This aspect of the Wiki explores instructional media and various taxonomies we could use to categorize these products. Questions we'll be asking include: What is instructional media? How can use of instructional media support the goals and purposes of education? What instructional taxonomies are available that might help us categorize instructional media?

We'll begin by exploring some examples of instructional or educational technology taxonomies. Taxonomies include:

1. Bruce - Educational technology taxonomy - tools for inquiry, communication, construction and expression.

2. Bruce & Levin - Technology as media: the learner-centered perspective. [Team #1 - M. Baldwin, J. Dorsey & C. Pifer]

Overview: Bruce and Levin make a comparison between experts & novices. Experts can look at things with multiple lenses and ultimately choose the best solution based on expertise. They argue that technology (especially computer based) can be used to "display multiple presentations of knowledge in a domain to the learner at the same time, in a way that is coordinated". This can lead to learning environments which create experts. Bruce and Levin split the taxonomy into four categories based on "the natural impulses of a child proposed by John Dewey". The four categories in the Bruce and Levin taxonomy are:
Media for inquiry:
Strength - Allows students to get a visual representation without actually doing it such as a science experiment. Students have an opportunity to “go beyond the book” and explore topics in a deeper way.
Weakness – could be costly to a district depending on software and equipment needed
Media for communication:
Strength - individuals can collaborate either synchronously or asynchronously around the world
Weakness - what happens if the system has an error and it is not fixed in time to still allow the assignment to be meaningful to students

  1. Communication-with other students, teachers, experts in various fields, and people around the world
  2. Electronic mail (Eudora/Internet) For example I would share the strengths of electronic mail, bulletin Boards, Computer conferences etc........ Another team member will discuss the weaknesses, and the third person will concentrate on what is needed for a positive experience
  • Bulletin boards
  • Computer conferences
  • Synchronous computer conferencing (Interchange, Realtime Writer, CECE Talk)
  • Audio and video teleconferences
  • Gopher
  • Student-created hypertext environments (CSILE, HTML) (Marla Baldwin Contributor 10/1/2011 original contribution date in team discussion board )

Media for construction:
Strength - Allows students to save time by having computers do things they might typically be asked to do manually.
Weakness - Time consuming to teach students how to use the technology, a teacher would have to make sure that the time spent on teaching the technology was worth it to achieve the broader objective. Might be a "crutch" for some students. They won't have to do things manually and won't then be able to truly understand why something works.
Media for expression:
Strength - allow students an outlet for creative expression
Weakness - Time consuming to teach students how to use the technology
Overall Strengths:
  • Learner centered
  • Based on children's natural impulses as proposed by Dewey
  • Some of the technologies require internet access. Availability may be limited for some students.
  • Programs could be costly to the district
  • Who decides which technologies are the best to use?
  • This taxonomy seems to take multiple factors into consideration. While it does focus on computer based technologies, it offers room for newer technologies to fit into the already defined categories. The most beneficial part of using this taxonomy is that it is from the learner’s perspective. This taxonomy would be beneficial to a teacher looking to balance their instruction with multiple types of media.
  • Some of the technologies require internet access. Availability may be limited for some students.
  • Programs could be costly to the district
  • Who decides which technologies are the best to use?
  • Media for communication uses BlackBoard as an example. Sometimes students may experience a glitch and have to wait to tell the instructor who informs tech support and the wait could be long to get the issue resolved.

3. David Wiley - Connecting learning to instructional design theory. [Team #2 - T. Bennett-Clare, G. Holstege & A. Rutenbar]

It is the consensus of this group that the journal article written by David Wiley is intended to educate its readers of a taxonomy that is to be used by teachers to create concepts called "learning objects." It was found that the author tried to define exactly what a learning object is with a number of definitions but did not create a very clear description for the reader to understand. He used the metaphors of the LEGO block and the atom in describing learning objects. All three of the group felt that the author missed badly on his usage of the atom metaphor which was very confusing and difficult to understand if one was not well-versed in the study of atoms. The proposed taxonomy was one that the group felt was poorly written, and one that we would not use in our own creation of instructional design. We felt that the author did a poor job of explaining how to incorporate the fact that we have many different types of learners in our classrooms. His chart on the Taxonomy of Learning Object Types came across as confusing and difficult to understand. The terminology for categorizing instructional media was complex to say the least.

Strengths: Reusable learning objects, which are often found in the form of technology/media, can be reused in different learning contexts

  • Promotes the use of multiple technology resources

Weaknesses: Not learner-centered, but rather centered around learning objects

  • No incorporation of different learning types
  • No mention of how learning objects can promote creativity
  • No explanation of learning objects’ role in the evaluation process
  • Complex and unfamiliar terminology

Recommendation: we felt that there are other taxonomies with charts and ideas that are more practical for use in instructional designs. This author’s approach was caught up in the definition of a learning object, and did not lend itself as useful for categorizing instructional media. Wiley’s approach is far from realistic or simplistic.

4. C. Bonk - Blended learning environments.[Team #3 - J. Bowen, K. Meyering, & C. Thomas]
Blended learning more about the delivery or the method of teaching rather than a taxonomy. A common name that some of you may be used to would be 'hybrid learning'. Students are at school for face-to-face time with teacher but then leave the traditional school setting and do some learning on their own--normally from laptops. Technology is a huge issue for blended learning environments because the student must have access to the internet and whatever online programs that they are to use. In conjunction with technology, financial concerns are obvious. K-12 education has never been lower-funded, and schools having access to unlimited technology for blended learning situations would be unheard of.
One concern with blended learning is the social presence aspect. I've learned that this is important and necessary when teaching in a blended or online format. I recommend the following article to learn about this subject.
Mykota, D., & Duncan, R. (2007). Learner Characteristics as Predictors of Online Social Presence. Canadian Journal of Education, 30(1), 157-70.
For teaching teachers to evaluate instructional media and perform website evaluation, I believe blended learning would be successful, as these teachers must be interested in technology to be pursuing this line of education.

Brief History:
Blended learning takes place in the education world as well as the business world. The name has evolved, like many other "hot topics" over the years. Blended learning has also been referred to as: integrative learning, hybrid learning and multi-method learning. "In 2003, the American Society for Training and Development identified blended learning as one of the top ten trends to emerge in the knowledge delivery industry" (cited in Rooney 2003, and Graham 2004).

-Virtually connecting with students---sometimes you have to go digital to engage.
-Differentiation in simple as well as reaching out to multiple intelligences.
-Students can collaborate with others in their own class---as well as with other globally. (Good for higher-level instruction, but probably not effective for elementary level students.)
-Learner centered/focused. The student controls the time, place, and pace of their learning when they are away from the school setting. (Again, probably not a great idea for elementary-aged students. In a classroom setting, teachers can make lessons student-centered, but still provide guidance and motivation. Elementary students, at least lower elementary, need that guidance. They are not prepared for the independent learning style of blended learning.)
-Flexibility of schedules
-Cost (Also a weakness.)
-Everything rests in the hands of the teachers. Those teachers who are not tech-savvy would have a very hard time adjusting. Techno-phobia could really hurt the process.
-Imbalances--too much face to face. too much web.
-What to do for kids with little to no access??
-Study skills of students--what to do when they aren't self-sufficient
-Updated technology
-Careful planning, designing, organizing, and conducting.
-Good attitudes and willingness to learn
-Teachers must have training!!
-Parents must also be educated so they understand the process. [Posted by K. Meyering, 9/25/11]
-At the elementary level, it may work if parents are on board as support.
[Additional comments posted by J. Bowen, 10/1]
Multiple Models
Some school districts have implemented virtual course models that are available in elementary and secondary schools. These include fully online courses, in which teachers and students interact primarily through electronic means: hybrid classes that incorporate both face-to-face and virtual instruction as called for within the curriculum map; and web-enabled courses, where teachers and students interact with virtual learning objects, both within and beyond the school day, as part of instruction conducted within traditional face to face programs.(Posted by C. Thomas- cited in "Pape, L.(2010) "Blended Teaching and Learning: developing courses the combine face-to face and virtual instruction in pursuit of 21st-century skills in classrooms". School Administrator. 16-23.

5. ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards for Students - Digital age learning categories.[A. Topper]

This is not actually a taxonomy of instructional technology, per se, but rather a set of standards or benchmarks that the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) have created to measure students' knowledge and skill using technology for learning. But if we examine the major items in the NETS-S, we might categorize instructional media and websites using them. The items are: creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making, digital citizenship and technology operations and concepts. Of these six, I can imagine five (5) that could possibly be used to group instructional media or websites. I'll consider each and identify strengths and weaknesses for each below.

  1. Creativity and innovation - does the media or website support generation of ideas, products, processes? does it support individual or group expression? does it include models or simulations of complex systems? can it be used to identify trends and forecast possibilities? Strength - these are important attributes of media or websites used for instruction that could, in the right settings, promote development of students' skills in these areas. Weakness - much would depend on how the media or website was used in an educational activity. Certainly, a media product or website could support student creativity and innovation, using a variety of tools, but whether the product or site was actually designed to do so would be subjective at best.
  2. Communication and collaboration - does the media or website support these capabilities? does it support publication of media? does it help support cultural understandings and global awareness? Strength - an obvious choice when using technology to support collaborative learning that takes advantage of basic features and functions, and easily supported on a website via synchronous (chat) and asynchronous (e-mail, Discussion Board, etc.). Weakness - would be dependent on the media used and require access to the Internet.
  3. Research and information fluency - does the media or website support gathering, evaluating and using information? does it support organization, evaluation, synthesis, etc. of information? does it provide digital tools to support these functions? Strength - could be product specific, but not generic or widespread in many media products. For websites, might incorporate digital or information literacy elements and promote safe, ethical and legal use of media by others. Weaknesses - with the variety of different digital literacy and 21st century literacy standards or benchmarks, would be difficult to select one or support more than one. Could also be a site or product for evaluation or consideration of copyright and ethical use by students without an explicit function or support provided - i.e., Bogus websites.
  4. Thinking, problem solving and decision making - does the media or website support identifying and solving authentic problems or significant questions for investigation? does it support planning and managing activities to identify solutions and make informed decisions? does it support or promote divers perspectives and alternative solutions? Strength - provides an important, perhaps essential, aspect of student use of technology and 21st century or digital literacy standards. Weaknesses - difficult to integrate this into a product or website, per se, and perhaps should be incorporated into technology-based instructional activities and assessments rather than part of the product or site.

These categories look similar to the ones identified by Bruce & Levin in the article we read for week #4. For example NETS-S Communication & Collaboration is virtually identical to the Bruce & Levin category of Communication. Likewise, Research & Information Fluency is the same as Bruce & Levin's Inquiry. I could also see Creativity and innovation as similar to Expression.

Item #5 might be another category, but would need dissecting to figure out how it might apply to instructional media and website:

5. Digital citizenship - does the media or website support or exemplify human, cultural and societal issues related to using technology? Does it promote legal and ethical uses of technology or media - copyright, privacy, equity, etc? Does it promote lifelong learning? Does it incorporate or promote digital literacy? Strength - perhaps aligned with 21st century literacy, which is becoming a focus of standards & assessments in K-12 education. Weaknesses - some possible overlap with research and information literacy and as indicated above, might be better served if incorporated into a technology-based activity.

Strengths of using this taxonomy for categorizing instructional media or websites: some power in four of the five categories, but might also be better if incorporated into technology-based activities, and alignment with national educational technology standards for students (NETS-S).

Weaknesses or challenges of using this taxonomy for categorizing instructional media or websites: Some challenges, especially in #5, overlap with Bruce & Levin and no place for Technology operations and concepts except in technology literacy. Somewhat narrow categories that might limit or restrict types of media or websites that could be organized using this as a taxonomy.

Recommendation: Even though the NETS-S could be used for this purpose, I would recommend against doing so because within the five (5) major categories, there is overlap with the Bruce & Levin taxonomy, which is more robust and based on constructivist learning theory, and one of the categories - technology operations and concepts - would not be helpful for categorizing instructional media or websites.

[Posted by A. Topper on 09/26/11]

6. Bloom's digital taxonomy.

7. AIMSGDL USDLA instructional media for distance learning - A taxonomy for blended learning (PDF). [Team #4 - N. Bush, S. Papineau, & N. Torrey]


This article emphasizes distance learning and specifically focuses on synchronous and asynchronous variations of instructional strategies. The taxonomy distinguishes between activities that allow learners to progress independently within the curriculum versus collaboratively in a distance learning community and aims to aid instructors in developing lessons for distance learning classes that rely on visuals and audio components. The taxonomy of distance learning media incorporates activities that are visually-based, aural only, or a combination of visual and aural components. Each category is then sub-categorized based on the intended learning environment, and examples of each medium are presented.


  • This taxonomy presents educators with options for implementing distance learning that are clearly categorized and specific to the instructors' intended learning environment (synchronous vs. asynchronous).
  • The taxonomy allows for change as the categories are not binding and do not restrict new technologies from being integrated. The categories are broad enough that they can encompass evolving forms of instructional media.
  • The categorized structure of the taxonomy presents instructors with a variety of media that can be distinguished based on appropriateness for the content being explored. Various examples of activities are included within the taxonomy.
  • The versatility of instructional media is evident as it pertains to engaging learners in various settings. The taxonomy presents instructors with choices but allows for inventive strategies as well.
  • This instructional media allows for students to explore content independently as well as through simultaneous class-interactions.
  • The activities are learner-based and aim to present content in a manner that is the most appropriate given the environmental circumstances of the learners.

  • The taxonomy fails to address activities under the category that pertains to visually-based, synchronous activities. Within our group discussion, we identified KWL activities that rely on a visual for gaining information and developing a discussion. We also identified the use of a virtual whiteboard (e.g. Wimba chat) as a potential activity that would fulfill the requirements of the taxonomy.
  • Implementation of this taxonomy may require significant access to technology and assumes that students are proficient in using technology. An instructor may need to scaffold activities to ensure that students have obtained the skills necessary to complete lesson requirements. In other words, students may need additional instruction pertaining to the use of technology before technology-rich activities can be successfully implemented.
  • Although there may be great gains related to integrating these forms of instructional media, instructors must be committed to dedicating the time that is needed to create the lessons and offer additional support throughout the learning experience.
  • There are limitations presented in distance learning due to the changes in how communication and feedback occur (e.g. exchanging emails versus gaining instant feedback in a classroom setting by posing questions).
  • Activities that are visual or aural only may not address the needs of each student; whereas, activities that present both forms of media may resonate with a broader audience.


The Taxonomy of Distance Learning Media is advantageous in its categorization of various forms of media. The taxonomy offers flexibility and can evolve as specific mediums are integrated. Each category is not limited to the presented forms of instructional media. Additionally, this taxonomy may benefit instructors in both distance learning and real-world educational settings because it presents an organized view on how instructional media can be selected and presented to benefit the needs of learners.

8. Innovative learning by interaction, function, technical affordances, etc. [Team #5 - J. Clark, C. Perdue & J. Ruthsatz]


This concept of Innovative Learning is about grouping learning technologies into categories to help make sense of the plethora of technological tools! This can be very helpful but also very confusing as many tools fit under multiple categories; depending on how you use each tool.


Classifying technology based on multiple discipline makes sense because it breaks down the different ways technology is used in learning.

Classification by Interaction makes the most sense to me as a social studies educator because it is the most straightforward and "role" focused.

Every aspect of technology use is covered using this taxonomy, I can think of anything that would not fit into one of the categories.

Classification by Educational function makes sense at a very basic level...(almost too simple).


The multiple classifications can be confusing, its hard to simplify them into one straightforward taxonomy.

Some technologies can fit under multiple classifications depending on their usage.

Classification by technical affordances is, in my opinion, confusing, tedious, and not really worth my while.

Kemmis' 4 Paradigms is also weak in descriptions of its use....there's not a lot of info is also the oldest category ---from 1977 and 1984 (realistically most of the tools used today were not on the radar screen of Kemmis when creating his 4 paradigms, so I don't expect many tools to fit it well.)

I find Innovative Learning to be a very useful tool overall. Most useful is Classification by Interaction makes the most sense for reviewing the worth/purpose of Instructional Media. No matter the media, I feel that we could easily identify the "role" and therefore classify the type of interaction the instructional media emphasizes.