Can you visualize this?

Prompt: Write a blog entry reflecting on what you have come to understand about the design of instruction that primarily or exclusively employs a single media such as graphics to teach. What did you learn about designing instruction from a single media perspective? What are its limitations? How is it beneficial? How can/will you use it for teaching and learning in the future?

What are the limits to the use of media in general for learning and teaching? If Clark is correct, why do we bother? How did this perspective change the way you think about learning and teaching?

Yesterday, I got my new iPhone 6 in the mail. As always, when I first turn on the phone, I stop and think about how beautifully designed the product is. I’m not just talking about the outside. I am talking about the entire package. The icons that appear on the cell top are simple, effective, and aesthetically pleasing. Looking at the icons on my iPhone, they quickly and clearly convey what the purpose of an app is. With a single glance at my phone, I can easily understand what each of my apps do. Yet, it wasn’t until our assignment this week that the true value of clearly designed images resonated with me. I never fully realized how difficult it can be to convey information until I was limited to the use of a single media, images. I had to reconstruct my text instructions from last week and transform them into image only instructions.

In Braden’s (2004) article, he discusses how relying solely on visual cues can be misleading and cause for misinterpretation. What I discovered during this project is that my version of an image doesn’t necessarily match other people’s schemas. My topic is how to check out a book from an academic library. Originally to represent the instructor assigned book cover and title, I had designed a copy of the actual book cover to convey that message; however, what I found when testing the images on people is that the image was confusing and caused the learning path to stop. They got hung up on trying to determine what the point of the image was and what it was supposed to mean. After talking with them about their confusion, I ended up redesigning that step in my instruction set. When I retested my audience, they all agreed that the new image made more sense and was easier to follow. What I learned from this is that it’s not enough to simply design images, the instructional designer needs to put some thought in the best images to use to replace the text and also to test them out on other people.

Benefits of good visual images are that they can help support learning. Research has shown that by combining text with corroborating visual images, i.e., images that match the purpose of the text, it helps learners retain and recall information (Braden, 2004; Kozma, 1991). Images can help explain complex topics by providing the learner with another way to process the information. For example, think about installation instructions. Invariably, the process is complicated with multiple steps. Good installation instructions contain images to visualize the installation process. I know that I always rely on the images to help me put my electronics and furniture together. Designing instructions with only images as cues is extremely difficult and not something I think I would continue to do in the future. For the future, I will use a combination of text with supporting images.

In Clark’s (1994) article, he states that “instructional methods are the underlying common element of all substitutable media and attributes of media” (p. 7). His issue with instructional designers is that they are more focused on the media that they are using than the learning theories that form the foundation for educational technology. He believes that regardless of the media used that it should always be tied to a learning theory and that the underlying learning theory is what produces the learning, not the media itself (Clark, 1994). I agree with Clark to a point. I agree that when designing instruction that before you decide on a medium, or media, a solid instructional approach must be chosen. Only after one has determined the learning outcomes and objectives should the media be picked. The point of using media should be to facilitate the learning and not make the media fit the instructional approach.

I disagree with Clark in that I really do feel that certain types of media increase learning (1994). For example, when I was learning computer science in high school, we had a lesson in writing our own code to create a graphic of our choice. Now, I could have read about the process and looked at pictures, but that wouldn’t have been as effective as actually using a computer to write my own code and seeing what the code did while I was writing it. In this case, the media, the computer program actually helped me to learn more. I feel that the combination of an effective instructional method with the use of appropriate media actually makes for a stronger learning connection, which is the ultimate goal of instructional design.


Braden, R. A. (2004). Visual literacy. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on
educational communications and technology (2nd ed.). Mahwah, N. J.: Erlbaum.

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media and method. Educational Technology Research & Development,
42(3), 7-10.

Kozma, R. B. (1991). Learning with media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179-211.

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