Explaining Clark's Mere Vehicles Debate & Position


Student working on assignment in a computer

Lately, I have been doing some research on Clark's "Mere Vehicles" debate for a paper that I'm writing for my Perspectives in ITDE course with Dr. Judith Converso. I have found that there are a few different perspectives on this debate. 

Some people believe that media is an essential part of learning, but it does not influence learning, and of course, it can be used to supplement other methods of instruction. Others believe that media does influence learning. I believe that there is merit to both sides of the debate. However, I ultimately come down on the side of using media as a tool for learning. 

I think that media can be a great way to engage students and provide them with additional ways to absorb the information being learned. Additionally, media can be used to supplement other methods of instruction, such as lectures or readings. Ultimately, the decision of how much to use media in instruction should be made on a case-by-case basis. It is up to each instructor to decide how best to use media in their classrooms. 

According to Clark (2012), "media is a vehicle" rather than a means to an end for learning, and "content affects achievement" for the learner is actually what matters (p. 2). As Clark points out, the media is a tremendous force in society, especially in the educational profession. It can be difficult for people to accept that media are merely instruments of information. Understanding Clark's point of view is critical because the media is simply a vehicle for transferring information. 

Specifically, Bates (2019) states that "media requires an active act of creating material" or the ability to transmit the content, "as well as a learner who receives and understands communication, as well as tools that carry the medium" (p. 223). 

The technology or medium cannot "generate meaning" on its own; it requires the involvement of a human (a teacher) to be engaged (p. 222). Clark (2012) also adds that study issues posed by "previously popular mediums," such as radio in the 1940s and television in the 1960s, were the same as those asked by the Internet in 2012. Clark (2012) explains that "media comparison studies indicate that we will not uncover learning differences that can be definitely attributable to any medium of teaching" (p. 11). 

According to Clark (2012), the Instructional Technology and Distance Education (ITDE) area is significant since the medium is only a conduit for information generated by a subject expert, not the other way around. The content, rather than the medium through which it is delivered, determines the level of learning achievement. 

The instructor prepares to teach tasks to students based on the media chosen to help the student become more motivated to study and learn (Clark, 2012).

Click here to read more on the Media Vehicles or Media Effects debate. 

References

Bates,  A. W. (Tony) (2015). Teaching in the digital era is a challenge. https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/

Clark, R. E. (2012). The first argument is that media are merely vehicles. Learning from media: Arguments, analysis, and evidence (2nd ed., pp. 1-12). Information Age.


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