Critical Reflection #6
Kozma, R.B. (1991). Learning with Media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179-211.
October 23, 1997

Will the world wide web become the first universal medium for communication and understanding? Or is it a medium that only expert readers will be able to benefit from?

These question arises from an interesting study that was detailed in Kozma’s (1991) study on learning and media. Bazerman (1985, as cited in Kozma, 1991) observed how scientists read professional material from their field. There was a highly evolved selection and narrowing process that was employed to get the information that was desired.  I found it fascinating that the descriptions of expert readers analyzing text resembles the world wide web experience so closely (see Kozma, 1991, pgs.184-185). When searching for information on the world wide web, users must deal with the problem that the scientists faced in Bazerman’s study on a much larger scale. The vast amount of information that is obtainable demands that the user be proficient in disregarding extraneous or inappropriate data, while attending to and pursuing information that is relevant. Anyone who has searched the world wide web for information is aware of how much connected information is out there. If children and poor readers do not have the skills that expert readers have for finding relevant data, then the world wide web may be too vast for effective information retrieval. Information searches on the world wide web are still dependent upon reading skills.

With hypertext, we have an entirely new way of “reading”. It is different than traditional text in that it is non-linear. Connections between chunks of data are multidirectional. Flow is controlled by the user, not the author. Kozma (1991) describes how the stability of text aides poor readers. It provides a context in which comprehension can be reinforced by reviewing the written word or varying the speed of input. With the world wide web, this important base from which these strategies are used is eliminated. There is no stability of text in hypertext. It is very easy to “get lost” when navigating through mazes of information to the point that regressing for comprehension is not always possible. How does one clarify meaning in that case? Being a hypertextual environment, it may entail beginning a new trail to search for meaning. A poor reader may find this process overwhelming.

Thankfully, I believe that hypertext and multimedia have become much more advanced and accessible since Kozma (1991) wrote his article. Specifically, CD-ROM’s such as the “Living Books” series combine the foundation of text-based literacy with the benefits of hypertext: stability of text, and the presentation of audio and visual information, which “provides additional, complementary information” (Kozma, 1991, p.192).  The world wide web allows the weak reader to modify the pace of presentation and the direction of learning, while increase comprehension and recall through the use of visual aides such as graphics or movie clips.

In answer to the questions posed at the beginning of this paper, I believe that the world wide web has the power to reduce illiteracy and improve communicative skills for those who are weaker readers. If this is found to be true, then further investigation could examine whether or not the relationship is reciprocal:. That is, will weak readers who improve their skills through the use of multimedia transfer those skills to text-only passages.