should just go ahead with what you think it’s best for your particular environment, despite what your theory opponents think. Only time will tell whether you are right or wrong.

On the other hand, the one medium that seems to be prevailing over everything else is the computer, with tablets rapidly gaining ground. Whether or not one of them remains the ultimate winner in this battle is irrelevant to me, as long as they contribute to enhancing and improving student learning and motivation. For their mobility, tablets might win hands down, and also for their ability to record videos and take pictures and have built-in keyboards for typing text and everything else we know they have.

 

References

Clark, R. (1991). When researchers swim upstream: Reflections on an unpopular argument about learning from media.Educational Technology, 31(2), 34-40.

Clark, R., & Salomon, G. (1986). Media in teaching. Handbook of research on teaching, 464-478.

Clark, R., & Sugrue, B. (1990). North American disputes about research on learning from media. International Journal of Educational Research, 485-579.

 

REPLY

  Excellent point, Mario.  You lead off with a focus on claims by educational software makers and I realize that I instinctively swallow and accept much of what I read because it is "based in research."  Ah, but that research is likely just another media-comparison study.   


I have to say that "student achievement" appears to be improved by using computers (in the short term, by capturing a student's writing which can be easily edited on a computer), but then watch what happens when the student is left to use a pencil without the support of a tablet or computer...   "no change in student achievement" is often the result (as seen in the "classroom of the future").   As Richtel writes in his September 2011 New York Times article, "schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning."

Reference
Richtel, M. (2011).  "In classroom of the future, stagnant scores."    New York Times, retrieved February 27, 2012 at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/technology/technology-in-schools-faces-questions-on-value.html?pagewanted=all



Steve



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