Instructional Design & Technology: Separate or Integrated?

tweetThis essay is based on examining an historical debate between Richard Clark and Richard Kozma about Instructional Design and Technology using the articles, Clark (1994) and Kozma (1994).

While I respect Clark’s body of research, I agree with Kozma. We must be forward thinking in our research and design. Media will be indispensable to learning in the near and distant future. If we don’t seriously consider it an integral part of instructional design, then corporate interests will control the design, production and use of it, leaving out instructional designers and instructional technologists. “Once again, we may find ourselves on the sidelines of our own game (Reigeluth, 1989)”. (Kozma, 1994. P. 2)

Conversely, Clark’s argument is outdated. Kozma links Clark’s and other researchers with similar arguments to roots in behaviorism with a stimulus-response viewpoint. According to Kozma, learning theory needs to evolve to consider, “mentalist notions or descriptions of the cognitive, affective, or social processes by which learning occurs”. (Kozma, 1994. p. 3)  In arguing that separating instructional design and media is more valid, Clark ignores the cognitive research that is currently taking place that focuses more on the nuanced application of media in instructional design. As seen in the Your Brain on Video Game: A TED Talk,  cognitive research is generating deeper understanding of how people learn and how various media change brain processes in modern day users.

The fact that this level of research is easily and readily available to instructional designers means that classroom teachers like myself can use this information to redesign and inform instruction daily on an unprecedented level never before seen in history. By applying media strategically, instructional designers at any level can rapidly gain ample quantitative and qualitative data that can be used as empirical evidence in the classroom. These methods become even more effective when combined with other evidence streams such as formative assessment, student reflection and teacher observation. This leads to a more relevant macro and micro picture of the direct effects of instructional design on learning.

In my experience as a classroom teacher, creating learning experiences that utilize technology effectively serves to leverage learning in ways that less dynamic teaching tools cannot. Designing learning opportunities such as creating real world scenarios for learning or other lessons that allow concept accessibility for struggling learners is a worthwhile endeavour for making instruction more effective. Instructional designers need to meet students where they are today if we hope to design effective instructional practices. Since technology use has saturated the culture, it seems wise to make it an integral part of instructional design. According to the U.S. Department of Education a key finding revealed,

“Most children and adolescents use these technologies (table 1). About 90 percent of children and adolescents ages 5–17 (47 million persons) use computers, and about 59 percent (31 million persons) use the Internet. • Use begins at an early age (figure 1). About three-quarters of 5-year-olds use computers, and over 90 percent of teens (ages 13–17) do so. About 25 percent of 5- year-olds use the Internet, and this number rises to over 50 percent by age 9 and to at least 75 percent by ages 15–17”. (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 2003 p. 5)

In conclusion, modern instructional design is much more dynamic than a behaviorism model of the past. Instructional design needs to center around a conversation about how to use media most effectively, not whether we should use it or not. That time has come and gone. Technology is here to stay and today’s students expect technology to take center stage as a vehicle for learning, communication and collaboration (Kozma 1994. p.20).

Are you a learner? What do you think?

Additional Citations beyond the required readings and video:

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Computer and Internet Use by Children and Adolescents in 2001, NCES 2004–014, by Matthew DeBell and Chris Chapman. Washington, DC: 2003. Fetched from:


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